Twice it looked like the Cowboys had scored a touchdown. First, they were ruled short. Second, it was ruled they turned it over.
Dak Prescott tried a pair of quarterback sneaks from the Patriots’ 1-yard line, and on the first try, it looked like he might have been in. However, he was ruled short and the play was not reviewed. The next try, he attempted to leap over the pile and while it was initially called a touchdown, a review found that he fumbled the ball and that New England recovered it with 1:30 left in the first half.
The Patriots wound out the clock from there to take a 14-10 lead into the half.
Why was Dak Prescott’s touchdown overturned?
This was not even the most controversial of the two calls. Video review showed what looked pretty clearly like linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley knocking the ball loose in Prescott’s hands as he was diving across the goal line.
As Prescott was trying to cross the goal line, he begins to lose possession of the ball as it is seen falling out of his hands. According to NFL rules, the ball has to still be in possession of the ball as it goes above the plane of the goal line.
In #DALvsNE, the ruling on the field is a touchdown. After review, DAL 4 lost the ball before the ball broke the plane of the goal line, therefore the ruling was reversed to a fumble recovered by NE 53. pic.twitter.com/PCAp3nL5uK
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) October 17, 2021
It was a huge blow to a Dallas team that had been struggling to score against the Patriots in the first half. The Cowboys had scored a touchdown and field goal earlier, but two other drives during the game had ended in a turnover on downs and an interception.
Why wasn’t Prescott’s third-down rush reviewed?
As previously stated, every scoring play is reviewed. However, if a player is ruled short, it is not automatically reviewed by the officials.
And the Cowboys’ hands were tied on the play. All they could do was try to run another play.
NFL rules state that head coaches can challenge plays questioning whether the ball broke the plane of the goal line. However, that rule is superseded by the rule that says only the replay official, Senior Vice President of Officiating or their designee can initiate a review of a play after the two-minute warning of each half.
And unfortunately for the Cowboys, that third-down try was the first play right out of the two-minute warning.
So all coach Mike McCarthy could tell his team to do was run out there and try another play. And that one was a little less disputed than the third-down attempt.