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Five plays that shaped the Cowboys’ overtime loss to the Raiders

This Cowboys game was tough to watch for many reasons.

Kansas City Chiefs v Tennessee TItans Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Well, that happened. The Cowboys made it three straight years of ruining fans’ Thanksgiving holiday by losing 36-33 to the Raiders in overtime. Playing without Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, the offense struggled for most of the day while the defense had to end each play by looking around to see if yet another flag was thrown.

The Cowboys set a franchise record with 166 yards worth of penalties in this game, most of them coming against the defense. They were often back-breakers that extended drives for the Raiders. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, considering the track record of this game’s officiating crew, but the Cowboys still failed to get the job done. These five plays loomed especially large, and surprisingly they’re not all penalties.

Keanu Neal’s incredible fumble recovery gets called back

After the Cowboys went three-and-out to start the game, both teams quickly traded touchdowns, but a missed extra point had Dallas trailing 7-6. With the Raiders offense back on the field, Dan Quinn’s unit was looking to make something happen.

Then they did. Derek Carr hit Darren Waller down the middle of the field and Jayron Kearse punched the ball loose. Officials let everything play out, which included Keanu Neal making an incredible heads-up play to toss the ball back to Kearse for a fumble recovery before it could roll out of bounds.

However, despite letting all of this play out without blowing a single whistle, the officials conferred and ruled the pass incomplete. The catch itself was so close that it seemed likely the ruling would stand regardless of what was called on the field, a likely motivator in Mike McCarthy not challenging this. It was a disappointing turn of events, as the Cowboys could have had the ball at the Las Vegas 44-yard line. Instead, it was the Raiders’ ball.

DeSean Jackson’s big catch sets up Raiders’ go-ahead field goal

There were so many things that happened in this game, and nearly all of them were frustrating in one way or another, but given how close things got at the end we’ll jump way forward. With just under three minutes left in the game, Dak Prescott engineered a magnificent drive that resulted in eight points and tied the game 30 all.

The Raiders got the ball back looking to just kill the clock. But on first down, Carr hit Lifelong Cowboys Killer DeSean Jackson for a massive 30-yard gain. Suddenly, Las Vegas went from their own 25 to the Dallas 45.

They only ran three more plays after this one, and failed to get a first down. But Jackson’s big catch had already put them in field goal position, and Daniel Carlson drilled it from 56 yards out to give the Raiders a 33-30 lead.

Back to back incompletions to Dalton Schultz force a game-tying field goal

Once again, Prescott did the kind of thing he’s done his whole career: come up big when he needs to. With just under two minutes left and two timeouts remaining, Prescott marched the Cowboys offense down the field with a dime to Michael Gallup doing much of the work. If not for what happens next, that play might be listed here instead.

Facing second and eight from the Las Vegas 27-yard line, Prescott tried to hit Dalton Schultz on a quick out route but it fell incomplete. The defender was all over Schultz, and the Cowboys seemed to expect a flag, but nothing. On third down, Prescott went Schultz’s way again over the middle. This time, Schultz fell to the ground after contact with a defender, but still no flag.

At that point, with 19 seconds remaining and needing eight yards for a first down, McCarthy did what anyone would do and kicked the field goal to tie it. But if Prescott hits on either of those passes to Schultz, or if a pass interference flag gets thrown, it’s a brand new set of downs and possibly a different outcome. Instead, Dallas has to play for overtime.

Dak Prescott misses Noah Brown on third down in overtime

So the Cowboys get to overtime and get the ball after winning the coin toss. All they need to do is rely on their quarterback - statistically one of the most reliable overtime quarterbacks ever - to carry them to victory.

Unfortunately, he came up short. A bad kick return and worse penalty started Dallas in bad position already, but they quickly brought up a third and four from their own 13-yard line. Prescott rolled out to his right and had a wide open Noah Brown past the sticks. But for whatever reason, one of the league’s best at throwing on the move missed Brown, throwing low and behind him.

To be clear, Prescott’s fourth quarter heroics were the only reason the Cowboys were in overtime to begin with. But this play was incredibly consequential, and he came up short on this play. Had the kickoff not put Dallas so far in its own territory, maybe they entertain a fourth down attempt, but McCarthy had no choice but to punt the back to the Raiders.

Anthony Brown’s fourth pass interference penalty of the day seals the game for Las Vegas

As much as it hurt to give Las Vegas the ball with a mere field goal needed to win, the Dallas defense very nearly got it back for Prescott. An early 21-yard run by Josh Jacobs helped the Raiders, but back-to-back plays by Micah Parsons (including his franchise rookie record ninth sack) brought up third and 18.

That’s when it happened. Carr launched a prayer to Zay Jones, who was being covered by Anthony Brown. The ball hit Brown in the back of the head, but flags flew and pass interference was called. Take another look:

This is always going to be called when the defender doesn’t turn his head around, but the fact is that Brown’s arms are outstretched and the receiver is initiating all of the contact. Keep in mind that Brown had been called for zero pass interference penalties all year long, but drew four such fouls in this one game.

We can yell and scream all we want about it, but the outcome was a spot foul that gave the Raiders 33 free yards and put them in easy field goal range. They eventually kicked that field goal, made the chip shot, and the game was over.