The Cowboys’ Sunday Night Football matchup against the Raiders started off slow. But these teams gave us one of the more entertaining second halves of the season, right up until Derek Carr’s costly final fumble that gave the 20-17 win to Dallas and effectively ended the Raiders’ season.
The Raiders and Cowboys carried weighty expectations into this year. Derek Carr was a legitimate MVP candidate last season before a broken leg cut his season short. The Cowboys were coming off of a 13-3 season last year and were expected to make the playoffs again.
But both teams came into this game on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. The Cowboys were 7-6 and the Raiders were 6-7. Neither team had been mathematically eliminated from the postseason. But this one was a must win for both teams.
The Raiders made too many mistakes and had a whole bunch of bad luck. In the end, they couldn’t overcome it.
Derek Carr fumbled out of the end zone for a touchback
The Raiders had a chance to win at the end. Derek Carr tried to run in a score with 31 seconds left. He leaped and extended the ball out over the pylon, but he fumbled it out of the end zone.
That, by rule, is a touchback for the Cowboys, and the game —and essentially the season — was over for the Raiders. But it was far from the first mishap of the night for the Raiders.
Raiders TD called back for offensive pass interference
The Raiders were scoreless as time ticked toward the half. With 10 seconds left to go in the second quarter, Derek Carr hit tight end Jared Cook for a touchdown.
Except it wasn’t a touchdown. Officials called it back because of an iffy offensive pass interference call.
That’s an awful OPI call. Just two guys wrestling for space.— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) December 18, 2017
Giorgio Tavecchio attempted a 39-yard field goal, but it went wide left. The Cowboys carried a 10-0 lead into the half.
Cordarrelle Patterson’s 100-yard return TD was called back for a hold
The second half started about as well as the first half ended for the Raiders. Cordarrelle Patterson broke free to run the opening kick back 100 yards for a touchdown. But an egregious hold by his teammate Xavier Woodson-Luster brought it all the way back to Oakland’s own 20-yard line.
It took them just under 37 minutes of play to do it, but the Raiders finally got on the board. And Derek Carr set up the score with this 32-yard scramble on third-and-6.
Three plays later, Carr hit Michael Crabtree with a 2-yard touchdown pass to make it 10-7 Cowboys.
It looked like things were going Oakland’s way. It wouldn’t last.
Sean Smith almost had a pick-six
The Raiders had two interceptions all season coming into this game. Sean Smith matched that total in Sunday’s game all by himself.
Smith picked off Dak Prescott on the Cowboys’ opening series. Then he picked him off again in the third quarter and ran it back for a touchdown.
Except it wasn’t a touchdown. Cole Beasley touched Smith’s back and then his chinstrap while Smith was on the ground, making him down by contact. At least the Raiders were able to turn it into a field goal and tie things up 10-10.
Cowboys pull off a perfect fake punt, then score
Dallas was facing a fourth-and-11 on their own 24-yard line. And punter Chris Jones ran a fake for a 24 yards and a first down.
Dak Prescott kept things moving until he could get into the end zone on a 5-yard run with 46 seconds left in the third quarter. It gave the Cowboys a 17-10 lead, but not for long.
The Cowboys got the closest first down ever
Dallas was facing a fourth-and-1 and it looked like Dak Prescott got the first on a quarterback sneak. But it was close. Officials brought out the chains to measure it, and ... it was almost too close to call.
The official had to resort to a folded index card between the ball and the stick. They determined it was a first down, and the Cowboys kept moving. They were able to get another Dan Bailey field goal on the board to take a 20-17 lead.
Cowboys pass interference gives Oakland a shot to win
Jourdan Lewis gave the Raiders prime field position here with just 51 seconds to play.
Then Carr fumbled out of the end zone. Marshawn Lynch was mad, and we don’t blame him.
The Raiders couldn’t overcome their own mistakes, and it cost them the game, and the season.