The Dallas Cowboys shot themselves in the foot multiple times Sunday, leading to a big third-quarter deficit they couldn't overcome in a 25-22 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Following the contest, the Cowboys lamented their 10 penalties for 88 yards, including four holding calls that kept the offense from gaining any traction early in the game.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones noted that he expected there to be a lot of flags after seeing the stats on referee Scott Novak's crew.
"This group calls a lot of ticky-tack... They call a lot of penalties, and that was going to be a concern for us today," Jones said.
Sunday marked the fourth time this season that the Cowboys have had double-digit penalties.
"If you look around the league, this isn't just the first time it's happened," linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said. "There's other games around the league that have been dictated by, I don't know if it's incompetence or what it is, but it don't make sense to me. I feel like it's not hard to fix that, especially if it's so blatant on the field and it's so obvious, why someone up top is not radioing down and be like, hey, get this right. That's not hard. That's just the ethics of the game -- getting it right. Like hey, you made a mistake here. Fix it. Here's the right call."
LVE also lamented an apparent Cardinals fumble late on the final drive that was ruled down by contact. With the Cowboys out of timeouts, Dallas couldn't challenge the play ahead of the two-minute warning.
"I just don't understand how with the technology we have nowadays, even if we don't have timeouts or whatever it may be, to call a freaking challenge and challenge it," he said. "It's so obvious. Certain things are so obvious in the games that refs are messing up, why they aren't fixing it. It doesn't make any sense to me. To me, we're playing more against the refs than we are the other team. That is what it is. ... It's been multiple times this season."
The holding calls on the Cowboys were particularly harmful, as two wiped out first-down runs and kept them from finding any rhythm.
"I think the timing of our penalties, for us personally, was something that was a challenge for us to overcome," coach Mike McCarthy said.
The penalties played a role, but the Cowboys had chances to get Kyler Murray off the field and couldn't corral the dual-threat QB. The Dallas offense also suffered drops, and Dak Prescott didn't play a clean game, missing several throws and fumbling late, leading to the eventual game-deciding Cardinals field goal.
But after the game, the refs were all Dallas wanted to discuss.
"Playing against the refs again, like usual, it seems like an every-week occurrence," said defensive end Randy Gregory. "We just have to tune that out and just deal with it."
The loss dropped the Cowboys (11-5) from the No. 2 seed to the No. 4 seed in the NFC, likely knocking them out of a chance at multiple home games this postseason.
"I'm gonna let the NFL handle that. I know it's a possibility we see both of these teams in the playoffs," defensive end Demarcus Lawrence said of the Cards and the refs. "You know, hopefully, the NFL can sit down with their team, review the film, learn from their mistakes and get better from it."