The Cincinnati Bengals edged the Browns 23-20 in overtime back on Oct. 4 at Cleveland.
Or did they?
Officially, they did. It's in the record books. Nothing can ever change that.
But did they really defeat the Browns in the truest sense of the word?
Brandon McDonald says no.
The third-year cornerback is convinced of it.
Playing special teams, McDonald was standing underneath the left upright of the goal post (as seen from the field) at the Dawg Pound end of Cleveland Browns Stadium when Shayne Graham booted the game-winning 31-yard field goal with just four seconds left in OT.
Replays of that kick, as shot from a spot high above the field, in the scoreboard, show the ball careening toward the right upright. The ball disappears for a moment, being blocked out by the upright, and then re-appears. The science of it seems to indicate that if the ball disappears behind the upright, it can't be good. If, instead, the upright had disappeared behind the ball, then the science seems to say that the kick has to be good.
Both officials under the goal post immediately signal good in the replays, but McDonald, standing right near them, jubilantly signals no good and runs off the field toward the Browns bench, only to find out that the game is over.
Making sure he wasn't fined by the NFL for making remarks that could be construed as being critical of the officials, a real no-no,, Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan all but said five days after the game that the kick was no good. He's sure to address that issue again on Friday when he has his weekly availability with the media.
The NFL office said it looked at the kick from all angles and agrees with the officials that the kick is no good.
But McDonald isn't convinced. He wasn't then, and he isn't now.
"I didn't have to watch the film the next day to see that it was no good. I saw it close up when the kick was made that it was no good," he said before practice on Wednesday as the Browns got ready for Sunday's rematch with the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
"I can't change the officials' minds, but I know it was no good. It is clear to me."
Like Ryan, McDonald didn't want to push the issue and get fined by the league. He simply said he is certain he's right and that the kick was off the mark.
Which is a shame.
Had Graham's kick been ruled wide right, then the game would have ended in a 20-20 tie. Regardless, it was the Browns' best game of the season.
Their lone win this year was a 6-3 decision over the Buffalo Bills, who are struggling so much at 3-7 that they've fired their head coach, Dick Jauron.
Last Sunday, the Browns blew a 24-3 first-quarter lead and lost 38-37 on an untimed play after the clock had expired. But that came against the Detroit Lions, who, like the Browns, entered the contest at just 1-8.
"I don't know if it was our best performance of the season, but it was our most solid one in all three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams," McDonald said.
"Unfortunately, we didn't win."
To be sure.
But did the Bengals win – not officially, but really?
We'll never know the answer to that one.