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Leighton Vander Esch: We’re playing more against the refs than we are other teams

The Football Night in America crew reacts to Antonio Brown's bizarre behavior on Sunday against the New York Jets, which resulted in Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians declaring Brown is no longer on the team.

Referee Scott Novak’s crew blew it. They ruled Chase Edmonds down when replay showed the Cardinals running back fumbled before he slid to the ground with 2:51 remaining in a three-point game.

Osa Odighizuwa recovered for the Cowboys for what should have been their ball at their own 29.

Alas, the Cowboys couldn’t challenge the play because they were out of timeouts, having used their third one after the previous play. It was not an automatic review because it wasn’t ruled a fumble on the field.

The Cardinals thus celebrated a 25-22 win, running out the clock, while the Cowboys contemplated what might have been.

Owner Jerry Jones seemed unbothered by the blown call, but the Cowboys defenders were hot under the shoulder pads.

“It was totally a fumble,” Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said. “I just don’t understand how with the technology that we have today, even if we don’t have timeouts, or whatever it may be, to . . . [not be able to] challenge it. It’s so obvious. Certain things are so obvious in games that refs are messing up. Why aren’t they fixing it? It doesn’t make any sense to me. To me, we’re playing more against the refs than we are other teams.”

Fans and media have called for the NFL to fix its officiating all season. Vander Esch echoed that, wondering why a billion dollar company can’t get it right.

“If you look around the league, this isn’t just the first time it’s happened,” Vander Esch said. “There’s other guys around the league that have been dictated from, I don’t know if it’s incompetence or what it is. Doesn’t make sense to me, and it feels like it’s not hard to fix that.

“If it’s so blatant on the field and so obvious, why the [referee in the replay booth] isn’t radioing down, ‘Hey, get this right.’ That’s not hard. That’s the ethics of the game. Getting it right. ‘Hey, you made a mistake, here; get it right. Here is the right call.’”

The Cowboys had 10 penalties for 88 yards, many coming in third-down situations. Jones said the Cowboys knew “this group [of officials] calls a lot of ticky-tack . . . they call a lot of penalties.”

“You can’t get a rhythm. You can’t move the ball,” Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb complained. “Every big play was called back because of some kind of call. The refs, I feel like, dictated that game. It’s no secret.”