ARLINGTON, Texas – Any time team history is made, it's going to be a talking point. Unfortunately, this just wasn't the type of history anyone wanted to watch.
By the time this marathon of a loss to the Raiders was over, the Dallas Cowboys had racked up 166 yards in penalties, a new franchise record eclipsing a mark from all the way back in 1970.
That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who watched this Thanksgiving showcase, as it at time felt like the game's officiating crew was featured just as prominently as Dak Prescott or Derek Carr.
"This probably will be arguably the most watched game other than the Super Bowl, and I hated that it got down to just throwing the ball up and getting your penalties to get your big plays," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones on Thursday night.
To be clear, it was an issue for both teams to overcome in a 36-33 shootout. The Cowboys were flagged 14 times for their 166 yards, while the Raiders caught 14 of their own penalties for 110 yards. The result was a game that sputtered and dragged, falling just seven minutes short of a four-hour duration.
"It's choppy. It's tough to get a rhythm," said Ezekiel Elliott. "I think we've got to be more disciplined. I think we've got to realize how they're calling games this year and we've got to adjust."
The specific story, as Jones alluded to, will be penalties on passing plays. Carr targeted Anthony Brown and drew pass interference on four separate occasions, picking up 91 penalty yards. The final one essentially decided the game, as it picked up 33 yards on a 3rd-and-18 in overtime and moved the Raiders into position for a game-winning field goal.
"Unfortunately, that last penalty was crucial," Brown said. "We've just got to keep fighting, man. We can't control when the refs are throwing flags and when they're not throwing flags. We can't try to argue with them, because it's not going to change anything."
Publicly, Brown will be a scapegoat in this game because of the nature of the penalties. The sum of 91 penalty yards speaks for itself, and the four flags helped lead to 13 Las Vegas points, including the walkoff. His teammates balked at the idea that the result weighed on him alone.
"What should I say to him? Nothing to say to him, he's been solid," said Jayron Kearse. "In the world we live in today, you do nine good things for somebody and you do one bad thing, they're going to remember that one bad thing."
It wasn't just Brown, though. Micah Parsons was hit for a roughing the passer penalty when Carr was tackled into him at the end of a scramble.
"I think we should be playing football not tag," Parsons said. "I'm not here to support anybody and play tag like it's my best friend. I got a job to do, and I see he's outside of the pocket so I'm going to the quarterback."
The Cowboys' offensive line was also flagged three times on the night, one of which negated a 31-yard run by Tony Pollard.
None of this is to suggest the Cowboys couldn't have still won the game. It's worth repeating that Las Vegas was flagged 14 times, as well. But for whatever reason, the Cowboys had a much harder time overcoming their miscues. And, at the end of the day, the audience suffered just as much as either team.
Still feeling the sting of this loss, though, the Cowboys themselves perhaps don't share a balanced viewpoint.
"We're playing two teams – we're playing the refs and the other team," Michael Gallup said. "I mean, we've just got to get better at that."
Add it to the list of things that'll need correcting as they try to right the ship.