FRISCO, Texas – Hey, New Orleans Saints, feel your pain.
That pain of the great, emotionally-charged fans in Louisiana, too.
But you know what? The Dallas Cowboys have been there in these playoffs, had that done to them, too. Twice as a matter of fact in this century, advancing opportunities stolen from them by highly-disputable calls.
Cost the Cowboys from moving on in the playoffs. Maybe you remember. Probably not.
First, in the wild-card round of the 2006 playoffs up there in Seattle. Cowboys trailing the Seahawks, 21-20. Everybody remembers on fourth-and-1 from the Seattle 2-yard line, with 1:19 left in the game, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo fumbling the snap on the potential game-winning field goal, a chip-shot attempt, and then trying desperately to run for the first down, only to be dragged down from behind for no gain.
Ah, but here is the rest of the story. On third-and-7 from the Seattle 8, Romo completes a pass to tight end Jason Witten, first down at the 1-yard line. The spot is challenged by the replay assistant way upstairs. Long consultation, and remember back then, the reviews were in the hands of the referee. In this one it was Walt Anderson.
And I'll be, without the advantage of a replay shot parallel to the line of scrimmage, he re-spots the ball a half-yard short. No joke. Contrary to what seemed an obvious first down. Even in slow motion. Had that been a first down, the Cowboys could have had three shots at punching it in for the game-winning touchdown while running off the majority of the final 1:19. End of season.
Cost the Cowboys from moving on to Chicago for a divisional-round playoff game the Seahawks lost in overtime.
The loss broke Bill Parcells, emotionally and mentally. Never coached another game.
Probably don't need to remind you of the 2014 divisional-round game at Green Bay. You know, the "no catch" reversal after Mike McCarthy challenged Dez Bryant's 31-yard catch on fourth-and-2 from the Green Bay 32-yard line, marking him down at the Packers 1 with 4:06 left to play. Remember that? NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino back in New York and head referee Gene Steratore changing the on-field call of completion?
Remember that sting?
Because had the Cowboys won that game, they were going to the NFC title game against Seattle, a team they already had beaten during the regular season.
Four years later we're told, well, that really was a catch. Makes you feel even worse, doesn't it?
Just like NFL head of officiating Al Riveron telling Saints head coach Sean Payton immediately after the game that his crew "blew it," failing to call interference on that third-and-10 play from the Rams' 13-yard line with just 1:45 left in a 20-20 game that would have given the Saints first-and-goal at the 6, a game the Rams would win in overtime, 26-23.
Hey, at least the Saints didn't have to wait four years for the NFL to admit they were wronged.
Cowboys feel your pain for sure.
· Fix It, Roger: Now, most everyone wants change, somehow, someway to make an on-the-spot, in-game fix of such a blatant wrong. Cries for challenging any play. Cries for at least challenging pass interference, since that call or no-call has such a huge impact on games. Look, this game is so hard to officiate in real time from field level. So much so that those seven guys in stripes on the field can't possibly see everything. And folks laugh when I've suggested this game needs to be officiated from on high, sort of like tennis and volleyball are officiated, head official sitting in a raised structure. Well, heard former NFL head of officials and now Fox rules analyst Mike Pereira suggest Wednesday morning that the league needs an eighth official. Not on the field, but in a booth on high, with the ability to better spot a possible egregious on-field officiating error and quickly look at the play, then buzz down to fix the call or no-call. Not a replay official. Not a replay challenge. But an eighth crew member with a clearer view. Like, how easy would it have been to wave off that Kansas City personal foul for hitting Tom Brady in the head when it was obvious on the first replay the hit was to the shoulder pad? Pereira is on to something the rules committee should look at. Or they could have asked me.
