CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Thanks, unfortunately, to a critical Cleveland Browns turnover, an NFL rule will likely be under criticism for a long time after the playoffs and into the offseason.
Wide receiver Rashard Higgins was hit by what appeared to be illegal helmet-to-helmet contact to the head by Kansas City Chiefs safety Daniel Sorenson.
The contact caused Higgins to fumble the ball into the endzone, where it rolled out of bound, resulting in a no score for the Browns and a turnover touchback in favor of the Chiefs in the closing minutes of the second quarter.
The turnover was reviewed by the game officials, but since a penalty was never called by the referees, the ruling for illegal contact causing the turnover could not be made.
The NFL has not publicly commented on the play or ruling.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski and other members of the Cleveland Browns addressed the ruling during postgame remarks.
“I will never ever doubt Rashard Higgins’ effort or our guys’ effort,” Stefanski said. “Our rule there is not to reach the ball out when it is first and goal, and he knows that. Again, appreciate his effort. He battled like he always does, but we have to fight that urge because it is such a big loss if it does end up being a touchback.”
“It is the easy finger-pointing answer, but there are so many other plays we could have done,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said.
Browns legend Joe Thomas and many others took to social media to sound off about the NFL rule.
“Let me be very, very clear, Rashard Higgins is a warrior,” Stefanski added. “He has battled all season long. He has done everything that I have asked him to do from the moment we get together in July. I am never going to doubt that kid’s effort. He is a team player all the way. An unfortunate play, and he understands the rule and I understand the rule. We will continue to coach our guys, but Rashard Higgins, I am proud to coach him because he gives you everything he has.”
The Cleveland Browns were eliminated from the NFL playoffs after losing 22-17 to the Kansas City Chiefs.