The play occurred as the Browns held a 42-34 lead with 1 minute, 38 seconds remaining in regulation. Referee Walt Anderson's crew originally credited running back Carlos Hyde with a 2-yard gain to the Browns' 19-yard line. A measurement confirmed a first down that would have allowed the Browns to run out the clock and, barring a turnover, win the game.
But the NFL's central replay command in New York called for a review of the measurement, as it is authorized to do when the game clock is under two minutes of either half. After a delay, Anderson said Hyde's "elbow was down short of the 19-yard line." Anderson spotted the ball at the 18-yard line and signaled fourth down.
Former NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino, contributing to the Fox Sports broadcast, said: "I don't see any way they could change this call on the field."
Although no angle offered a full view of the ball's location once Hyde was down, an NFL spokesman said the league pieced together two angles to clarify that Hyde's wrist and elbow hit the ground before the ball reached the 19.
"From the line feed, you can see the line to gain is just past the 19-yard line," the spokesman said. "One replay angle shows [Hyde's] wrist and the elbow hit the ground simultaneously. Then when you go back to the line feed, you see the wrist hit the ground and you know the elbow is down. At that point, you are able to clearly see that the ball is short of the line to gain."
The NFL rule book limits reversals to instances where the reason for a change is "clear and obvious." That standard came under scrutiny last season, the first in which the league's officiating office -- led by senior vice president Al Riveron -- had final authority over replay decisions. In 2017, the league set a record with 195 replay reversals.
Sunday's turnabout was particularly significant to the outcome of the game. Instead of running out the clock, the Browns were forced to punt. The Raiders tied the game on quarterback Derek Carr's 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jared Cook, followed by Carr's two-point conversion throw to receiver Jordy Nelson. Raiders place-kicker Matt McCrane's 29-yard field goal won the game in overtime.