Officiating, Dumb Rule Cost Oakland Raiders The Season

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With high stakes on the line in Week 15’s marquee matchup, the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys treated us to a classic finish on Sunday night at the Oakland Coliseum. It was a game decided on the final drive, sure to be remembered more for controversial refereeing decisions that will forever haunt the Black Hole than it will anything else. 

Two highly questionable decisions from Gene Steratore and the rest of the officiating crew aided the Dallas Cowboys to a pivotal 20-17 win, keeping their NFC Wild Card hopes alive, while simultaneously ending the Oakland Raiders playoff hopes. The result that won’t sit well with the Silver and Black and a fanbase that already feels historically cheated by the NFL’s officials.

With the score tied at 17-17, it appeared the Raiders had stopped Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott on 4th and 1 to get the ball back with a chance to win the game.

The chain gang came out and appeared to confirm the Raiders had stopped the Cowboys by the slimmest of margins.

However, the referees couldn’t make a decision based on the chain gang coming onto the field. Laughably, an index card was pulled out to make the determination of the yardage.

More laughably – despite the index card touching the ground in between the ball and the first down marker – a first down was awarded to the Cowboys anyway and allowed them to kick a field goal to take a 20-17 lead in the fourth quarter.

To the Raiders’ credit, quarterback Derek Carr composed the offense and led it into striking distance on what appeared to be a season-saving drive.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, their bad luck since returning to Oakland added yet another chapter. Carr fumbled the ball near the sideline while scrambling for a first down on 3rd and 3, and then the pylon.

With Carr just a yard from the goal line, the ball managed to bounce into the end zone and out of bounds. Per NFL rules, Carr’s fumble while reaching for the end zone was correctly ruled a turnover and gave the Cowboys a narrow escape over an unfortunate bounce for the Raiders.

The rule of a fumble that goes through the end zone as a turnover has cost teams all season. But now, with a playoff spot on the line, this unfair rule is now under the microscope — as it should be. 

If a team fumbles the ball out of bounds on the 100 yards of the football field, it retains possession of the football. What’s more, only on a play like Carr’s is the ball advanced on a fumble.

Somehow if a team fumbles the ball out of bounds and the ball is in the end zone when it goes out of bounds, the defense is awarded in that one instance with the football. Broken down in this way, it is a stupid rule that awards the defense in one exact instance where the magnitude of the rule has the value of a likely touchdown being taken off of the board.

The Raiders surely would have won the game if Carr had been awarded the first down on the one-yard line. With a timeout and Marshawn Lynch behind one of the better offensive lines in the league, a touchdown was inevitable and makes things all the more heartbreaking for a fanbase in Oakland that is running out of time to watch their Raiders make a run to the Super Bowl.

To further stoke the anger of the Raiders, wideout Michael Crabtree was held out of the final plays of the game citing the league’s concussion protocol. A talking point that may be ignored nationally compared to the index card, but will add to the belief among the Raiders that the NFL made a handful of decisions to keep the Cowboys playoff hopes alive.

At 6-8, the Raiders are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs entering Week 16. That won’t stop the belief that the NFL’s officials may have cost the Raiders a spot in the postseason at a time where it appeared the team was finally getting it together after underperforming all year.

Perhaps the Raiders didn’t deserve to make the playoffs due to the regression from 2016 to 2017 from a talented roster that didn’t produce. Amari Cooper had the worst year of his career, Derek Carr was injured for a period of the season and struggled to make the leap as well.

That won’t stop the Raider Nation from expressing paranoia that strikes back memories of the glory days of Al Davis and the conspiracy the NFL was out to get the Raiders at all times. Deservedly so as it is unacceptable to see a team’s season end at the hands of refereeing incompetence and questionable decision making.

An index card and a rule technicality will put the Raiders at home come January when the playoffs start. Add it to the Immaculate Reception and the Tuck Rule in the hall of heartbreaking Raiders screwjobs as it continues to look more and more likely long-suffering fans in Oakland won’t see a championship before the team relocates to Las Vegas.