Packers-Cowboys final play included a forward lateral

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Sunday’s Packers-Cowboys game concluded with a Stanford-band effort by the home team that nearly popped for a touchdown, thanks to Packers linebacker Nick Perry picking up the ball after he thought the play had ended before having it smacked out of his hand by Cowboys center Travis Frederick. But if the widely-overlooked play had resulted in one of the craziest outcomes in league history, the touchdown may have been reversed via replay review.

The coaches film, available via the excellent NFL Game Pass feature, shows that the lateral thrown by running back Ezekiel Elliott to quarterback Dak Prescott traveled forward. Of course, this doesn’t mean that an angle containing clear and obvious evidence of a forward pass would have been available to 345 Park Avenue at the time the replay review was happening.

Based on the primary broadcast angle, it’s hard to conclude that the ball definitely travels forward. The angle from the coaches film comes from a camera high enough to allow scrutiny of the ball against the background of the hashmarks, making it clear that the ball moved forward as Elliott threw it across the field to Prescott.

Regardless, if Frederick had scored (or if he’d realized both Elliott and Prescott were trailing Frederick before clumsily pitching the ball to no one), a compelling review process would have followed. And there may not have been enough evidence in the moment to generate clear and obvious evidence that the ball was thrown forward. So if the touchdown had been upheld (due to the absence of evidence to overturn it), Packers fans would have rightfully lost their minds once the coaches film was published.

And many would have argued that the outcome of the game should have been changed, since the mistake would have happened on a final play that easily could have been wiped off the books.

25 responses to “Packers-Cowboys final play included a forward lateral

  1. Of course, this doesn’t mean that an angle containing clear and obvious evidence of a forward pass would have been available to 345 Park Avenue at the time the replay review was happening.

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    So why don’t they make coaches film available for replays? Shouldn’t they use all means available to make sure the right call is made?

  2. What’s more confusing to me was the spot on Zeke’s 4th and short. He’s stopped short, sticks the ball out, pulls it back without anyone pushing it back, the whistle blows but he’s somehow awarded the spot where he stuck the ball out. Yet, the play or a couple plays before, Beasley catches ball and it’s past the first down marker, he then pulls it back short and is tackled and the spot is short because that’s where it was when he was stopped. Spot for Zeke should have been spot when he pulled it back in. I’ve yet to hear an explanation on that.

  3. The outcome of that game falls squarely on Jason Garrett’s shoulders, the KING of clock management or lack thereof! All the ‘Boys needed, was to milk 12 seconds more off the clock. What in the heck they were doing was beyond my comprehension, as we know how fast AR can go down the field and score. There was 11 seconds left on the clock when they scored. Garrett knows the D can’t stop anyone 😦

  4. On a related but different note – if you know you’re going to be doing a multiple lateral play, why not replace your offensive linemen with receivers/running backs who would actually have a chance at helping you score? Then you don’t have Frederick clumsily throwing the ball away. (Granted, maybe you leave your center in there to make sure the snap is good). In that situation it’s going to either be a hail mary or lateral play. Is the element of “surprise” in the defense not knowing which one is coming really worth having 4-5 guys who can’t really help you on the lateral play?

  5. And Viking fans would’ve claimed that the refs gave the game to the Packers (even during the same week that the refs gave a game to the Vikings).

  6. The Cal kickoff return through the Stanford band had not only two forward laterals but also one of the refs clearly signaling the play dead long before the ball was carried to the end zone. But this was long before the days of instant replay so the play call stood. This robbed Elway of his only potential bowl game appearance in a brilliant college career.

  7. jluckow says:
    October 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm
    On a related but different note – if you know you’re going to be doing a multiple lateral play, why not replace your offensive linemen with receivers/running backs who would actually have a chance at helping you score? Then you don’t have Frederick clumsily throwing the ball away. (Granted, maybe you leave your center in there to make sure the snap is good). In that situation it’s going to either be a hail mary or lateral play. Is the element of “surprise” in the defense not knowing which one is coming really worth having 4-5 guys who can’t really help you on the lateral play?
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    Just hearing the referee try to explain who is/isn’t eligible would be ugly (assuming there is no rule against replacing a lineman with an eligible receiver #)

  8. I wondered at the time why the the announcers never noticed/mentioned that fact. Maybe it wasn’t blatant, but it was pretty obvious.

