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Bottlegate Game
Cleveland Browns Stadium.jpg
Cleveland Browns Stadium, the site of the game
1234 Total
JAX 9006 15
CLE 0073 10
DateDecember 16, 2001
StadiumCleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
FavoriteBrowns by 2
RefereeTerry McAulay
TV in the United States
AnnouncersGus Johnson, Brent Jones

Bottlegate, also referred to as The Beer Bottle Game, was an officiating controversy in an American football game in the 2001 season of the National Football League between the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cleveland Browns.

The inciting incident occurred in week 14 with the Browns sitting at 6–6, desperate for a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Down 15–10 with 1:08 remaining, the Browns were forced to try to convert on 4th and 2 at the Jaguars' 12 yard line. Tim Couch took the snap and passed short to Quincy Morgan, who caught the ball for a 3-yard gain and a first down. Although Morgan appeared to bobble the football, officials called it a complete pass. Couch hurried the offense to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball with :48 remaining. The officials announced that they would review the 4th down conversion two plays earlier and overturned it, giving the ball to the Jaguars.

Enraged, Browns fans began throwing objects onto the field, mainly beer bottles. A few especially rowdy fans began throwing the stadium's trash cans down to the field. After a few minutes, the officials announced that the game would end 48 seconds early and the officials and players exited the field. However, the league office called, telling them to finish the game. The teams and officials came back onto the field and, after two quarterback kneels by the Jaguars, the game was over, 15–10.[1][2]

Events of the play

The Cleveland Browns were in a position to get an unlikely playoffs spot at 6–6, but most likely needed to win their four remaining games of the season to do so. Trailing 15–10 with 1:08 remaining in regulation, the Browns were driving deep into Jaguars territory, looking for a potential go-ahead score. Cleveland was faced with a 4th down and 2 at the Jacksonville 12 yard line. The Browns needed to convert, or else the Jaguars could simply kneel the ball twice and end the game. Quarterback Tim Couch took the snap and passed it short to wide receiver Quincy Morgan, who caught the ball for a 3-yard gain and a first down, but appeared to bobble it as he fell to the ground. Officials called a complete pass for a 3-yard gain and a crucial first down with 1:03 remaining.[3] Couch wasted no time hurrying the offense to the line of scrimmage, starting the next play with only 0:50 left on the clock.[3] He took the snap and appeared to pump his arm twice; Couch then spiked the ball with 0:48 remaining to stop the clock.

The officials stopped play and huddled for a lengthy period. Announcers Johnson and Jones speculated that they may have been discussing Couch's double-pump before the spike, which, by rule, would constitute intentional grounding. Instead, referee Terry McAulay announced that the replay booth had buzzed his headset for a review of Morgan's fourth-down catch. NFL rules stipulate that a play cannot be reviewed once another play has commenced, but McAulay told the crowd that the review signal had come before the snap on the spike play.

After a booth review, the officials ruled that the fourth-down pass was incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs to Jacksonville. As the Jaguars celebrated, Butch Davis angrily criticized the officials over the timing of the review.[4][5][6][7]

Crowd reaction

After the controversial decision, many attendees at the stadium, including those in the famous "Dawg Pound" section, became enraged. Some fans began angrily booing and hurling beer bottles and other objects onto the playing field. The players, officials, and coaches migrated to the middle of the field to escape the debris and prevent injury. Some players reported getting hit, but none were seriously injured. A few fans ran onto the field, but were quickly apprehended by law enforcement. After a few minutes of waiting for the crowd to settle, the field had become littered with bottles and debris, and referee Terry McAulay made an unsportsmanlike conduct hand signal directed at the crowd, and sternly announced "That is the end of the game!", with 48 seconds left on the clock, something never done before in the history of NFL games. After McAulay's announcement, the players, coaches, and officials began to run off the field. As they sprinted towards the tunnels, the officials and some players and coaches were pelted with bottles.[8] CBS announcers Gus Johnson and Brent Jones told viewers that they saw an unspecified person fall to the ground after a thrown object "split his head wide open," and lamented the "ugly" actions of the Cleveland fans.[4]

