Posted on December 18, 2017, by Travis Pulver

The Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders both needed a win on Sunday Night Football to keep their fading playoff hopes alive. Odds favored the Dallas Cowboys since they appeared to figure out how to move the ball without Ezekiel Elliot in recent weeks. The defense wasn’t playing half-bad either.

But the Raiders, while a flawed team, are capable of playing much better than they have this season. If the Cowboys failed to bring their ‘A’ game, they could steal a win the Cowboys need—and they almost did.

Via @TylerSully

The Raiders struggled on both sides of the ball in the first half. But were only down by ten entering the second half. A touchdown drive to open the third quarter cut the deficit to three. A second Dak Prescott interception led to a field goal and tied the game at 10-10 with 6:14 left in the third.

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After a decent start on offense in the first half, the Cowboys started to struggle when Tyron Smith had to leave the game. But they got it together following the Raiders field goal. They needed a 24-yard run by punter Chris Jones to keep the drive alive. But with 45 seconds left in the period, Dak Prescott regained the lead for Dallas with a five-yard touchdown run.

But a 44-yard return on the ensuing kickoff set Derek Carr up with a short field and ten plays later the game was tied up once more.

This was when it got interesting.

Dallas began a drive on their 30-yard line with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter. Fail to score, and the game and their playoff hopes would probably be lost. So, on fourth and a very short one from the 39-yard line, Jason Garrett decided to go for it.

There was still 5:01 left to play. If his defense could hold the Raiders to a field goal, there would probably be enough time on the clock for Prescott to get the team in position to tie it up and send the game to overtime.

But Garrett decided to go for it. It looked like Prescott got close. But the pile did not move much making it hard to judge if he made it. When the refs placed the ball, it was still to close to judge with the naked eye. So, they brought out the chains to measure.

And it still looked extremely close—so the refused a folded over index card to see if there was space between the ball and the chain.

There wasn’t. First down, Cowboys.

Jerry Jones had this to say about the index card after the game (ESPN):

“Well, I love any game that will allow you to just stick it in the pile and then come back and measure it with a piece of cigarette paper.”

“Game of inches,” Dez Bryant added (ESPN). “I never seen it before but it shows it’s a game of inches.”

Dallas ended the drive with a 19-yard field goal but left time on the clock. With how easily Derek Carr had moved the ball against the Cowboys defense in the second half, 1:38 was more than enough time. Sure enough, about a minute later, the Raiders were in a position to tie the game– or win.

On third and three from the Dallas eight-yard line, he was forced to scramble. But as he dove for the pile on, the ball slipped out of his hands and rolled out of bounds (through the end zone). Had he crossed the goal line before losing control, it would have been a game-winning touchdown. But since it slipped out before he crossed the plane- touchback, Dallas ball.

Game over. Cowboys win 20-17.

Via @jasonrmcintyre

The Aftermath

It was clear in the replay that the ball was out of Carr’s hand before it crossed the plane. While upsetting for fans, the call was right. Now the index card thing on the fourth down play? The ref said later that the ball was touching the marker which made it a first down. He said the card was just to affirm the call.

But if the ball was touching the down-marker there shouldn’t have been any need for affirmation, right?

The loss pretty much eliminates the Raiders from the playoffs. Mathematically, they are still alive, but they aren’t going to make it. They finish the season with games on the road; Philadelphia next week followed by the Chargers.

Dallas succeeded in keeping its playoff hopes alive and got some help with the Packers and Seahawks losing. But to stay in the chase, they will have to beat the Seahawks at home on Christmas Eve. But they will get an early Christmas present that should help—Ezekiel Elliot.


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