  9. You can’t reach out and break the plane for a first down, only at the goal line. The ball is down wherever it is when the whistle blows. It was a great play by the Packers and a terrible mistake by home-team-favorable referees. The Packers won despite three or four terrible calls. They earned the victory way way beyond fair and square. When any team wins under those unbalanced circumstances, it tells you one thing: They’re good.

  10. stellarperformance says:
    October 12, 2017 at 1:46 pm
    You can’t reach out and break the plane for a first down, only at the goal line. The ball is down wherever it is when the whistle blows.

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    Wrong. What matters is where the ball is when the player is considered down. This can be when a knee (or other body part other than hand or foot) touches the ground, when any body part touches out of bounds, when a QB begins a slide. This is not simultaneous to when the whistle blows. Also you’re not accounting for forward progress. If the player is being pushed back by a defender, then extending the ball may help get the first down if that is where the player’s forward progress is judged to have stopped.

  11. jluckow says:
    October 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm
    On a related but different note – if you know you’re going to be doing a multiple lateral play, why not replace your offensive linemen with receivers/running backs who would actually have a chance at helping you score

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    On the flip side, why not put in all linemen, except one RB/WR, and have them bull rush the defenders? Kind of like the Flying V from Mighty Ducks.

  12. dmca12 says:
    October 12, 2017 at 12:14 pm
    What’s more confusing to me was the spot on Zeke’s 4th and short. He’s stopped short, sticks the ball out, pulls it back without anyone pushing it back, the whistle blows but he’s somehow awarded the spot where he stuck the ball out. Yet, the play or a couple plays before, Beasley catches ball and it’s past the first down marker, he then pulls it back short and is tackled and the spot is short because that’s where it was when he was stopped. Spot for Zeke should have been spot when he pulled it back in. I’ve yet to hear an explanation on that.

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    Forward progress is a judgment call. The refs might have judged that Zeke was being pulled back, and this his outstretched arm was his furthest point of forward progress, whereas Beasley may have been judged to have regressed from the furthest point due to his actions not the defense pulling him back.

  13. “Forward progress” is the furthest point of the ball at which the ball carrier is touched by a defender, before being down by contact. Zeke reached out while being touched by defenders but was not yet down because he was on top of the pile. Hence, his “forward progress” was the furthest point of the reach.

    On the other 4th and 1 that was overturned, the ball carrier advanced the ball beyond the line to gain but was not touched by a defender until after he brought the ball back to a spot short of the line to gain. His “forward progress” was the furthest point of the ball at which he was touched by a defender, before being down by contact… which was short of the line to gain.

    Both calls were correct, by rule, after review.

  14. So if the ball was batted away at the exact moment he reached, it would NOT have been ruled a fumble because his progress was established and the play was over?

    Not likely.

  15. “The annual Packers eek in to playoffs due to close wins in the regular season, then exiting the play offs in a blow out, embarassing loss… ”

    And who are you rooting for? Not a team that has made the playoffs for NFL record setting 8 consecutive seasons, I’m guessing . . .

  16. dmca12 says:

    What’s more confusing to me was the spot on Zeke’s 4th and short. He’s stopped short, sticks the ball out, pulls it back without anyone pushing it back, the whistle blows but he’s somehow awarded the spot where he stuck the ball out. Yet, the play or a couple plays before, Beasley catches ball and it’s past the first down marker, he then pulls it back short and is tackled and the spot is short because that’s where it was when he was stopped. Spot for Zeke should have been spot when he pulled it back in. I’ve yet to hear an explanation on that.
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    Here ya go. Elliott’s is being touched by a defensive player when he sticks the ball out before being declared down and the play over. Therefore the ball is spotted at his farthest forward progress while being tackled, since he was being touched and never escaped the defender.

    Beasley pull the ball back and was not being touched by a defender at the time. Therefore there is no forward progress marked at that spot.

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