In a wild card game which could have given the Detroit Lions their first playoff win since 1991, the Dallas Cowboys found a way to not only win, but to also take that playoff spot away from the Lions. However, even though the Cowboys won with a score of 24-20, those who viewed the game may be questioning whether or not the Cowboys would have lost to the Lions if the game overall had different referees. The officials who were making the calls during this past Sunday’s game reversed a fourth quarter game-changing penalty with no explanation why and could have ultimately changed the outcome of this wild card matchup.
The Lions were up 17-7 at halftime and shortly after the start of the third quarter Lions’ kicker Matt Prater, scored a 37-yard field goal to put Detroit up 20-7. As the Cowboys looked to their quiet home crowd, many of their fans ultimately were questioning whether or not their team could pull off a win. While the Cowboys were able to score with DeMarco Murray’s one-yard run, followed by Dan Bailey’s extra point kick-attempt to put Dallas down by only a touchdown, it was not until the fourth quarter that fans of both teams started to pay the most attention.
The Dallas Cowboys’ Bailey was able to score another field goal early in the fourth quarter to cut the Lions’ lead by only three points to 20-17. It was during a Detroit drive midway through the fourth quarter that a controversial call was taken back by the officials which could have possibly led to a different outcome to the game. Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford threw a pass to Brandon Pettigrew, but referee Pete Morelli called a pass interference penalty against Cowboys’ linebacker Anthony Hitchens on third down. The call was quickly overruled by the head linesman with no further explanation, leaving viewers and both teams in shock and questioning why. Regardless if fans agreed with the pass interference call or not, the head linesman on the field clearly thought differently than Morelli. The Lions could have had an automatic first down that may have at least led to a field goal if not a touchdown. While this scenario is questionable, the call itself has led to a referee controversy throughout the NFL community.
The Lions attempted a 10-yard punt on fourth-and-one with hopes of drawing the Cowboys offsides. With Dallas quickly reacting to this play, the Lions failed to keep the ball and gave the Cowboys an opportunity to score. Dallas Cowboys’ longtime quarterback, Tony Romo, was able to find Terrance Williams in the end zone with 2:32 left in the game to put the Cowboys up with a winning score of 24-20 and an advancement into the playoffs.
Despite what the replay shows, Cowboys’ Hitchens stated that he believed the referees were doing the job for which they get paid. Fans may have noticed that Hitchens should have at least been called for defensive holding for grabbing Pettigrew’s jersey prior to the pass, yet many would even see that Pettigrew grabbed Hitchens’ facemask. That game-changing play could have been the Cowboys’ season-ender this past Sunday and given the Detroit Lions a chance in the playoffs. While many may think that the Cowboys had an impressive comeback and rightfully won this game, others may view this differently and may believe that the Cowboys could have definitely lost to the Detroit Lions if there were different refs, as they were down throughout the entirety of the game.
Commentary by Tricia Manalansan
Photo Courtesy grantlairdjr – Creativecommons License
Dallas Morning News