In an overall frustrating loss, the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Arizona Cardinals 25-22 on Sunday. This mathematically eliminated Dallas from a No. 1 spot in the NFC and bumped them down two spots to No. 4 in the current standings.
The Cardinals outplayed the Cowboys. But to Dallas, the story of the game was the officiating. It seemed like there was a flag thrown on almost every single play.
The biggest gripe, though, was with one of the final plays of the game.
After clawing their way back into the game by making it 25-22, all the Cowboys needed to do to stage a comeback was stop Arizona and get the ball back to tie the game with a field goal or win with a touchdown. With just under three minutes to go, Chase Edmonds ran the ball and tried to stay in bounds to keep the clock running. Cowboys defender DeMarcus Lawrence tackled him and appeared to knock the ball loose, causing a fumble that was recovered by Dallas.
But the refs didn’t call it a fumble. And, to add insult to injury, head coach Mike McCarthy had no timeouts left to throw a challenge flag. So despite pleading from the defense, there was nothing the Cowboys could do. There was no change of possession, which meant there was no chance for Dallas to get the ball and potentially win the game. It’s also worth noting that on that same play Kyler Murray clearly took the snap after the clock expired, which should have resulted in a delay of game penalty that never happened either.
This did not make the team happy, as clearly shown by several of the post-game interviews. The man who caused the fumble himself (Lawrence) was one of the most vocal.
Cowboys players and Mike McCarthy were quick to point finger at the referees after loss to Cardinals
After listening to the players speak after the loss, it’s clear that most of McCarthy’s postgame speech revolved around the referees. Did the referees make plenty of mistakes? Absolutely. But is playing the victim card when there were several opportunities for your team to get ahead in this matchup a good idea? No.
It’s clear, though, that McCarthy’s message stuck with players. Here are some quotes from after the game.
Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch blatantly said that McCarthy told his team that they have to keep battling with “everybody.”
This was the coach’s sly way of saying that it wasn’t just about beating the Cardinals. McCarthy believed his team also had to play against the refs.
You already heard Lawrence’s quote above where he tried to low-key insult the referees by saying the Cowboys will likely see “both teams” (meaning the Cardinals and the officiating crew) in the playoffs. But that wasn’t enough. After his presser, Lawrence tweeted this photo and “CC’d” the NFL.
Points to Lawrence for creativity here.
Lawrence wasn’t the only pass-rusher heated about the officiating. DE Randy Gregory told reporters that he feels like “playing against the refs” is a weekly occurrence for the Cowboys.
Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb also had something to say. He felt the referees, not the disappointing offensive play, were what dictated the result of the game.
Perhaps the only person angrier than Lawrence was Vander Esch, who seemed to not put the topic to rest. In addition to the quote above, the linebacker told Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that this isn’t the first time officiating has lost a team their game. Vander Esch went on to say he doesn’t “know if it’s incompetence or what it is” that is continuing to allow the officiating to spoil games for teams. Shots fired.
Are the referees the true culprit for the Cowboys’ loss to the Cardinals?
Look. The Cowboys’ complaints about the referees were valid. There were an absurd amount of penalties, tons of missed calls, and that Edmonds play surely looked like a fumble. But what about the other 57 minutes of the game before that critical play?
Did the refs cause Dak Prescott to fumble or continually over/underthrow his targets? Did the refs allow the Cardinals offense to walk all over Dallas with 399 yards of offense? Did the refs make McCarthy fall for Kliff Kingsbury’s “confusing” move to send in both the kicker and quarterback on fourth down in the third quarter, causing him to waste a crucial timeout? No. And what about the delay of the game on the two-point attempt?
The officiating was terrible. But the Cowboys could have won this game despite it. Pointing fingers and playing the blame game won’t get this team anywhere in the postseason.