The Dallas Cowboys have typically been the team on the field that has struggled with game-changing penalties, with both the offense and defense committed egregious errors in crucial losses over the years. During Sunday's 23-20 overtime win over Cleveland, it was the Browns' turn to make the game-changing errors that gave the Cowboys the chance to pull off the comeback win.
Called for 12 penalties for 129 yards and 10 Cowboys first downs, the Browns were also the victims of several controversial calls by Ed Hochuli and his officiating crew that gave Dallas two very vital chances to secure the win.
The first came at the end of regulation on what appeared to be a bogus unsportsmanlike penalty for an illegal hit to the head, which Hochuli then changed to a helmet hit of a defenseless player. The penalty moved the Cowboys well within range to tie the game with a field goal. In overtime, receiver Miles Austin appeared to have fumbled the ball when turning up field, yet the play was immediately blown dead and ruled an incomplete pass. Replays were not so conclusive.
Per Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, these sorts of blunders were not supposed to happen once the "real" officials returned following the labor dispute between the NFL and the officiating union:
The Cowboys didn't have a great day, not when your franchise quarterback gets sacked seven times for 56 yards. The Browns also didn't have a great day, blowing a 13-0 halftime lead in falling to 2-8.
But the Hochuli crew had the worst day of all. The officials lost control of the game, something that wasn't supposed to happen once the lockout ended, the JV officiating crews left and the varsity arrived. But the Cowboys aren't complaining. They're back in playoff contention. They'll take any and all the help they can get at this point
Hochuli and company called 21 penalties for 231 yards, the most by any crew this season that had not previously been officiating high school flag football the week before.