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Ezekiel Elliott Fumble Highlights Flaw in NFL Review Rules

Jess Haynie

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Dallas Cowboys Good, Bad, and Ugly From Week 4 Against the Saints 2

A critical moment in the Dallas Cowboys' loss to the New Orleans Saints came at the end of the first half, when a fumble by Ezekiel Elliott cost Dallas a scoring opportunity and allowed the Saints to tack on another field goal before the break. The way the fumble was handled by the officials highlights what I feel is a major logic breakdown in the NFL's rules for reviewing plays.

First off, I do want to give the referees credit for allowing the play to proceed without blowing the whistle. The most egregious problem of all is when a play is blown dead and a potential touchdown is called back, only to see on review that it should have been allowed to continue. I appreciate that the officials tried to avoid that mistake.

However, that positive now creates a new problem.

By letting the play unfold, it set the precedent that the ruling on the field was a fumble. And because of how the NFL has structured its review process, the initial ruling on the field becomes paramount.

As you likely have heard, the rules require "clear and obvious visual evidence" to overturn a call made on the field. This philosophy was designed to preserve the human element of officiating and allow referees to maintain their authority and integrity as part of the game.

At the same time, though, this also puts a wall around the exact issue that reviews were designed to fix. If you need a system to review plays to fix human error, then why are you simultaneously protecting the same error?

Why are we neutering the full potential of the play review process?

Referees, Officials

NFL Referees

Let's go back to Zeke's fumble. To be clear, and Elliott himself has already admitted this, he should have never allowed for there to be a question. Even if his knee or elbow hit the ground before the ball came loose, Zeke knows he ultimately allowed the turnover by letting the ball get stripped away.


But because of how close that call was on even slow-motion replay, the ability to make a definitive ruling in real time was almost impossible. The officials went with a fumble because it allowed the play to develop and avoided cancelling a possible Saints touchdown.

Again, I get that part. But what happens next is a review process in which that initial call of a fumble now takes significant precedence, and the burden of proof to overturn it is far higher than what qualified the initial ruling.

We don't know exactly what the review official saw, but let's try and put some metrics to this. Imagine that the initial call was based on a 51-49% level of certainty; the referee could have gone either way but just slightly leaned toward a fumble.

Now it's reviewed and now that leaning changes. Even if it's now 51% in favor that there's no fumble, the call is going to stand based on that "clear and obvious" language.

But is that logical? Doesn't a determination made based on review, with different angles and slow motion, give the official a better opportunity to make a judgment call than in the heat of the moment?

There was nothing clear or obvious about the initial fumble ruling. Why should the review be held to such a significantly higher standard?

If we're going to take the time to review plays and have these lulls in the action, then at least make a greater effort to call things correctly. I know I sound like a bitter Cowboys homer right now, but this reaction comes from watching years of NFL football and countless matchups between all teams.

Bottom line; initial calls are more likely to be wrong than review decisions. Get rid of the stringent requirement for overturning calls and be more worried about getting things right, not protecting the officials.


Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Dallas Cowboys

#DALvsPHI: It’s Make Or Break Time In Dallas This Sunday

Kevin Brady

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Jaylon Smith, Eagles

The future of the Dallas Cowboys is hanging in the balance.

Despite three straight incredibly disappointing losses, the Cowboys can take early control of first place in the NFC East with a victory this Sunday. With a loss, though, it could all come apart.

The 2019 season. The Jason Garrett era. All of it.

This may sound dramatic for a week 7 game, but the facts are damning for this version of the Cowboys. Not only would a loss Sunday to the Philadelphia Eagles be Dallas' fourth in a row, but it would also send them under .500 for the first time all season. And when you look at their schedule moving forward, it's hard to see how Dallas could battle back into true contention.

America's Team has looked wildly unprepared the last three weeks. Getting out played and out coached by the Saints and Packers is one thing, but being embarrassed by Adam Gase and the New York Jets is a whole different level of incompetence.Takeaway Tuesday: Dak Prescott The Least of Cowboys Problems 1

Now enter the hated Eagles, swaggering behind the words of their head coach Doug Pederson who guaranteed victory over the Cowboys on Philadelphia sports radio to start the week. But, while the rhetoric around the two teams feels a little different, both Dallas and Philly are in similar situations heading into this game.


