Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium turned into a wash day.
Flags rolled out on the lawn non-stop for nearly four hours as the Cowboys hosted the Raiders. The officiating team led by Judge Shawn Hochuli, son of Ed, produced 28 accepted penalties – 14 for each team – for 276 yards in total (a franchise record of 166 against Dallas). The calls ranged from blatantly false starts to an esoteric mistake at Raiders center Andre James for a head bob. Dallas defensive back Anthony Brown was marked four times for passing interference, with the latter putting Las Vegas to win 36-33 in overtime.
One of the more curious calls was to shout the ball to Cowboys rookie linebacker Micah Parsons in the third quarter. He knocked a falling Raiders QB Derek Carr on the helmet after Carr threw a pass to Hunter Renfrow. Carr’s head then accidentally made contact with Parsons’ knee.
Parsons spoke on behalf of a lot of players and fans with his assessment of the game and the crew’s flag-happy nature.
“We should play football, not tag,” Parsons said. “I’m not here to support anyone and play tag as if he’s my best friend. I have a job to do and I can see [Carr is] out of pocket so I go after the quarterback. “
“At the end of the day, football is an aggressive game and you get to attack the ball and you get to play through the ball and you get to play the defender,” Parsons said later. “At the end of the day, it’s coming at a time … when are you really going to let us play?”
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It was a rhetorical question, but Parsons would not receive a satisfactory answer if he put a direct question to the league’s office. The NFL is committed to keeping quarterbacks – and then everyone else on the field – healthy. That means calls like roughing penalty.
A frustrated Cowboys owner / GM Jerry Jones certainly wished the Zebras had let them play more, especially in terms of PI penalties.
“This is not a critique of the rule. It’s a critique of the estimate of how you use them in games,” Jones said, according to Jon Machota of The Athletic.
“Oakland (sic) took advantage of the situation,” Jones said. “I call it ‘vomit ball’. The right way to play it in a game like this [is] just throw it out and get punished. “
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Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, who is a fan of not getting fined by the league, kept it short and sweet when asked about the flag party.
“Twenty-eight penalties – I do not know what the hell you want me to say,” he said. “Write what you want, I’m totally for it.”
It would not surprise Parsons, Jones or McCarthy to learn that Hochuli’s team throws the most flags in the league. According to pro-football-reference.com’s statistics, the team had refereed 135 penalties in its previous 10 matches this season, with 66 against home teams and 69 against visiting teams. After Thursday, the total was up to 163, which according to nflpenalties.com’s totals put it as No. 1 among the officiating crews with the rest of week 12 to play. The difference of three flags between home and road did not change.
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And even though officials stuck to form Thursday, they were not that close to writing the league’s history. The NFL record for penalty kicks for both teams is 37, set by the Browns (21) and Bears (16) on November 25, 1951. The highest number since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger is 35, by the expansion Buccaneers (20) and Seahawks ( 15) on 17 October 1976.