The Dallas Cowboys' season came to an end Sunday in bitter and confusing fashion when, with several seconds remaining, quarterback Dak Prescott rushed up the middle of the field for 17 yards and was unable to get another snap off before time ran out.
The Cowboys lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 23-17, in the NFC Wild Card Game and Prescott and head coach Mike McCarthy expressed dismay over how they were unable to get off a spike before time expired, and at the game's officiating overall.
With 14 seconds remaining and the Cowboys without a timeout, Prescott ran a draw play to the San Francisco 24-yard line. As the Cowboys and 49ers scrambled to get to the line of scrimmage, umpire Ramon George was also running up to spot the ball. George bumped into Prescott just before placing the ball down. Time then expired before Prescott could get the snap off.
The final sequence was difficult for Prescott to take.
"We've practiced it," Prescott said. "You hand it to the center. The umpire, all he has to do is usually come in and tap the ball. Don't necessarily know exactly … why the hit (with the official) happened, I guess. Yeah, I know he's going to come in and touch the ball. We could say, yeah he needs to be closer to the ball or whatever, but in hindsight it's just tough. Just tough to accept."
Referee Alex Kemp said in the postgame pool report that George spotted the ball correctly and offered an explanation as to why he bumped into Cowboys players.
"He collided with the players as he was setting the ball because he was moving it to the proper spot," Kemp said.
McCarthy was under the belief that the play was going to be reviewed and that time would be added back to the clock.
"I've never seen that come down the way it came down, as far as the collision between the umpire and the quarterback," he said. "We were trying to get inside the 30-yard line to set-up the last play. The mechanics were intact from our end of it. The communication that I was given on the sideline was that they were reviewing it, they were going to put time back on the clock. The next thing I know, they're running off the field. That's the only facts I have for you."
When asked if he was told if time was going to be added back to the game clock, McCarthy answered in the affirmative.
"Ya, I thought they were going to put time back on the clock," McCarthy said.
Kemp said in the pool report that officials confirmed the game had ended after an on-field discussion and that the league office in New York was not involved in the decision.
At the game's conclusion, fans could be seen throwing garbage as Cowboys players and officials walked off. NFL Network's Jane Slater received conflicting reports that the garbage was directed at the officials and Cowboys players.
When asked about fans throwing beer bottles, Prescott was defensive of his teammates having to endure that type of treatment.
"It's sad," he said. "You're talking about a team, you're talking about men coming out each and every day of their lives and give everything to this sport, give everything to this game of football. Nobody wants to succeed more than we want to succeed. I understand fans and the word fan for fanatic, I get that. But to know everything that we put into this, day in and day out, try our hardest, nobody comes into the game wanting or expecting to lose and for people to react that way when you're supposed to be a supporter and be with us through thick and thin, that's tough."
When a media member followed up by saying it was believed the debris was aimed at the officials, Prescott changed his tone.
"Credit to them then," he said. "Credit to them."
In his postgame comments, McCarthy also took umbrage with the Cowboys being flagged 14 times for 89 yards in the game. The 49ers incurred nine penalties for 58 yards.
"I'm not going to sit here and go through the officiating," McCarthy said. "I think over the long haul you hope it balances out. I thought they would let these teams play today, but that's for them to answer and I'm sure they'll have their comments on how they felt the game was officiated."
Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones addressed the fans' actions during a Monday appearance on 105.3 The Fan.
"That's just unfortunate," Jones said, per The Athletic. "That's not the way I see our fans. I think we are a class act. There is just no place for that."