· Worst Part: There were two officials sandwiching Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman blatantly running over Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis at the 6-yard line as Drew Brees' pass was coming in. And it appeared the younger official, five-year veteran Patrick Turner was prepared to throw his flag from 8 yards up field, but when he saw 16-year veteran Gary Cavaletto 6 yards downfield of the play vehemently waving off an incompletion, he did so, too. Also, saw on the pool report interview with head official Bill Vinovich when asked about the reasoning for no flag on the play, his response was, "It's a judgment call by officials. I personally have not seen the play." But sure looks like on the TV copy replay Vinovich's looking that way. Maybe he needs to be in Booger's traveling crane perch.
· Cole, Cole, Cole: By now, if you are reading this, then you already know receiver Cole Beasley has voiced his displeasure over lack of involvement in the offense, saying Cowboys management determines how much a player is used. In other words, Beasley, scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, wants more opportunities. Funny, though, in 2016, with Dez Bryant going through injuries, Beasley led the Cowboys with 75 catches, somewhat of an unheard total for a Cowboys slot/third receiver. And while his numbers dropped off in 2017, as did everyone's offensive numbers, in 2018 Beasley's 65 receptions led all the receivers, only running back Ezekiel Elliott totaling more with 77.
· Tony, Tony: Maybe because those of us around here are used to Tony Romo's uncanny insight into the game, his ability to analyze what took place on the field afterward, even on charter flights back from road games when looking over the shoulder of those re-watching coaches' film of the game, and even of opposing quarterback decisions, nothing he did during the AFC Championship Game is surprising to me. Thought Jim Nance said it best on Wednesday's CBS Super Bowl conference call, saying of Romo's Sunday performance, "Maybe you think (Romo) is foreshadowing what's going to happen a little more often than usual, but I've given a lot of thought coming off this Kansas City-New England game and chalked a lot of it up to he and Tom Brady are seeing the same thing. People think Tony is a fortuneteller, but this isn't guess work, this isn't psychic ability. This is a testimonial to a guy who, playing his career, spent a lot of time figuring it out. And Tom Brady has, too, and that's why he's able to complete three third-and-10s in overtime and take them down for the winning touchdown. And that's why Tony saw all of those same things. I mean, my partner had to have been and remains to this day some sick film-room guru who took the time that's needed to completely solve the puzzle. So when we have these key moments late in games and he dazzles by what he's doing, it's a testament to years and years of his work and preparation." And why his wife Candice told us a few years back on Talkin' Cowboys how Tony would have family and friends over after home games to re-watch the game as he basically broke down each play for them.
· Friends: Always said, listening to Romo broadcast a game to me sounds like you're sitting on the couch with your best friends talking out loud. Well, here is what he had to say when asked about how into it he was in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game: "I'm excited just like everybody at home. This is such a big deal. I want to talk about people who do great things. I love when people are able to do something special, and I want to communicate to people and let them know. I don't know, you study the game, you love it so much, and you just kind of get into it as it's going. You know, when you're talking and the game is going the way it is at the end, you don't really think about, I don't want to say the viewers, the fans. I think more than anything, you're almost like just talking to your friends right next to you, like, 'Oh, look at what he's got. I don't believe he just did that.' It's just kind of comes out of you a little bit I guess." Just like with the rest of us. Just his has more depth.
· Final Shots: Understand Dak Prescott is an injury replacement for this year's Pro Bowl, but nevertheless, this will be his second Pro Bowl in the first three years in the NFL, a first in the Cowboys' 59-year history for a quarterback. Not bad for those who wonder if he's a franchise quarterback … Speaking of Pro Bowls, nice that the Cowboys spent a first-round pick on a wide receiver who has now made three Pro Bowls in his first four years in the league. Take a bow, Amari Cooper, for your nine-game performance with the Cowboys … Last word goes to Romo, when asked, after losing a playoff game, did you watch the Super Bowl games? "When you lose a playoff game, it's always the worst two weeks that you have, and every player doesn't really want to watch," he admitted. "But the fan in you, you love the game, it's your living. I ended up watching everything."
Whew, how many shots can you take in one week. If you're looking for more, like on the Cowboys' coaching changes, well, Friday is another day for me on DallasCowboys.com.