Friday, June 14, 2024

Cowboys vs. 49ers: AT&T Stadium design plays role with sun, Jumbotron affecting multiple plays

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Way back in 2005, construction began on a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys to call home. They’d previously played their games at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas, but Jerry Jones had designs on building the biggest, brightest, most beautiful stadium football had ever seen. 

Construction was finished in time for the Cowboys to play in what was then called Cowboys Stadium (and later rechristened AT&T Stadium) beginning with the 2009 season. From the very start, the stadium has had two extremely noticeable design elements. 

First, there’s the famous hole in the roof, which the Cowboys borrowed from the Texas Stadium design. While Texas Stadium was a fully outdoor stadium, AT&T Stadium has a domed roof. The only issue is the domed roof still does not block the sun, because the hole in the roof is designed into the build. Because the stadium was built from east to west (as opposed to north to south), the sun can occasionally shine brightly through the roof and affect the play on the field. 

That’s exactly what happened during the Cowboys’ first-round playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Cowboys wideout Cedrick Wilson had his view obstructed on two different plays, the first resulting in a drop and the second in a pass that sailed over his head as he ducked to try to get a better view. It’s understandable how it happened, considering he was looking directly at this: 

Later in the game, the second famous design element came into play. AT&T Stadium has an enormous, 175-foot video board that hangs over the center of the field. At the time it was built, it was the largest HDTV screen in the world. (It has since been surpassed.) More notable than the size, though, is how long the board hangs, which makes it vulnerable to being hit by a punt. It happened in the very first preseason game played in the stadium, and it happened again on Sunday. 

League rules mandate that the down is simply replayed when a punt hits the video board, so that’s how it played out on Sunday. The ensuing punt pinned the 49ers at their own 7-yard line. Not that it much mattered, because the 49ers jumped all over the Cowboys from the jump and — as of this writing midway through the third quarter — have pretty much controlled the game all afternoon. 

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