Dallas Cowboys: Defending the ‘touchback rule’

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 11: Stickers supporting Veterans Day are shown on the end zone pylons prior to the start of the Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders game at M
BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 11: Stickers supporting Veterans Day are shown on the end zone pylons prior to the start of the Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders game at M /

The Dallas Cowboys beat the Oakland Raiders, in part, due to a proper rule that is easy to understand and completely fair to both teams in play.

The Dallas Cowboys won a close and controversial contest against the Oakland Raiders on Week 15 that’s created not so much a fire storm, but rather a small camp fire that’ll soon be extinguished by the next squirt gun that gets close.

The 20-17 victory was iced in the closing seconds when Oakland quarterback Derek Carr lost control of the football after having scrambled inside the five yard-line, which had already created a first-and-goal scenario for the Raiders.

Carr’s fumble crossed the goal line in the air near the corner pylon and rolled out of bounds on the sideline in the end zone, thus creating a turnover that not only cost the Raiders the game, but also any realistic hopes for the AFC playoffs.

Somehow, in the aftermath of Dallas’ hard-fought win, a number of articles from less-educated sports outlets, like Yahoo, have taken numerous shots at the touchback rule, one that’s been around for many decades at this point and one that’s hardly ever discussed by the masses. It’s rare that this scenario ever occurs in this fashion, but it’s completely understandable and it’s the only logical consequence for losing the football into the endzone and allowing it to wobble out of bounds.

Yeah, there’s some people out there who don’t get it, but count me among those who completely understand this rule and why it exists.

Why wasn’t there this kind of outcry during Super Bowl XXVII back in January of 1993?

Remember when Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett picked up the 82nd fumble by the Buffalo Bills in that game? Lett scooped up the ball and bolted for the endzone with apparently nobody in position to prevent him from scoring an easy touchdown in a game that was already a blowout in favor of the Dallas Cowboys.

But then came Don Beebe, one of the fastest Bills at the time. The utility receiver never gave up on the play and actually caught up to Lett inside the ten yard line and batted the ball out of his hands just shy of the goal line. Lett, obviously showboating his future highlight, had slowed down enough for Beebe to change the outcome of the play. The ball did the same thing here that it did with Carr on Sunday night.


Buffalo football at the 20 yard line, period.

The issue here is two fold.

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To start with, this type of touchback doesn’t happen very often, and yet the rule is clear and totally fair. People just don’t see it very often, so many newcomers just don’t get it.

Finally, this particular touchback won a game for the Dallas Cowboys, and there’s always going to be people who hate that just in principle.

I would also offer that today we live in a culture that sees more and more people go completely overboard when things don’t go their way. Granted, there was no Twitter or Yahoo when Lett fumbled away what would have been a Super Bowl record-setting touchdown for most points scored, but this came before another Dallas Cowboys dynasty wrecked the lives of millions of NFL football fans and it went against America’s Team, so all is well, right?

If you don’t like the modern day confusion over what exactly constitutes a catch in the NFL, I stand with you – this has nothing to with Dez Bryant‘s ‘no catch’ up in Green Bay during the 2014 playoffs. Almost every week I see great efforts by all kinds of pass-catchers around the league negated due to one of the most ridiculous ‘processess’ in professional sports. Why does a receiver no longer get the same respect that any other ball carrier gets?

In other words, the ground can’t cause a fumble, at least in my book.

Don’t like how certain hits get flagged while others don’t? I ended up warming to the idea that ‘horse collar’ tackles needed to go, but nothing beyond that makes any sense to me.

More simply put, no football player is ‘defensless’ provided that they’re wearing pads and a helmet. I thought that was the whole point, right?


But to get testy about the rules of football because things didn’t go your way was a type of behavior I thought was only reserved for political debates and such.

What’s supposed to happen when a Carr-style touchback goes down?

Free touchdown?

How about the fact that it was stupid of Carr to keep going even after he knew he had picked up a first down inside the five with plenty of time to score a potential game-winning touchdown – or at least a chip-shot game-tying field goal?

What about the effort on the part of safety Jeff Heath, who was spying Carr the entire play and reacted with enough time to get to the opposing quarterback before he scored?

Instead, I’m hearing that Carr’s ‘hero-ball’ attempt backfired because of NFL rules?

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This idea is 50 shades of ridiculous and if you can’t deal with football then there’s always golf. An offense has 100 yards of real estate with which to operate and if it fails to cross the goal line with possession of the ball and it goes out of bounds in the endzone, that’s not the rulebook’s fault. This is common sense and there’s a reason why the end zone is called the end zone.