That Cowboys playoff win was rather exciting. Any time the home team comes back in the waning minutes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, it’s always a good thing.
There was hand-wringing, stress and dismay along the way, but in the end – all’s well that ends well. At least for the Cowboys yesterday.
Something caught my attention during the FOX pre-game show, when former VP of officiating for the NFL Mike Pereira made mention that “the man in the stadium that probably didn’t get much sleep last night” was head referee Pete Morelli, who was working without his normal crew. Instead, he was working with somewhat of an all-star crew, individual rewards for NFL officials who were judged to have done exemplary work in the 2014 regular season.
I thought to myself, “Good for them. But is that good for a game of this magnitude?”
My reasoning was simple – this isn’t a regular season game in week four. This is a playoff game, and one of these teams is going home. Shouldn’t a crew that works well as a unit and knows each other inside and out be more effective than forcing talented individuals together for the first time and trusting that it works out OK? Chemistry is a big thing. Little did I know that it would, indeed, be a factor in Dallas’ playoff win.
Detroit led, 20-17, midway through the fourth quarter when Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens was flagged for pass interference on tight end Brandon Pettigrew. It looked like a good call to me. Then, inexplicably, the flag was picked up, the call overruled by another member of the “all-star” crew. Never mind that Dez Bryant came out onto the field and could have been flagged himself for arguing the call.
I disagree with the final decision to pick up that flag and I honestly think it would have stood had Morelli’s normal working crew been on the field. Would the Cowboys have still won the game? I have no idea, but the Lion fans must be chanting “nut and bolts, nuts and bolts…” even this Monday morning after.
The only other thing that bothers me more than bad calls that help decide a pigskin game can be summed up in two words.
Demarcus Lawrence had an acute case of “dumb football” with just two minutes left in regulation. Lawrence was able to recover a Matthew Stafford fumble (a true “Hey look what I found” moment). Instead of simply going down to the ground, ensuring that his team would be able to run out the clock, Lawrence decided he wanted to be a hero and started running.
Only one thing could have saved the Lions at that moment and Lawrence opened up that door. He fumbled it right back to Detroit and gave them second life. It was a huge lesson for him to learn, and possibly at the expense of an eventual loss from his gaffe.
But things worked out for Lawrence and the Cowboys. I don’t know if it was karma, but it was Lawrence who did, in fact, make the winning play for Dallas three snaps later when he sacked Stafford on fourth down, caused him to fumble and pounced on it.
Those are the best lessons in sports – ones you learn from and do not pay the ultimate price in losing the game. Lawrence, and the Cowboys, will be better for it.
Yes, the Cowboys were fortunate. Yes, the Lions probably deserved a better fate. But that’s the beauty of sports. It is unscripted and you never know what is going to happen. This is reality television. And despite a bad call, a lucky bounce or two, and an offensive line (they really won the game, in my opinion, on that final touchdown), the reality is – the Cowboys have lived to see another day.