The NFL is worth billions, but apparently the best way to measure for a first down is with a piece of paper.
In the fourth quarter of Sunday night's game between the Cowboys and Raiders, with the game locked at 17-17, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott ran a sneak on a fourth-and-1 from his own half of the field. It wasn't clear whether Prescott got the first down, so referee Gene Steratore called on the chain crew for a measurement. This is all normal protocol.
Things got weird very quickly. After the chains were brought onto the field, it was still unclear whether Dallas had picked up enough yardage. So what did Steratore do? He took a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and tried to fit it between the football and the pole. The thought process, I guess, was that if the folded piece of paper couldn't fit, Dallas would be awarded the first.
The card didn't fit, so the Cowboys got a new set of downs. They eventually kicked a field goal to go up 20-17, Derek Carr's fumble through the end zone sealed Dallas' victory. The win got Dallas to 8-6 and keeps the Cowboys' season alive, as they're still in the NFC Wild Card race. Ezekiel Elliott will also return next week from a six-game suspension, so things are looking up for America's team.
It was quite the bizarre scene—Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was gesturing that the chains weren't being held at a perfectly straight angle, the announcers were wondering why they used a folded paper and not an unfolded paper, and all the while Steratore couldn't help but smile.
You see something new in the NFL every weekend.