If most football games are games of inches, Sunday’s topsy-turvy, primetime affair was a game of centimeters, or I guess however thick a folded-up index card is.
With the score tied 17-17 and just over five minutes left in regulation, Dak Prescott dove forward on 4th and one, and after the placement of the ball was deemed too close to determine whether or not it was a first down, referee Gene Steratore called for a measurement, and then, things got interesting.
Upon the measurement, the call was *still *deemed too close to make a concrete determination, and from there, Steratore took out the aforementioned index card, using it as a visual aid to make the call, eventually – after much scrutiny – ruling the end result of the play a first down for the Dallas Cowboys.
Seven plays later, Dan Bailey connected on what turned out to be the game-winning, 19-yard field goal, but it was Steratore’s use of the index card that was the conversation piece for much of the postgame chatter.
“I don’t want to get fined, OK? I’m not happy with the way things were done,” said Head Coach Jack Del Rio postgame. “A lot of different situations throughout the night. They did the best they could. I had a different view point. I saw air. It was pretty obvious. But again, they do the best they can with a tough job.”
“I’ve never seen a ref take out a sheet of paper to measure a fourth down,” added rookie linebacker Nicholas Morrow. “I’ve never seen that before.”
Everything around that fourth quarter play was confusing; the placement of the football, the elongated measuring, and yes, the use of stationary that is typically used by college students studying for final exams, not NFL referees.
“When he put his arm out [to signal] first down, I thought he was saying first down for the Raiders,” Morrow added. “I didn’t know he was saying first down for the Cowboys. I was shocked. I’ve never seen that before.”
While that measurement will likely be the chatter of the NFL world for the next few days, that play in and of itself didn’t spell disaster for the Silver and Black.
In fact, Derek Carr led the Raiders offense down the field with less than two minutes on the clock, putting the team in position to find the end zone before one, final lunge to the pylon resulted in him fumbling the ball out of the back of the end zone, giving the football back to the Cowboys.
“I left it all out there,” Carr said postgame. “I’m just trying to win for my teammates. No excuse, I have to hold onto the ball. You know, the fight our team played with today – that was familiar, that looked like us. Did we execute 100% of the time? Did we play a really good defense? Absolutely. We played a really good team, but at the end of the day – we lost. It is what it is.”
Carr, who finished the game with 171 yards and two touchdowns, no question left it all out there Sunday night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and that’s something his teammates up and down the roster took notice of.
“I made sure I want to congratulate him [Carr], and let him know that’s all I could ask from him,” defensive tackle Justin Ellis said of his postgame remarks to Carr. “We all were like, ‘Run it! Run it!’ Everybody said ‘Get it! Get it! Get it!’ He tried. The guy pushed him out. He lost the ball and that’s just how it is.”
Week in and week out, NFL games are determined by the smallest of margins, and Sunday night, at the OACC, that margin was even smaller than usual.
With Sunday’s result, the Silver and Black fall to 6-8, and while their postseason hopes have now taken another significant hit, Head Coach Del Rio’s team now has to turn its attention to a Christmas night clash with a red hot Philadelphia Eagles team.
“You have to be a professional,” Morrow said. “You have to go out there, prepare like you did last week this week, and make plays.”