Thanksgiving at AT&T stadium turned into laundry day.
The flags flew across the turf non-stop for nearly four hours as the Cowboys greeted the Raiders. The team of officials led by referee Shawn Hochuli, son of Ed, produced 28 accepted penalties – 14 for each team – for a total of 276 yards (166 against Dallas). Calls ranged from obvious false starts to an esoteric foul on Raiders center Andre James for a header. Dallas defensive back Anthony Brown has been flagged four times for pass interference, the last of which saw Las Vegas win 36-33 in overtime.
One of the more curious calls was to manhandle Cowboys rookie linebacker Micah Parsons in the third quarter. He tapped a Raiders QB Derek Carr on the helmet after Carr threw a pass to Hunter Renfrow. Carr’s head then accidentally made contact with Parsons knee.
Parsons has spoken on behalf of many players and fans with his assessment of the game and the happy nature of the team flag.
“We should be playing football, not tag,” Parsons said. “I’m not here to support anyone and play cat like he’s my best friend. I have a job to do and I see [Carr is] outside the pocket, so I’m going after the quarterback. “
“At the end of the day, football is an aggressive game and you’re going to attack the ball and you’re going to play through the ball and you’re going to play the defender,” Parsons said later. “In the end, it’s going to happen at some point … when are you really going to let us play?”
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It was a rhetorical question, but Parsons wouldn’t receive a satisfactory answer if he questioned the league office directly. The NFL intends to keep quarterbacks – and then everyone else on the field – healthy. This means calls like the harshness penalty.
Frustrated Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones would have liked the Zebras to let them play more, especially when it comes to IP penalties.
“It’s not a criticism of the rule. It’s a criticism of the stealth of how you use them in play,” Jones said, according to Jon Machota of The Athletic.
“Oakland (sic) took advantage of the situation,” Jones said. “I call it ‘puke ball’. Nice way to play in a game like this [is] throw it there and get a penalty. “
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Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, who advocates not being fined by the league, was brief and kind when asked about the flagfest.
“Twenty-eight penalties; I don’t know what you want me to say, ”he said, by Jane Slater of NFL Network.
It wouldn’t surprise Parsons, Jones or McCarthy to learn that the Hochuli crew are throwing the most flags in the league. According to statistics from profootball-reference.com, the team had called 135 penalties in their previous 10 games this season, including 66 against home teams and 69 against visiting teams. After Thursday, the total stood at 163, which according to nflpenalties.com totals places it No.1 among official crews with the remainder of Week 12 to play. The three-flag difference between the house and the road has not changed.
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And while officials stayed true to form on Thursday, they didn’t come close to making league history. The NFL record for penalties by both teams is 37, set by the Browns (21) and Bears (16) on November 25, 1951. The highest number since the AFL-NFL merger of 1970 is 35, by the expansion of the Buccaneers (20) and Seahawks (15) on October 17, 1976.