The running joke on your television programs this week will be that the Dallas Cowboys kept their season alive by the thickness of a folded index card. When you hear it, know that crack won't be entirely accurate, according to referee Gene Steratore.
Late in Sunday night's Cowboys win over the Oakland Raiders, Dak Prescott dove into a pile on 4th-and-short on his own 40-yard-line. The chain gang rushed onto the field to measure the spot. The play was so close that Steratore said he wanted to use the index card to confirm his judgment of a Dallas first down.
"Didn't use the card to make the final decision," Steratore told pool reporter Vic Tafur after the Cowboys held on for a 20-17 victory. "The final decision was made visually. The card was used nothing more than a reaffirmation of what was visually done. My decision was visually done based on the look from the pole."
Steratore reiterated several times that the card was merely a reaffirmation of the first-down call. Below is the back-and-forth with Tafur:
Q: How did it reaffirm?
A: "That was already finished. 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."
Q: So the card was used for what purpose?
A: "It was just for reaffirmation, but the decision was made based on my visual, looking at the ball touching the pole."
Q: It reaffirmed it how?
A: "The decision was made based on my visual look that the ball was touching the pole. The card did nothing more than reaffirm. The judgment was not made by the card itself. It was made by my visual looking at the football as it relates to the line and the pole."
Q: How did it reaffirm your call?
A: "My call was made based on my visual looking at the football and the front of the line and the pole."
Q: Have you used the card before or how did you think of using that?
A: "It's maybe been done at some point in someone's career but I didn't use the card for my decision. I used my visual looking at the ball reaching the pole."
The explanation will likely do little to quell the Raiders' rage. Coach Jack Del Rio said he had never seen something like before in a game.
"Never. Never seen air like that and it somehow got turned into a first down," Del Rio. "The air between the ball and the stick. That's sure short and it goes the other way. Period."