After on-field officials made a blatant error to start Sunday’s Los Angeles Rams-Dallas Cowboys game, the NFL’s New York officiating office stepped in for a correction.
The Cowboys won the opening toss of their 44-21 win and elected to kick off, which normally entails receiving the kickoff to start the second half.
‘Defer’ or ‘kick?’
Except, according to referee Walt Anderson, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t say the right words after the toss.
Anderson believed that Prescott didn’t say “defer,” which means the Cowboys would have deferred their decision until the second half. Instead he said “kick,” according to officials, which means the Rams have the choice to start the second half.
And the Rams, of course, would choose to receive the ball rather than kick it to the Cowboys.
Video shows Anderson got it wrong
But game audio clearly proves that Prescott said “defer” before saying “kick.”
UPDATE: Dak Prescott did say defer to the 2nd half, but only after he said "defense" and "kick." pic.twitter.com/zKMKbHTc0U
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 15, 2019
Cowboys.com writer David Helman reported in the first half that the Cowboys might still have the option in the second half with the audio evidence of Prescott saying “defer.”
Cowboys PR is currently trying to figure out what the official word is for the 2nd half. Nobody seems to know for sure. Probably because ridiculous stuff like this never happens. https://t.co/JxvuDWnVxg
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 15, 2019
Officials correct mistake
When both teams came out for the second half, the Rams did, indeed, kick off.
Rams coach Sean McVay briefly protested the decision before sending out the Los Angeles kicking unit.
According to Fox’s Erin Andrews, the decision to allow the Cowboys to receive the second-half kickoff arrived after officials reviewed the coin flip audio and heard Prescott say “defer.” McVay didn’t learn of the decision until coming out of the locker room at halftime, according to Andrews.
Fox’s officiating expert Mike Pereira explained that the New York officiating office used its authority to make decisions on game management situations to overrule the incorrect ruling on the field.
Dak: ‘Bad use of words by me’
After the game, Prescott told reporters that he could have been clearer with his coin toss call.
“Definitely a weird start,” Prescott said. “We wanted to set adversity there instead of on the field, so we could play from behind immediately. Just bad use of words by me. We listened to the audio. We got it figured out. Just wasn’t the cleanest coin flip I’ve been a part of.”
Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who was also on the field for the toss, admits to contributing to the confusion.
“It was my fault, actually,” Lawrence said, explaining that he was eager to start the game with the defense on the field. ... “We were going to receive the ball, but I called to kick it — defer it. So, once you say kick, I think that means you kick off and then you have to kick off again the second half. I don't know, but we were supposed to say defer. That was the confusion, but it's all good.”
NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron confirmed in a pool report that Prescott’s initial response caused some confusion, but that the league checked the audio and decided to reverse the ruling on the field.
“If you look at what happened, you see that the Cowboys actually say three different things, and then we hear at the end where they say, ‘defer,'” Riveron said. “So we go ahead and look at it. We pulled up the audio. We knew that I was going to have a conversation with Walt Anderson at halftime to make it right.”
After the Cowboys took a 28-7 halftime lead, the ruling may have been moot. But officials made the right decision to correct an obvious and blatant error made by the on-field crew.
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