After both the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions were on the receiving end of confusing calls by referee Brad Allen and his crew in Saturday’s 20-19 Cowboys win — including one that effectively decided the game on a Lions two-point conversion attempt — ESPN reported that Allen’s crew is going to be downgraded, with some of the referees from the Week 17 game not participating in the postseason.
However, it’s unclear if that is still going to the be the case, since the NFL reportedly assigned Allen and his crew to work the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens standalone game Saturday afternoon. It’s an intriguing move to put them in a Week 18 game in which the Steelers are fighting for their playoff lives, given how Allen and his team of referees are viewed by many after missing two critical calls in Week 17.
The first one happened late in the fourth quarter, when Cowboys tight end Peyton Hendershot was flagged for a tripping penalty on Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. The infraction was significant because instead of the clock running with the Cowboys facing second-and-3 from the Lions’ 22, Dallas had first-and-25 on the Lions’ 44. In reality, Hutchinson stuck his leg out and should have been called for tripping. If called correctly, the Cowboys could have scored a game-sealing touchdown instead of giving Detroit the ball back, down seven. Instead, Dallas had to settle for a field after running just three plays.
Here is video of that initial first-down play, reviewed by ESPN, showing that Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson — not Cowboys TE Hendershot — should have been the one flagged for attempting to trip Tony Pollard. Instead, Dallas penalized. pic.twitter.com/fkCuF3ChW6
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 31, 2023
Trailing 20-13 with 1:41 to go and without a timeout, the Lions offense waltzed down the field 75 yards in nine plays across 1 minute and 18 seconds, with what appeared to be a game-tying from quarterback Jared Goff to wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for 11 yards capping the drive.
Then, madness ensued. Detroit went for two and the win, and they appeared to have it after Goff completed a pass to offensive tackle Taylor Decker, No. 68. However, Detroit reported tackle Dan Skipper, No. 70, as eligible prior to the play, according to referee Brad Allen. Therefore, the Lions were called for an illegal touching penalty. However, Skipper said postgame that he did not say a word to the official before the snap, as multiple offensive linemen came up to Allen. Replay of Detroit coming on to the field before the first two-point conversion attempt shows Decker talking to Allen, appearing to report as eligible.
After the game in the pool report, Allen maintained that Decker never reported. Following the penalty, the Cowboys were in turn called for an infraction, with Micah Parsons being called for being offsides on the second try, a play in which Dallas intercepted Goff. Finally, the sequence concluded with Dallas forcing an incomplete pass to hang on for the win.
Now, Allen’s crew will again be in the spotlight, with a potential playoff berth hanging in the balance for the Steelers (: a win plus either a Jaguars or Bills loss). The Ravens, having already locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC, could potentially be resting their starters, though head coach John Harbaugh says they .