Late in the fourth quarter, with the score tied 17-17, and the game on the line, the Cowboys went for it on 4th and one. Dak Prescott kept it on a quarterback sneak. The Raiders held the line and the officials placed the ball and called for the sticks for a measure.
It was clear from the moment they placed the ball that it was going to be extremely close. Little did we know just how close we would be talking. All the officials converged on the spot and couldn’t come to a definitive result, so they turned to head official, Gene Steratore. And in a move no one seems to have ever seen or heard of, Steratore took out an index card, folded it in half and slid it between the ball and the stick.
There you have it. The card, even with the fold, made it between the stick and the ball. That’s a stop and a turnover on downs, right? Wrong.
Despite his unprecedented, impromptu folded card seeming to confirm the ball had not reached the stick, it was ruled a first down. Take a look for yourself.
No one has seen anything like this before, including Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, who was downright dumbfounded by how it transpired and the end result.
“That’s a new one,” Del Rio said of Steratore’s use of an index card.
“Never seen air like that and it somehow turn into a first down. There was air between the ball and the stick. That’s short, OK. Goes the other way. Period.”
The players reacted to it as well.
“I’ve never seen that in my life,” said Bruce Irvin. “He pulled an index card out of his pocket. I have never seen it but it is what it is. We can’t do anything about it now.”
“I’ve never seen that,” said NaVorro Bowman. “You could just be in that circle and see where that ball was, I just don’t see how they got that. For them to pull that paper out, did that solidify the first down? There was space in between the ball and the stick. I don’t know, man. We just have to come to a mutual thing with the officials and get every play right.”
Clearly there was confusion across the board as to the methodology of using the card. One would hope the explanation from Steratore would clear things up at least as little. But it actually made things even more confusing.
“Didn’t use the card to make the final decision,” said Steratore. “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.”
Naturally the follow-up is how the card reaffirmed it.
“That was already finished,” Steratore replied. “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.”
Ok, so the decision was already made. . . then. . . what exactly what the card for again?
At this point, Steratore simply kept repeating himself, never actually answering the question and continuously and seemingly unintentionally contradicting himself.
His answers left even more questions. Such as, If the card wasn’t used for the decision, then why use it at all? How does a card reaffirm a decision you claim wasn’t going to change? Why fold it at all? Especially considering it simply made the paper thick and therefore the use of it far more suspicious.
Even his answer as to if he’d ever used a card before was weird and again contradictory.
“It’s maybe been done at some point in someone’s career but I didn’t use the card for my decision,” he continued. “I used my visual looking at the ball reaching the pole.”
Some Raiders players had some things to say as well.
“He was definitely short but I’m not going to get into that,” said Bruce Irvin. “I like my money too much so I don’t want to talk about the refs.”
Irvin also took to twitter to voice his displeasure as well as a few other Raiders players.
Index card though— Bruce Irvin (@BIrvin_WVU11) December 18, 2017
A piece of paper that’s even worse— Bruce Irvin (@BIrvin_WVU11) December 18, 2017
WTF?! Soooo are we using the front of the folded piece of paper or the back??? pic.twitter.com/XWDElPaMUq— Marquette King (@MarquetteKing) December 18, 2017
If the piece of paper was able to get to the ground then it shouldn't have been a 1st down.— Jon Condo (@JonCondo) December 18, 2017
My grandpa could see that this was clearly a turnover on downs and he is legally blind...(completely blind in one eye and other one barely works)... I’m salty so what lol #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/qRGsOnf2HB— Antonio Hamilton (@UnitedSt8Of_Ham) December 18, 2017