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Sunday Night wrap-up: Cowboys escape on Raiders fumble

Dak Prescott talks about the character of the Cowboys and says the game against the Raiders was another representation of the adversity Dallas has faced this year.

On a day of some dubious officiating decisions and ridiculous plays, the Raiders may have taken the cake.

The Cowboys escaped with a 20-17 win over the Raiders, when Raiders quarterback Derek Carr fumbled through the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback.

Considered by some to be the worst rule in football, it was a fitting end to another close loss marred with mistakes for the Raiders.

They were in position to at least tie the game, after getting close on Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis’ 55-yard pass interference penalty on fourth-and-10. But with a first down in his grasp, Carr decided to dive for the goal line, losing it as he was knocked down by Cowboys safety Jeff Heath.

It moved the Cowboys to 8-6, leaving them with a mathematical chance to make the postseason. But it was a night of strange and unusual plays, and allowed them to get a win on a night Dak Prescott threw a pair of interceptions, and no one did anything of note.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. Things have clearly not gone according to plan for the Raiders this year, but that doesn’t overshadow the work Carr has done in his career so far.

With his third-quarter touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree, Carr joined four guys named Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck as the only quarterbacks to pass for 100 touchdowns in his first four seasons.

It was his 19th this year, which is a career-low so far, as he approaches the 21 he threw as a rookie.

Perhaps people were fooled by the 60 he threw over the last two seasons, or perhaps he regressed a bit.

2. Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant appeared to make a business decision on Dak Prescott’s first-half interception, which underscores what a rough season he’s had so far.

Bryant’s 63 catches for 771 yards and six touchdowns are decent totals for a complementary receiver, but he’s not being paid like one of those.

It seems like forever ago when he averaged over 90 catches for over 1,300 yards and nearly 14 touchdowns a year over a three-year span, but it was actually just 2012-14.

He’s endured some injuries since then, but he’s never looked like the same dominant player since the days Tony Romo was under center. His 40-yard reception late was just his second reception of more than 20 yards all season.

3. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is coming back next week, and he’s apparently in great shape.

The Cowboys line might not be.

Left tackle Tyron Smith left the game to get his knee looked at, and didn’t return, leaving Byron Bell to finish the game. That worked better than the last time Smith was out and they allowed the Falcons to get, I think, 172 sacks.

Smith’s dealt with back problems as well this year, raising reasonable concerns about his long-term durability.

4. Neither team is officially eliminated from the playoffs after this result.

Neither team is going to the playoffs, following the league’s trend of postseason turnover.

The bigger question is which one of the legacy franchises is best positioned to return next year. This season raised plenty of questions about the Raiders, after they appeared to be on the verge of stability (except, for, you know, moving to Las Vegas in a few years).

The Cowboys, well, it’s always something with the Cowboys.

5. Never mind debating what is and isn’t a catch.

Do we need a pool report after each game on the content of a ref’s pocket before we know what a first down was?

Gene Steratore putting a folded piece of paper next to the chains to determine a late Cowboys first down was ridiculous by any measure.

What if all he had was a receipt from the sports bar at the Marriott? Or a business card? Is there a standard notebook width that must be considered? Legal pads seem unwieldy, but might be the the thematically appropriate form of stationary.

Yes, this is ridiculous extreme. So is a billion-dollar industry using a decidedly low-tech approach as a set of sticks attached by a chain, especially since neither the sticks nor the chain have been used as advertising platforms.