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Was Officiating to Blame for Cowboys' Loss?

Cowboys can't blame Thanksgiving setback on bad officiating

Coach Mike McCarthy thought it would come down to penalty on a frustrating Thanksgiving covered in flags. But as much as Jerry Jones and others want to bellyache about the officials, the Cowboys should take responsibility for sloppy play and poor technique.

The Cowboys were penalized 14 times for 166 yards in the 36-33 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. While Dallas (7-4) continues to lead the NFC East despite losing two in a row and three of four, worrying about playoff positioning shouldn’t be a priority.

Cleaning things up should be.

The penalty yardage set a Cowboys single-game franchise record. And the calls weren’t one-sided. Las Vegas (6-5) also had 14 penalties for 110 yards.

The officials certainly enjoyed their share of TV screen time.

“It was obviously frustrating,” McCarthy said. “The game was herky-jerky from start to finish. Give our guys credit to continue to focus and battle. The numbers are absurd, definitely understand that.”

McCarthy added that tight officiating was expected as the Cowboys prepared during the short week. The tendency of players overreacting to penalties has been a concern of the coaching staff for weeks.

“I don’t want our guys slowing down and playing slower,” McCarthy said. “We’ve tried that already and that didn’t help us overcoaching the penalties a few weeks back. We’re going to get up on the balls of our feet and keep fighting.

“We’ve got to really focus on our fundamentals and finish plays. We’ll take a hard look at it. We evaluate the penalties every week, we break them down and it will be part of our fundamental emphasis as we get ready for the Saints.”

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It’s not as if penalties are the overriding issue in the recent skid. In losses to Denver and Kansas City, the Cowboys totaled 11 penalties for 102 yards. The Broncos and Chiefs combined for 11 for 82

Still, the Cowboys are most-penalized team in the league with 91 for 816 yards.

What’s also apparent is opposing quarterbacks are targeting certain defenders in the secondary and largely avoiding NFL interception leader Trevon Diggs lately. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr challenged Anthony Brown often, and usually with good results.

“If you look at the games, particularly the last three weeks going into this, there is a way that people are trying to play us and in some ways it has been successful,” McCarthy said “We acknowledge that as a unit and as individuals. We’ll just continue to work and make our way through this.”

Brown was guilty of four pass interference calls against Las Vegas, with the last setting up the game-winning field goal in OT. The contact appeared minimal, but Brown failed to turn his head on the deep throw to Zay Jones.

That failure to locate the ball made the flag academic, and served as another example of poor technique. The 33-yard penalty came on a third-and-18 and left the Raiders well inside field-goal range.

The Cowboys, at New Orleans next Thursday, can’t get caught up in officiating and questionable calls if they hope to get back on track.

“We just have to do our job,” cornerback Jourdan Lewis said. “Honestly, we can’t think of it like that. We have to fight through whatever comes our way. That’s just what it is. We just have to fight, which we did.”