The Cowboys’ chaotic final play can be blamed on everything but the refs

The Dallas Cowboys won five of their last six games to run away with NFC East crown heading into the 2022 NFL Playoffs. Dallas had plenty of reason to be confident as they faced the San Francisco 49ers in the opening round: quarterback Dak Prescott had been excellent all season in his return from a torn ACL, the team had the best turnover ratio in the league, and Dallas had some game-breaking weapons on both sides of the ball. The Cowboys were a three-point favorite entering the game, and most experts were picking them to win.

Instead, the 49ers came out as the aggressor, using a very good running game and consistent pressure on Prescott to take control of the game. San Francisco led 23-7 entering the fourth quarter, and that’s when things got bizarre. The Cowboys picked up a first down on a fake punt (and then tried to run a second fake punt?) that eventually led to a field goal, they picked off Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo to set up a Prescott touchdown run, and they had a chance to steal a victory on the final drive of the game.

The Cowboys were down six points with 32 seconds left when they started their final possession on their own 20-yard-line. Dallas pulled off a textbook hook-and-ladder to move up the field. With 14 seconds left, the ball on the Niners’ 41-yard-line, and no timeouts remaining, Prescott ran the ball for 17 yards. As Dallas frantically tried to spike the ball to stop the clock, umpire Ramon George bumped into Prescott while trying to set the ball, and time expired.

Watch the wild final sequence here:

The officials eventually ruled the game was over, and the 49ers walked away with a 23-17 win. The Cowboys were eliminated in their first playoff game for the seventh time in the last 10 years.

After the game, Cowboys fans appeared to throw garbage at the players as they exited the field.

There was a report that the fans were really trying to hit the refs, not the players. Prescott credited the fans for doing it after the game.

Prescott continued to take clear shots at the refs in his post-game press conference:

It wasn’t just the final play that fans were upset about, though it was mostly that. The Cowboys were called for 14 penalties on the afternoon. That isn’t exactly unusual for Dallas, because they were the most penalized team in the NFL this season.

While an umpire running into a QB as the final seconds ticked away makes it seem like the Cowboys were jobbed by the refs, broadcaster (and former Cowboys QB) Tony Romo astutely pointed out on the broadcast that the ref has to the touch the ball. Prescott didn’t seem to realize this, and apparently intended to call hike without the ref’s necessary participation. Maybe we should be crediting the ref for doing everything he could to fight over Prescott to touch the ball.

According to the initial referee pool report, there was no error made by George on the final play.

Kemp said in a pool report George was trailing the play at a proper distance and acted appropriately to get the ball spotted correctly. The umpire has to touch the ball before another play can happen.

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that it was a designed QB run by Prescott on the final play. That seems like an awfully strange play call given that the team had no timeouts. McCarthy thought the Cowboys would have time to spike it and run another play, but he was wrong.

The Cowboys seemed to blame everyone but themselves for how the game ended. McCarthy deserves blame for a strange final play call. The coaching staff deserves blame for apparently not teaching their team a ref had to touch the ball despite McCarthy saying they practiced the play often. Prescott deserves blame for throwing the refs under the bus when it seems like he didn’t know the rule either. The fans also shouldn’t be throwing garbage at anyone.

RJ Ochoa of Blogging the Boys had a great post tying up the Cowboys’ lack of accountability.

If the Cowboys have really practiced this play and trained for it then how were they unaware of the fact that the ball had to be given to the official to place and not Tyler Biadasz? This sounds like excuse-making from the Cowboys and like they are trying to place the blame for their loss on the referees as opposed to their own errors.

Obviously officials aren’t perfect, but the Cowboys were at fault on Sunday and hardly some sort of victim. Fans were displeased with the way that the game ended and chose to throw debris at officials as they ran off of the field which was an ugly thing to see.

Sunday was really disappointing in that the Cowboys completely collapsed as a football team. Seeing them point fingers and blame officiating in the aftermath only solidified some of our worst fears in that they don’t believe they were in the wrong in any real way.

Ochoa also put it like this:

This one is going to sting for the Cowboys for a long, long time.

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