Dallas Cowboys: Gene Steratore, you are forgiven

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 01: Referee Gene Steratore
LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 01: Referee Gene Steratore /

The Dallas Cowboys have some deep-rooted history with referee Gene Steratore. Sunday’s win over the Oakland Raiders just adds to the lore.

The Dallas Cowboys may have pulled out one of the most unlikely wins in recent memory as they looked primed to lose a close game with very little time left on the clock. This time an old adversary came to their aid, and no it was not a player but rather a referee.

Before I jump into the insane events that occurred at the end of Sunday Night Football, let’s take a look at how Mr. Steratore even got on the Dallas Cowboys radar.

This was the first game since the 2014 divisional round, in which Gene Steratore participated in officiating a game involving the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, that dreadful day in 2014 where Dez Bryant caught a touchdown pass against the Green Bay Packers with Sam Shields in coverage, and it was overturned.

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The man who made that call, Steratore. So before what we dive into what will surely be called the “index card game” or “the folded piece of paper paradox” let’s examine the facts. Steratore was/(probably is) hated by most Dallas Cowboy fans to this day, because of “the catch”.

This was so well known, I read at least four pieces online prior to Sunday’s contest, however, was not all that worried about it. After all, this is a drastically different team that lives on a different margin than the Tony Romo led teams of the 2000’s.

With Romo you always felt as if there was a chance for better or worse he would make a game-breaking play. Interceptions were his bugaboo but more often than not he would get that game-winning touchdown.

This was a similar situation, in that the Cowboys faced an unstoppable Packers team that looked poised to make a Super Bowl run. Even to this day, there are pictures of Dez crossing the goal line, ball in hand as Sam Shields attempted to make a tackle.

In fact, in today’s NFL more often than not, that would be considered a catch. Instead, Gene overturned it and the Cowboys playoff hopes were soon dashed. It is almost unbelievable that he has not officiated a Cowboys game since that moment, but understandable.

The hate was absolutely palpable for that call, and oh boy did he one-up himself on Sunday Night Football. The Dallas Cowboys were battling with the Oakland Raiders in a matchup that pit two desperate teams looking to claw their way back into the playoff picture.

It was pretty epic scheduling as the Cowboys and Raiders both needed that win in the worst way. The game was tied 17-17 for much of the second half, with both teams in desperation mode. The Cowboys coaching staff pulled out all of the stops including a first down conversion by using punter Chris Jones to catch the Raiders special teams off guard.

The Dallas Cowboys hit another fourth down during what turned out to be a fairly long drive. Dak Prescott would run a quarterback sneak that appeared to put him over the line to gain. The problem was, there were too many bodies to tell where Prescott actually ended up.

Plus in every angle, it was fairly tough to see the ball and where it ended up. Then an unlikely savior walked to the pile and called for a measurement, that savior was Gene Steratore. In a moment that made Cowboy fans every cringe, Steratore pulled out a double folded piece of paper and placed that piece of paper between the ball and the marker.

In one of the best pieces of football news I had received all day (I am an Antonio Brown fantasy owner), the Cowboys got the first down. What made the moment a little extra sweet, was that Steratore had a smirk on his face knowing that he had just bailed the Dallas Cowboys out, essentially allowing them to continue to fight for playoff contention.

Did that play necessarily cost the Raiders the game? No, because in actuality that Cowboys drive only led to a field goal. Which was odd to see, considering the team had done literally everything in their power to keep the drive alive.

When Jason Garrett decided to kick the field goal, I wondered why this was the time he chose to be conservative? Alas, he had faith in his defense, and that is understandable. Fast forward about five minutes, and the Raiders are marching down the field.

This largely was because of a pass interference call against Jourdan Lewis that almost cost the team the game and the season. Another 10 yard gain pretty much set the Raiders up for a walk in touchdown, until Derek Carr fumbled the ball over the pylon and out of bounds after safety Jeff Heath jarred the ball loose.

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It was not a controversial call, Carr’s fumble was absolutely a touchback, which in itself is a very controversial rule but was applied correctly. Now rumors are rampant that the Steratore got one over on the Raiders somehow but realistically there was going to be a legion of pissed off fans regardless of how that call went.

Cowboy fans just got lucky that this time, those angry enthusiasts wear silver and black not silver and blue.