The Dallas Cowboys were out of timeouts and could not challenge an apparent fumble that would probably have given them the ball back with just over 2 1/2 minutes left of Sunday’s game.
Instead, Arizona got a first downturn on the next game and ran out of time, beating NFC East champion Cowboys 25-22 in their home final of the regular season, which had a playoff vibe – though the game along the Dallas sideline did not bring the season to a bitter finish.
The Cowboys (11-5) will be home again for a wild-card game in two weeks, possibly against the Cardinals, after ending the NFL’s first 17-game regular season next Saturday in Philadelphia.
During the game, Arizona running back Chase Edmonds seemed to lose control of the ball before he was down when defensive DeMarcus Lawrence jumped on his back. The referee immediately decided that the ground caused the fumble, but video reproduction from a few angles showed that Lawrence’s blow could have gotten the ball loose. But there was no way for the Cowboys to request an official review.
“It was a total fumble. I just do not understand how we with the technology we have today, even though we do not have timeouts, or whatever it may be that … challenge it. It’s so obvious, “said linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. “Some things are so obvious in games that the referees mess up. Why do they not fix it? It makes no sense to me. For me, we play more against the referees than we are other teams. “
The controversial fumble came a game after the Cowboys called their third and final timeout with 2:51 left of the game, following an 11-yard run by Edmonds that followed another timeout after Kyler Murray’s first-down pass to tight- end Zach Ertz.
“Hopefully the NFL can sit down with their team, review the movie, learn from their mistakes and get better from it,” Lawrence said.
“I feel like that fumble on the sidelines was a takeaway. We just did not get it. The referees did not call it that,” he added after a game in which the NFL’s top defense for takeaways had none. “Ultimately, we learn from our mistakes and get better. “
The Cowboys were just two timeouts late after having to use one with 4:04 left in the third quarter as the Cardinals offense initially remained on the field with fourth-and-5 from 8 after an incomplete pass. Dallas was taken aback and called timeout before Arizona (also playoff-bound at 11-5) also picked a 26-yard field goal by Matt Prater to go ahead 22-7.
Had officials ruled a fumble on Edmonds’ race, the game would have automatically been reviewed.
“Well, they did not think it was a fumble. That’s why you save a timeout if you can,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. “But of course we tried to hold something back on that watch to get it done. . … I wish we had it back to use. Of course, that could have made a big difference. ”
Dak Prescott threw two short touchdowns in the fourth quarter that put up another field goal by the Prater – a 2-yard TD to Cedrick Wilson and then a 4-yard to Amari Cooper with a 2-point conversion pass to Wilson with 4:42 left.
Prescott and the Cowboys never got the ball back after that, even after it looked like they had forced a fumble.
“It was frustrating, but we have to know we have to keep our heads down and keep grinding it out. You just have to know that the defense we have, they will give us the ball back. We’re just going to work, ”said running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was limited to 16 yards on nine carries.
“If you look around the league, it’s not just the first time this has happened,” said Vander Esch without giving any concrete examples. “There are other guys around the league who have been dictated from, I do not know if it is incompetence or what it is. It does not make sense to me and it feels like it is not difficult to correct that.”