There were enough referee-related issues in the Raiders-Cowboys game to fill an article, so I feel compelled to break from the mailbag format and express my feelings about three of the most talked-about plays.
If I keep the plays in sequence, the first one is the spot after the Dak Prescott sneak, which after a measurement gave the Cowboys a first down with 4:49 left in the fourth quarter and led to what would be the winning field goal.
Was it a first down? I looked at the tape again and again and there is no way to tell. Prescott disappears into a pile of players. There is just no way to say that the spot was good or bad. The officials put the ball down and left the rest to the inexact 10-yard chains.
It was close – so close that referee Gene Steratore did a double take. What was his version of a double take? He took out his game card and folded it in half and ran it down the rod that attaches to the chains. As he slid the card down it was obstructed by the ball, meaning the ball had indeed reached the rod and it was a first down.
Steratore afterward said that he had already made his decision that it was a first down and was just visually confirming it with the old trick of using the card. That sounds pretty contrived to me. It is almost like he was told what to say.
In my opinion, he was unsure if it was a first down and using the card is what led to the decision. Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels said on TV that they had never seen that before. I am sure they haven’t, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done. Bill Vinovich did it a few years back in a game involving the Browns and the Ravens. I did it a time or two back in my days as a referee in college. In the end, I defy anyone, including my friend and Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, to prove to me that it wasn’t a first down.
Next up is Michael Crabtree’s exit from the game.
With 38 seconds left, he was apparently told to leave the game and get checked for a concussion. A couple of plays before that, he was interfered with and his head slammed into the ground as he fell backward.
Officials have been told to watch for concussion symptoms, and if they feel that a player might be concussed, they are to take them off the field. They are told not to consider time or score. It is strange that it was two plays later before he was removed, but they must have felt something was up.
Lastly, the Derek Carr fumble really has people talking.
And it’s not because the call was wrong; it was clearly a fumble forward and out of bounds in the end zone. The question is the rule and if it’s too punitive.
If a player fumbles the ball forward and out of bounds in the field of play, he gets the ball back at the spot of the fumble. But, if he fumbles the ball forward and out of bounds in the end zone, it becomes a touchback and his team gives up the ball.
Too punitive? Maybe. In my opinion, I don’t think it is. I think fumbling the ball into your opponents’ end zone is a lot different than fumbling the ball out of bounds in the field of play.
Bottom line: Hold on to the ball, Derek!
Mike Pereira is a rules analyst for Fox Sports who lives in Sacramento.