Just when you thought you’d seen it all, along comes a referee using a folded index card as part of the process for measuring a first down.
Referee Gene Steratore used the unusual prop after a fourth down run by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s Dallas win. The sticks were brought out for a very close measurement that ended after Steratore pulled the card from his pocket and slid it in front of the nose of the ball before signaling a first down.
After the game, Steratore told a pool reporter that he didn’t use the card, which he said touched the ball, to make his decision.
“That was already finished,” Steratore said. “The ball was touching the pole. I put the card in there and as soon as it touched, it was nothing more than a reaffirmation. The decision was made based on my visual from the top looking down and the ball touching the front of the pole.”
Steratore said using a card as part of a first down decision has “maybe been done at some point in someone’s career” when asked why he used it all before repeating that he didn’t use it as the determining factor in his ruling. Steratore’s ruling and decision to break out the card was not met with joy on the Raiders sideline.
“I don’t want to get fined, okay?” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “I’m not happy with the way things were done … [I’ve] never seen air like that and have it somehow turn into a first down. There was air between the ball and the stick. That’s short. The ball goes the other way. Period.”
The Cowboys went on to kick a go-ahead field goal on the drive and the Raiders’ attempt to rally back ended when quarterback Derek Carr‘s fumble went out of the Dallas end zone in the final minute.