Raiders not happy about bizarre use of index card to measure Cowboys' first down

The Raiders aren't happy about the fact that an official decided to use an index card to measure a key first down during the team's 20-17 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday. 

In what will likely go down as one of the most bizarre officiating decisions of the 2017 season, referee Gene Steratore pulled out an index card to measure for a first down after a Dak Prescott run on a fourth-and-1 play with just 4:49 left in the game. 

It was a pivotal point in the game because if Prescott didn't get the first down, the Raiders would have taken over possession at the Cowboys' 39-yard line in a 17-17 game with under five minutes to play. Unfortunately for the Raiders, though, that didn't happen because Steratore and his trusty index card ruled that the Cowboys got the first down by roughly one centimeter. 

One person who was absolutely irate about the call was Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, who thought for sure the Cowboys came up short

"Never seen air like that and it somehow got turned into a first down," Del Rio said after the game, via the Raiders official website. "There was air between the ball and the stick. That's short. It goes the other way. Period."

Del Rio's point is that since Steratore was able to squeeze his index card between the nose of the football and the first down marker, that clearly meant the Cowboys came up short. Visual evidence from the NBC broadcast seemed to suggest the Del Rio might have had a legitimate complaint. 

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An index card gave the Cowboys a big first down against the Raiders.  NBC/NFL

Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman also thought it was pretty clear that Prescott came up short

"There was still space between the ball and the stick," Bowman said, via ESPN.com. 

The only thing that was more bizarre than the fact that Steratore used an index card to help him decide a first down was his explanation for the call after the game. The long-time ref said he didn't make his decision based what he saw from the index card

"Didn't use the index card to make the final decision," Steratore said after the game, via the Athletic. "The final decision was made visually. The card was nothing more than a reaffirmation of what was visually done. My decision was visually done based on the look from the pole."

Steratore seemed to get somewhat evasive when he was asked how exactly the index card was used to "affirm" his call.   

"That was already finished," Steratore said. "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."

The problem with that explanation is that if Steratore was able to fit the index card between the pole and the football, then how was the ball touching the pole? If anything, the use of the index card only made things more confusing. 

Del Rio sounded like he had a few more things he wanted to get off his chest after the game, but he didn't do it because he didn't want to get stuck writing a huge check to the NFL.  

"I don't want to get fined," Del Rio said. "I'm not happy with the way things were done in a lot of different situations throughout the night. They did the best they could. I had a different viewpoint. I saw air. It was pretty obvious. But again, they do the best they can with a tough job."

Even Jason Garrett wasn't completely sure that his team had gotten a first down on the play. 

"Yeah, I don't know that I've ever seen that one," the Cowboys coach said, via ESPN.com. "One of my concerns was that it looked like the stick was kind of on an angle. We thought that was working against us but eventually they straightened it out, brought the card out and we made it by the thickness of the card. And it was certainly a big play."

Although using an index card to measure a first down is bizarre, it's not prohibited. The NFL confirmed to Pro Football Talk that Steratore didn't break any rules by using the index card. 

After being awarded the first down, the Cowboys drove down to the Raiders' 1-yard line and eventually kicking a game-winning field goal. The Raiders would get one more chance to tie or win the game, but Derek Carr fumbled those chances away when he lost a ball out of the Cowboys' end zone, which gave Dallas the ball and the win. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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