CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – There were many reasons the Browns lost Sunday to the Chargers in Los Angeles, but the officiating at SoFi Stadium certainly did not help their cause.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski isn’t one for excuses and Monday refused to use the officials as a scapegoat for blown coverages that led to two wide open touchdowns to Chargers receiver Mike Williams or their inability to put the game away leading by one or move down the field with 90 seconds remaining.
Stefanski had plenty of tape to send to the league office for clarification and review Monday.
“I will obviously – like we do every week – have a discussion with the league on some of these plays,” Stefanski said Monday. “Listen, they are not going to get every play right, and I am certainly not going to call every play right and we are not going to execute every play right. It is going to be imperfect, but for our team, we are not going to leave it in the hands of the officials. We control a lot of that game, and we need to do better.”
Despite the lack of execution, on both sides of the ball, the officials were a factor.
Browns center J.C. Tretter was called for holding with a hand on his throat as he was being pushed back. The call torpedoed a drive.
Defensive end Myles Garrett was held on multiple occasions, with no call – one of which saw him tackled and the Chargers complete a 37-yard pass on third-and-5 with 3:50 remaining that led to a touchdown that pulled the Chargers within 42-41.
“Of course, it would be easy to blame the refs, but I think it is us,” defensive tackle Malik Jackson said Monday. “We look in the mirror, and it is us missing opportunities and not doing the little things to get to the big reward, which is getting off the field.”
Stefanski admitted that two missed defensive pass interference penalties on the same play, which quarterback Baker Mayfield expressed his frustration over after the game, on their penultimate series affected him when he called for a draw to Kareem Hunt on third-and-9 with under 3 minutes remaining.
“I am never going to rely, and we as a team, are not going to rely on the officials,” Stefanski said. “And I need to in the moment, whether something gets called or does not get called, I have to move on and make sure I give the guys a chance to succeed.”
Mayfield, who said “might as well send the fine letter,” was dismayed after the game that Browns cornerback A.J. Green was called for pass interference on a fourth-and-4 while Chargers receiver Mike Williams was grabbing him by the jersey but Donovan Peoples-Jones was shoved out of bounds with no call and Rashard Higgins was interfered with on the same play.
Mayfield’s pass to Higgins fell incomplete as Higgins went to the ground after getting tangled up.
The call on Green with 9:10 remaining extended the Chargers drive, gave them 33 free yards and ended in a touchdown that tied the game at 35.
“You would like to see it called both ways, if that’s the case,” Mayfield said. “It’s just a critical point in the game to where if they’re going to call it on fourth down, then we should get it on second.”
Stefanski didn’t have a problem with Mayfield’s remarks.
“They understand that we are not going to rely on those guys,” Stefanski said. “They can say what they want to say in those moments, and it is the emotion of the that certainly gets us, but we can’t rely on the officials.”
Hunt, who carried 12 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns, appreciated Stefanski’s faith in him in that moment. He also refused to blame the officials for the loss.
“Yeah, it is tough. Sometimes they just have to let us play,” Hunt said. “Some big calls during that game. It is what it is. We still should have found a way to win that football game. I do not necessarily just put it all on that.”