Both were considered to be Super Bowl contenders prior to the season, with the Eagles even being crowned as the best team in the NFC by most major media outlets.

Through six games though, each has been disappointing, and each sits at 3-3. The only likely avenue for either of these assumed-giants to make the postseason will be by winning their objectively bad division. A wild card run through this gauntlet of an NFC would be tough, especially as it'll likely take 10 wins to get there.

Sunday is a season changing type of game, and for the Cowboys, it's a potentially franchise changing type of game.

A loss would all but seal Jason Garrett's fait in the eyes of Cowboys Nation, barring a miraculous comeback in the second half of the season. It would also continue this talented group's tailspin back down to the state of mediocrity their doubters all predicted and hoped for.

So, for the sake of the 2019 Cowboys and Jason Garrett, they better show up on Sunday night.


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5 Cowboys with Big Opportunity as Tyrone Crawford Goes to IR

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys with Opportunity in Wake of Tyrone Crawford Injury

Though his reputation outside of the locker room seemed to be in question by many in the Dallas Cowboys fanbase always in question, Tyrone Crawford has been one of the more valuable members of the Dallas Cowboys. Despite a salary cap hit that was often disproportionate to the production he provided, his leadership and versatility has always been tremendously valuable to the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line.

Crawford's ability to play both defensive end positions and the 3-technique defensive tackle spot has been immensely important for the Cowboys over the years. When the Cowboys struggled to stop the run, he'd give them a boost at right defensive end. When they needed some pass rush help in the middle, Crawford was the guy they'd turn to.

Crawford's battled hip injuries this year and his inability to get healthy has landed him on injured reserve for the 2019 season. He's always been a solid player for the Cowboys and now Dallas will need to figure out how to redistribute his 20-25 defensive snaps per game.

Though he's been primarily a role player, the opportunity exists for his role to be divided up between several players moving forward. Here are five players who stand to benefit most from Tyrone Crawford's injury.

Kerry Hyder, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle

The player with the best chance to fill Crawford's defensive end/defensive tackle role is Kerry Hyder. Hyder has a lot of experience at both positions and even played some nose tackle for the Detroit Lions last year before signing with the Dallas Cowboys in free agency. In 2016, Hyder showed some pass-rush ability from the defensive end spot as he racked up eight sacks. Though Hyder hasn't recorded a sack yet in 2019, he'll see an increase in his snap count moving forward.

Christian Covington, Defensive Tackle

One could argue that Christian Covington has been the Dallas Cowboys' most disruptive defensive tackle in the 2019 season. He has the highest run-stop percentage of any Cowboys defensive lineman, per Pro Football Focus and the highest run defense grade amongst the Cowboys defensive lineman.

Covington has the ability to play both defensive tackle positions and with Antwaun Woods back as the starting 1-technique defensive tackle, it could provide Covington some opportunities to play the 3-technique spot. Maliek Collins is the starter, but the Cowboys need someone to come in and keep him fresh. On early downs and obvious running situations, Covington might be the better choice for the Cowboys inside to get more production from their 3-technique. Maliek Collins has been an effective pass-rusher, but he's struggled in the run game. Covington could help there.

Joe Jackson, Defensive End

Another newcomer to the Dallas Cowboys with inside-outside positional flexibility that could see an uptick in defensive snaps is fifth-round draft pick, Joe Jackson.

Jackson was able to secure a roster spot out of training camp because of the same type of positional flexibility that Tyrone Crawford has shown throughout his career. Though Jackson's only played 51 snaps this season, he saw a decent amount of work in the first three games of the season, with a high of 26 snaps against the New York Giants in week one.


His snap counts have tailed off quite a bit since playing 12 snaps in week three, and he's been a healthy scratch each of the last two games. The potential exists for Jackson to get more work on the gameday roster in the weeks to come.

