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Sunday, October 12, 2008
Officials trumping Cardinals and Cowboys


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- One reason I linked to an NFL Rule Book in the NFC West blog: to help explain things that are technically correct even when they seem so wrong.

A reasonable person watching the Cowboys-Cardinals game might have credited Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett with two fumble-forcing sacks on Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Dockett did indeed hit Romo twice, knocking the ball free both times. The Cardinals recovered the ball both times. But neither play stood.

Officials wrongly disallowed the first fumble by claiming Romo had been down before the ball came loose. Replays showed otherwise.

Officials got the second call right, at least technically, when they used replay to invoke the "tuck" rule after seeing that Romo's throwing arm was indeed moving forward when the ball came out. The Cardinals recovered that non-fumble in the end zone for an apparent touchdown, but the reversal made the play officially an incomplete pass.

The NFL loses when officiating decisions influence outcomes and defy logic. The tuck rule is another example of rules removing judgment from the game. On the second play, everyone could see that Romo was trying to tuck away the ball when Dockett knocked it loose. That type of play will always look like a fumble to people who don't memorize the rule book for a living.

The Cowboys used the reversal to sustain a touchdown drive, tying the score at 7-7 with 59 seconds remaining in the first half. Terrell Owens threw a block on Patrick Crayton's 55-yard touchdown reception, but officiating is the leading story line so far.