Officials called only seven tripping penalties across the NFL entering Sunday, according to ESPN Statistics and Information. The Cowboys were called for two Sunday.
Only twice previously over the past 10 years had officials penalized a team for tripping twice in the same game, according to ESPN Statistics and Information.
It almost seemed as if someone had alerted officials to watch the Cowboys for tripping.
Troy Aikman disagreed with both calls during the Fox broadcast, and ESPN rules official John Parry tweeted, “Twice in this game the leg came up as part of an off-balanced block. Some tangled legs but no intentional, overt act (leg action) to trip defender.”
The NFL apparently agreed.
The two plays were among those the Cowboys sent to the league for clarification Monday, and the NFL said officials should not have called either, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
Coach Jason Garrett would not comment in his press conference Monday.
The calls by referee Scott Novak’s crew proved huge.
The first came in the first quarter when Tyron Smith was penalized for tripping. The 10-yard penalty put the Cowboys in a second-and-23 hole, and three plays later the Patriots blocked a Chris Jones punt. That led to the game’s only touchdown.
The second came just after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. On third-and-one, Dak Prescott‘s 3-yard completion to the Dallas 38 was wiped out by a tripping call on center Travis Frederick.
Two incompletions later, the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs, and the Patriots held on for a 13-9 win.