Trysten Hill, Defensive Tackle

A player that could use a break is rookie Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill. Hill has been a healthy scratch for three of the Dallas Cowboys six games to start the 2019 season. It's been known that he's a bit of a work in progress, but he has a really good ability to get off the ball and penetrate. He needs to work on securing his base and holding his anchor when being double-teamed.

Hill will be a good player, though his biggest impact may not come in 2019, but 2020. With Crawford to IR, Hill may find himself on the active roster to take some of the snaps at 3-technique defensive tackle. The Cowboys could use him to get some interior pressure on the quarterback to take some of the pressure off of the defensive ends to get to the quarterback.

Daniel Wise, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle

Rookie undrafted free agent Defensive End/Tackle Daniel Wise has an excellent opportunity to be promoted to the 53-man roster this week if the Dallas Cowboys feel the need to add another defensive lineman as depth.

Wise had a really nice training camp and preseason that gave many the impression he could make the 53-man roster out of training camp. Depth at the position made it pretty difficult and he's spent the first six weeks of the season on the practice squad.

Because Wise and Crawford play similar positions with similar versatility, it would make sense for the Cowboys to add him to the 53 this week with their matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles looming.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys have several decisions to make this week as they attempt to get a win for the first time since beating the Miami Dolphins in week three. They need to figure out who will take Tyrone Crawford's snaps in the defensive end and defensive tackle rotation. They also need to decide who will take Crawford's spot on the game-day roster and the 53-man roster.


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Jourdan Lewis, the Change the Dallas Cowboys Defense Needs

Brian Martin

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Jourdan Lewis, the Change the Dallas Cowboys Defense Needs?

The Dallas Cowboys are a mess right now, especially on the defensive side of the ball. There's no sugar coating the way they've played these past few weeks. I think the third consecutive loss in a row pretty much speaks for itself. Something needs to change and fast, but what!?

Enter Cornerback Jourdan Lewis.

With both Byron Jones and Anthony Brown currently nursing injuries from last Sunday's game against the New York Jets, Jourdan Lewis should see quite an increase in playing time in Week 7 against the Philadelphia Eagles. I don't know about you, but this could be the change the Dallas Cowboys defense needs.

If you've read any of my previous articles on Jourdan Lewis, then you already know I've been pretty adamant he deserves to be on the field more often. I believe he is the Cowboys second best cornerback, behind only Byron Jones. Unfortunately, since the hiring of Kris Richard last season he hasn't seen the field much.

Kris Richard has a prototype he prefers in his cornerbacks and No. 27 doesn't quite fit the bill. Richard likes his CBs at least 6 foot tall with an arm length of approximately 32 inches. At 5'10", Jourdan Lewis falls a few inches under the height threshold Richard likes, but narrowly misses in the arm length with 31 5/8 inch arms.


Jourdan Lewis

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis

It may be pretty obvious, but I personally don't agree with Richard's insistence on playing the CBs that fit his prototype. I think it's flawed, especially as it pertains to Jourdan Lewis. On just about any other team around the league Lewis would be starting, but with the Cowboys he currently sits fourth on the depth chart.

Due to the current injuries at the CB position though, Richard doesn't really have a choice but to play Jourdan Lewis more this week. He may even have to be relied upon as a starter and I believe that could be the change the Cowboys defense needs.

Don't get me wrong, I really like Byron Jones and Anthony Brown. But, neither CB is known for creating turnovers. No. 27 on the other hand has a knack for being in the right place at the right time to come away with an interception. In fact, only Anthony Brown (4) has more than interceptions since he joined the team and that's with far more playing time.

As a rookie, Lewis played 70% of the defensive snaps in 2017. His defensive snaps dropped dramatically in 2018 (18%) after the hiring of Kris Richard. So far this season his snap count has increased from a season ago to 30.17% and could rise even higher due to injuries and opportunity.

I don't expect Jourdan Lewis to fix all of the Dallas Cowboys problems on defense all by himself, but the Cowboys have to start somewhere. He could just be the spark they need to get back on track. At least that's what I'm hoping anyway.

What do you think? Is Jourdan Lewis the change the Cowboys defense needs?


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