GLENDALE, Ariz. - Derek Anderson insisted it was a touchdown.
The officials disagreed.
Kellen Winslow went up between two Cardinals defenders on the final play, took an early hit and still managed to come down with a 37-yard throw from Anderson. But Winslow landed out of bounds, and side judge Joe Larrew called it an incompletion.
Larrew could`ve ruled that Winslow was forced out, giving the Browns a touchdown and an improbable win. Instead, the official replay review could only check to see if Winslow`s feet landed inbounds. They didn`t, and the incompletion stood.
Cardinals 27, Browns 21.
"He was forced out," Anderson said. "From what I saw he got one foot in and the guy pushed him out. But there`s nothing we can do about that. It should`ve never come down to having to throw a Hail Mary that Kellen makes an amazing play on at the end of the game."
The Browns were the beneficiary of a post-game ruling in Baltimore two weeks ago when Phil Dawson`s field goal was changed to good, and they went on to win in overtime.
"I was hoping for another one like Baltimore," tackle Kevin Shaffer said.
Not this time.
"I`m not one to challenge referees," receiver Braylon Edwards said. "It was always my understanding if you`re pushed out of bounds, it`s a force-out. I`m not questioning anything. You have to roll with it."
Cornerback Antrel Rolle and safety Oliver Celestin were the two defenders, and Celestin made contact with Winslow just before the ball arrived.
"They`re not going to call interference at the end," Winslow said.
The call in question capped a hurry-up drive that started at the Cleveland 18-yard line with 1:43 left and no timeouts.
"Once he threw the ball I really lost vision of it in the air, so I just played his hands," said Rolle, who was a teammate of Winslow`s at the University of Miami. "And once he jumped up and I saw where he was, I was able to force him out. He told me it was a catch. I told him it wasn`t."
The players milled around the field for a few minutes as referee Jerome Boger took a look under the replay hood.
"We just held our breath and crossed our fingers right there," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
"The receiver did not get both feet down inbounds," Boger announced to the crowd that had a lot of Browns fans. "The ballgame is over."
Winslow was diplomatic about the final play - "It could`ve gone either way. It was a force-out, I felt," he said - but was upset about some earlier non-calls.
He felt he was held all game - "You can`t guard me without holding me," he said - and was particularly upset about the lack of a horse-collar call on Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby after Winslow made a catch on the final drive.
"You have to protect players," Winslow said. "I could`ve easily gotten hurt. A lot of people can`t bend that way.
"If that was a quarterback, I think they would`ve called it."
Winslow has been critical of the Browns (7-5) despite their winning ways. He reiterated his point that they`re not good enough to overcome a series of mistakes like the ones they made Sunday.
"I think we`re a better team than the Cardinals, but they did a good job bringing pressure, causing turnovers," he said. "We can easily be 5-6 or 9-2. It takes little things to win in this league."
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.