The end of Saturday night’s Dallas Cowboys win over the Detroit Lions was a disaster. To be clear, we are not talking about the way that Mike McCarthy stopped the clock which gave the Lions life, or the manner in which Dan Quinn allowed Detroit to capitalize on said life. We are all very aware of what is being discussed here.
Everybody knows that the Lions ran what appeared to be a successful two-point conversion that would have very likely won the game for them and that it was ultimately called back by multiple penalties. Detroit would attempt the two again and draw a penalty from Micah Parsons only to fail and then fail on the final, actual attempt.
Ultimately the primary penalty that rendered the first try moot was an illegal touching call against Taylor Decker, the Lions lineman who caught the pass from Jared Goff. Officials ruled that Decker did not report as eligible, a requirement here, while everyone associated with the Lions is insistent that he did.
Again, this is quite the mess.
The NFL may finally be starting to acknowledge that it has an officiating issue
What seems to have happened in this whole fiasco is that Brad Allen, the official at the center of all of this, confused Taylor Decker (number 68 for Detroit) and Dan Skipper (number 70 and also a former Cowboy himself). Under this premise the official believed that Skipper reported himself as eligible, which he did not need to do based on how Detroit lined up, and that Decker, who once again caught the pass, did not. Hello penalty.
There were multiple infractions called on the play in question as an illegal formation penalty was also cited, but that penalty like the other is based on the idea that it was Skipper who reported as eligible as opposed to Decker. If Lions players are to truly be believed (it is more than fair to assume they would follow proper procedure on a very specific play in a critical moment) then it was Decker who reported which would mean that Skipper was fine.
Closer look at the Lions' pre-snap formation on the eligible/ineligible snafu. Decker (68) lined up as a LT. Skipper (70) lined up at RT. The normal RT (Sewell, 58) lined up next to him. Illegal formation if 70 truly reported, as referee Brad Allen said, but legal if he didn't. pic.twitter.com/yBISVOUwkg— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) December 31, 2023
If Brad Allen really believed that it was Skipper who reported as eligible then the penalties make sense. But if he confused the players and cost the Lions a win and potential #2 seed in the NFC playoff picture, potentially giving that spot to someone else, then that is a ginormous deal.
You can hear the announcement that number 70 was who reported to be eligible as Detroit is in the huddle. I do not think it is outlandish to say that expecting them to be listening for the officials to not make a mistake in such an important moment on top of everything they were already focused on is silly. Officials should be trusted to be able to do their jobs.
VIDEO: Official announcement of #70 reporting as an eligible receiver.— / / ✭ (@redditcowboys) December 31, 2023
(via ESPN Español broadcast) pic.twitter.com/yWhLLDg7RJ
It goes without saying that the Cowboys would have played things differently if they believed Decker to be eligible over Skipper, something Jourdan Lewis acknowledged, which adds to the chaos encircling this entire situation. Ultimately it all falls at the feet of the officials who seem to have failed in a massive spot.
In the aftermath of this there were many Cowboys fans who noted that there was another huge miss by officials on the possession that allowed the final Lions drive to happen in the first place. You may recall that Peyton Hendershot was called for tripping when it was actually Lions pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson who executed the trip. If that play was called properly, the Cowboys are able to fully put the game on ice and none of this ever happens. ESPN’s Adam Schefter noted this on Sunday morning while referencing the situation as a whole.
A missed call late in Saturday night's game between the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys led to an even higher-profile error in what has escalated into the latest and most egregious example that the NFL has an officiating issue.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 31, 2023
The latest controversy surrounding referee Brad…
Here is the Hendershot/Hutchinson play specifically.
Here is video of that initial first-down play, reviewed by ESPN, showing that Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson -- not Cowboys TE Hendershot -- should have been the one flagged for attempting to trip Tony Pollard. Instead, Dallas penalized. pic.twitter.com/fkCuF3ChW6— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 31, 2023
Anyone who has watched the NFL for some time is aware that officials often make mistakes and insert themselves too firmly into the action. It is important to make sure the rules are being followed, but what good are officials if they are costing teams in moments like this where playoff seeding is going to be directly impacted?
The Cowboys won and nobody around here is going to volunteer to change the result of that. But this was a real shame of a moment for the league as a whole and given the magnitude of the game, that America’s Team was involved and that it likely did a huge number from a ratings perspective it seems that the league is going to finally have to make some sort of move here.