Game conclusion

After several minutes, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue contacted McAulay and informed him that his officiating crew did not have the authority to end a game early, and that the game must be completed. The officials told the players in the locker room, many of whom were undressed and showering, that they were required to go back out onto the field. By the time all players and officials returned to the field, over 20 minutes had elapsed since the disputed fourth down play. After two kneel-downs by the Jaguars, the game concluded with a final score of 15–10. After the game, McAulay stood by his claim that the booth had buzzed in before the spike play.[9]

2001 Week Fourteen: Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns—Game Summary
1 2 34Total
Jaguars 9 0 0615
Browns 0 0 7310

at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

Game information

Aftermath and legacy

The win did not affect the Jaguars significantly, as they were already eliminated from the postseason and would finish the 2001 season at 6–10. For the Browns, the loss contributed to the team missing the playoffs, as they would finish the season with a losing record at 7–9. It has been counted as one of the most infamous moments in Browns history, along with The Drive, The Fumble, The Move, and finishing with the second 0–16 record in NFL history in 2017. Though the Browns would eventually make the playoffs the following year, they would not make the postseason again until the 2020 season.

Bottlegate was later cited as part of a lawsuit filed by New Orleans Saints fans against the NFL referees following another controversial officiating decision during the 2018 NFC Championship Game, in which a pass interference penalty was not called.[7]

Several fans who took part in the melee were eventually banned from Cleveland home games for 4 years.

Starting lineups

Jacksonville Position Cleveland
Mark Brunell QB Tim Couch
Stacey Mack RB James Jackson
Kyle Brady TE RB Jamel White
Ryan Prince TE O.J. Santiago
Jimmy Smith WR Quincy Morgan
Keenan McCardell WR Kevin Johnson
Todd Fordham LT Ross Verba
Brad Meester LG Shaun O'Hara
Zach Wiegert RG Brad Bedell
Maurice Williams RT Roger Chanoine
Jeff Posey SLB C Dave Wohlabaugh
Renaldo Wynn LDE Tyrone Rogers
Gerard Warren LDT Gary Walker
Tony Brackens RDE Jamir Miller
Hardy Nickerson MLB Wali Rainer
Edward Thomas WLB Dwayne Rudd
Jason Craft LCB Corey Fuller
Kiwaukee Thomas RCB Anthony Henry
Donovin Darius SS Earl Little
Ainsley Battles FS Devin Bush


  • Referee: Terry McAulay (#77)
  • Umpire: Carl Paganelli (#124)
  • Head Linesman: Earnie Frantz (#111)
  • Line Judge: Byron Boston (#18)
  • Field Judge: Scott Steenson (#88)
  • Side Judge: Bill Spyksma (#12)
  • Back Judge: Billy Smith (#2)

See also


  1. ^ Meisel, Zack (December 16, 2014). "An oral history of BottleGate, 13 years after Cleveland Browns fans stole the spotlight". Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  2. ^ "REPORT: Roger Goodell Shoved a Ref After the Infamous 'Bottlegate Game'". September 9, 2016. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Cleveland Browns Bottlegate". YouTube. October 21, 2018. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  4. ^ a b YouTube (October 21, 2018). "Cleveland Browns Bottlegate". Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  5. ^ Referee (April 15, 2017). "Mayhem in Cleveland: Browns vs. Jaguars Dec. 16, 2001". Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  6. ^ Root, David (January 29, 2014). "Beyond "Bottlegate": How ugly incident didn't define McAulay". Football Zebras. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Florio, Mike (January 30, 2019). "2001 Jaguars-Browns game becomes issue in Saints-Rams lawsuit". ProFootballTalk. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  8. ^ "N.F.L. WEEK 14; Bottle-Throwing Browns Fans Protest Call and Jaguars' Victory". The New York Times. Associated Press. December 17, 2001. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  9. ^ Loesche, Jonathan (December 29, 2009). "A Moment in Jaguars History: December 16th, 2001vs Cleveland aka "The Beer Bottle Game"". Big Cat Country. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  10. ^ "Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns - December 16th, 2001". Retrieved March 12, 2019.
This page was last edited on 20 August 2021, at 18:29
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