The Dallas Cowboys fell to the Las Vegas Raiders in overtime on Thanksgiving Day. That sounds like an exciting game, and it was for stretches, but the referees called an absurd amount of penalties that killed the game's momentum whenever it really started to get going. Unfortunately, those penalties also played a critical role in determining who won the game, which nobody wants to see. The Raiders would not have had a chance to kick their game-winning field goal were it not for a pass interference penalty that bailed out Derek Carr on an underthrow.
In short, it stunk. Much like the Lions-Bears game that preceded it, the refs weren't making "bad" calls, necessarily. Infractions were definitely made and penalties were deserved more often than not. It just got to the point where penalties dominated the game and that is a miserable viewing experience.
The natural inclination is to blame the people who throw those flags. But Sam Acho went on ESPN this morning to defend the officiating crew and encouraged us all to blame the Cowboys themselves for not "adjusting" to this crew's particular adherence to certain rules.
This is one of those instances in which Acho's playing background gives him the upper hand. It makes sense to consider that teams need to adjust their level of physicality depending on who's overseeing the game. But it also feels like it would be easier for the refs to stay their hand than for Anthony Brown to not gently bump a receiver on a pass that hits him in the back whilst running full speed.
The Cowboys will take Acho's path in media appearances because nobody wants to get fined, but I imagine the NFL is going to have a chat with the officiating crew from yesterday. Calling the game correctly is important and everything but nothing damages the on-field product quite like penalties every other snap. Nobody, from the most casual to diehard watcher, wants that. It's one of the few things football fans collectively agree upon as an entity. Like, this is not what the league wants on its second-most important day of the year!
That's the storyline today. Not the Cowboys' sudden slide or Dak Prescott's MVP candidacy slowly growing weaker or the Raiders showing up to play. It's the referees.
The over-officiating cost Dallas the game, but more importantly, it is extremely lame. A disappointing outcome on Thanksgiving.