Ex-referee says McFadden did not interfere

The flag that penalized Cleveland Browns defensive back Leon McFadden for pass interference late in the loss to New England should not have been thrown.

That’s the word from ESPN officiating expert Gerry Austin, a two-time Super Bowl referee.

“The best answer on that play would have been no call at all,” Austin said Monday.

The flag was thrown by field judge Dyrol Prioleau, though, which gave New England a first-and-goal at the 1 with 40 seconds left. New England scored the game-winning touchdown on the next play.

Austin said both McFadden and rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce were hand-checking as they ran down the field, but the key phrase is in Austin’s mind is whether either “materially affected” the other’s ability to catch the ball.

“From what I saw on television, I do not think either did,” Austin said.

Thus, any contact was not a penalty.

“Both the defender and receiver were hand-checking each other all the way down the field,” Austin said. “I did not see anything on that play that was beyond that.”

Prioleau also threw the flag on Jordan Poyer for a hit after Julian Edelman caught the Patriots second-last touchdown with 1:01 left.

Referee Jerome Boger said the call was for a hit on a defenseless receiver, and Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said he was told it was for a hit to the head.

“It was hard to see,” Chudzinski said when asked if the tape showed a hit to the head.