It was historically bad for the Dallas Cowboys.
And nobody was happy.
The Cowboys were penalized a franchise-record 166 yards in penalties in Thursday’s 36-33 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders at AT&T Stadium.
Of those 166 yards on 14 penalties, 110 yards came on third down. That’s the most by any team on third down in a game since at least 1991, according to the league.
It wasn’t just the Cowboys (7-4), however, who struggled with the officiating. The Raiders (6-5) were also penalized 14 times for 110 yards. The 28 combined penalties are the most in a Cowboys game. The 276 combined penalty yards the third-most in a Cowboys game.
The previous record for Cowboys’ penalty yards was 161 against Washington on Nov. 2, 1970.
“It was obviously frustrating. The game was herky-jerky from start to finish,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “Twenty-eight penalties. I don’t really know what the hell you want me to say. Write whatever you want, I’m all for it. … The numbers are absurd, definitely understand that. But just like everything in this game there is trends and patterns, and we anticipated this game being officiated this way.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones echoed McCarthy’s sentiment that they expected a high-penalty game. Jones said he doesn’t have a problem with the NFL rules, but wasn’t too happy about the rate of penalties called on both teams, especially from a spectator’s point of view.
“This probably will be arguably the most-watched game other than the Super Bowl, and I hated that it got down to just throwing the ball up and getting your penalties to get your big plays,” Jones said. “But it’s frustrating for everybody, for all of our fans at this particular time, to have a game that had you on pretty unsure footing as to where you were going to be with your fundamentals, i.e., whether those were going to be called or not, and [the Raiders] got calls too. And so it’s just a little off-balance way to play the game.”
Jones credited the Raiders offense for identifying how the game was being called and throwing long and drawing pass-interference penalties. Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown was flagged four times for pass interference for a total of 91 yards.
“It’s just one of them days. I’ve just got to watch the film, see what we can improve and get better,” Brown said. “I feel like I was in position for all of them. I’ll just try to turn my head. Just got to get better. Just trying to get better.”
Until Thursday, Brown had only one penalty this season — an illegal-contact penalty for 5 yards against the Vikings.
“We’re a team that has to get better than we were out here today to think about our goals this year,” Jones said. “But the facts are that we can get better, we, technically and tangibly, can be better than we are today, and we won’t play all of our games under these same circumstances where you’re dealing with some of the things you have to adjust for.”
Jones was judicious, however, in clarifying that he wasn’t blaming the loss on the officiating.
“To their credit, I think [the Raiders] just did a real good job of getting their big plays, and a bunch of them were penalties in the throwing game,” he said. “They took advantage of it, and I think it influenced the win. We had some plays go with us too, it wasn’t like it didn’t go against them. So again, this is really not a criticism of the rules. It is a criticism of the discretion of how you use them and what play. Everybody knows you can call a penalty on every play many different ways, every time the ball snapped. And so you have to have a feel for what you’re trying to do in the ball game and this one turned out that way.”