Thursday, January 27, 2022

Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb, DeMarcus Lawrence point out NFL officiating concerns following loss to Cardinals

ARLINGTON, Texas — It wasn’t so long ago that the Dallas Cowboys were a part of one of the most unwatchable games in recent NFL history, and not because they or the Las Vegas Raiders were performing poorly on the field, but because of the officiating. Both teams were flagged 14 times for a combined 276 penalty yards, with the Cowboys suffering the brunt of the penalty yardage (+56), and they weren’t shy about voicing their displeasure following that three-point loss at AT&T Stadium. In Week 17, also at AT&T Stadium, they suffered a three-point loss they feel the officiating also had a hand in.

Still reeling from the loss of both the game and wideout Michael Gallup for the season, no one in the building is naming the former solely on what they deem questionable officiating, with many taking accountability for poor execution that forced the Cowboys offense into another week of sputtering after a near-flawless outing against the Washington Football Team in Week 16, but having been penalized five times for 46 yards in the first half and 10 times overall for 88 combined yards, several players sounded off in the post-game press conferences.

One was All-Pro pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, who forced what would’ve been a game-changing fumble on the eventual final drive for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense, only to see the runner instead ruled down.

“I think the result said that we’re still a good team. Even though we was facing two teams tonight, the results ain’t come out like we wanted them to.” … “I’m gonna let the NFL handle that. I know it’s a possibility we see both of these teams in the playoffs. You know hopefully the NFL can sit down with their team, review the film, learn from their mistakes and get better from it.”

He posted a tweet to bring the play to the attention of the NFL.

Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys could not challenge the play because they were out of timeouts, but they were out of timeouts because of another questionable call by the officials on the prior play. 

When asked about the would-be fumble that took place with a little more than two minutes remaining in regulation, fellow starting defensive end Randy Gregory weighed in, unequivocally. 

“It’s frustrating,” said Gregory. “It’s just the way the ball falls sometimes. You just go out there and try to make a play. D-Law went up there and punched the ball out. 

“In any other scenario, if we had a chance to challenge the call, even if it was under two minutes, we would have it from the refs. It sucks, but it’s all a learning experience. We’ll get better from it.”

There have been many instances in 2021 in which NFL officials have huddled to discuss a call without a formal replay being requested, either deciding to then stick with the call on the field or overturn it “upon further discussion.” It’s allowable now under the officiating and replay bylaws, but no such discussion took place regarding the above play. The Cowboys offense also saw their share of penalties they’d like reviewed by the league, having seen their first three offensive drives stalled by penalties against the offensive line that also deleted several big-gainers for a Dallas offense that couldn’t establish its form until late in the game.

“You can’t get a rhythm,” said CeeDee Lamb. “You can’t move the ball. Every big play was called back because of some kind of call. The refs, I feel like, dictated that game. It’s no secret. 

” … I didn’t play Thanksgiving due to Covid, but when I was watching definitely. I experienced that now. It’s just — we couldn’t get a rhythm. The refs wouldn’t let us get a rhythm.”

While all of this is arguably true for both sides of the ball in Dallas, what is also true is that they helped make matters worse with a variety of self-inflicted wounds — e.g., a missed field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein, drops by wideouts and halfbacks, a late-game lost fumble by Prescott — that lessened their odds of staving off an upset until it was too late to recover from them. 

Credit the Cowboys for pushing through it all to nearly climb back for a double-digit comeback win, but the final drive included a critical 15-yard run by Murray on second down and ultimately the aforementioned officiating decisions to knock the Cowboys into 11-5 and out of the No. 2 seed in the NFC, as well as the running for the No. 1 seed. So while everyone in Dallas wants to see better officiating going forward, a theme that permeates all 32 teams in 2021, they’re not skirting their role(s) in the loss.

“It’s a couple of things,” Gregory added. “We had a few mental errors. I don’t know about the offense, but I know for the defense, even myself, we had a few mental errors.”

But, again, they’re also not letting the officials off of the hook.

“Playing against the refs again, like usual,” said Gregory. “It seems like an every-week occurrence. We just have to tune that out and just deal with it. Other than that, I felt like we out-physicaled [the Cardinals]. Played hard, and the ball didn’t just really fall the way we wanted it to. 

“That’s a good team. Hopefully we see them in the playoffs.”

Having fallen to the No. 4 seed on Sunday, now they just might.

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