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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. It 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 appeared to bobble the ball after a 3 yard gain, but the referees called it a completed pass. Couch hurried the offense to the line and spiked the ball with :48 remaining. The officials announced that they would review the 4th down conversion, and overturned it, giving the ball to the Jaguars. Enraged, the fans began throwing objects onto the field, including beer bottles. 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]

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

Events of the playEdit

The Cleveland Browns were in a position to get an unlikely playoffs spot at 6–6, but most likely needed to win the 4 remaining games of the season to do so. However, they were down 15–10 with 1:08 remaining in the game, and were faced with a 4th and 2 at the Jaguars 12 yard line. They had to try to convert, or else the Jaguars would 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 appeared to bobble the ball after a 3 yard gain, but the referees called it a completed pass. Couch wasted no time hurrying the offense to the line and spiked the ball with :48 remaining. The refs looked as though they were reviewing a fake spike, a penalty that would take 10 seconds off the board, but Cleveland would still have the ball. While preparing for the next play, referee Terry McAulay announced that the officials would review the 4th down conversion, even though the NFL rules stipulate that a play cannot be reviewed after another play has been completed. After an instant replay review, the officials confirmed that the pass was not completed and, as a result, the Jaguars would take possession of the football.[3][4][5]

Crowd reactionEdit

After the controversial decision, the Browns fans were enraged. They began hurling beer bottles and other objects onto the field. The players, officials, and coaches migrated to the middle of the field to prevent injury, and many players reported getting hit, but none were 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, referee Terry McAulay announced that the game was over 0:48 seconds early, something never done before in the NFL. All of the players, officials, and coaches ran off the field through the tunnel, and the fans pelted them with bottles.[6]

Game conclusionEdit

After a few minutes, Paul Tagliabue, the NFL Commissioner at the time, called and informed the referees that they did not have the authority to end a game early, and that the game must be completed. The referees told the players in the locker room, many of whom were undressed and showering, that they needed to go back out. When the players and officials returned to the field, over 20 minutes had already elapsed since the disputed 4th down play. After 2 kneels by the Jaguars, the game concluded. After the game, the officials claimed that the booth had buzzed in before the spike of the ball but the officials did not respond before the play.[7]

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 legacyEdit

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, 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 have yet to make the postseason again as they currently hold the longest active playoff drought in the NFL as of the end of the 2018 season.[1]

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 2018–19 NFC Championship Game, in which a pass interference penalty was not called.[5]

Starting lineupsEdit


  • 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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b 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. ^ Referee (April 15, 2017). "Mayhem in Cleveland: Browns vs. Jaguars Dec. 16, 2001". Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  4. ^ Root, David (January 29, 2014). "Beyond "Bottlegate": How ugly incident didn't define McAulay". Football Zebras. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Florio, Mike (January 30, 2019). "2001 Jaguars-Browns game becomes issue in Saints-Rams lawsuit". ProFootballTalk. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns - December 16th, 2001". Retrieved March 12, 2019.