A couple of the Dallas Cowboys felt they played against two opponents Sunday: the Arizona Cardinals and the officials.

The Cowboys lost to the Cardinals 25-22, injuring their playoff seeding, and were flagged 10 times for 88 yards by Scott Novak’s crew, including four offensive holding penalties that negated two first-down runs.

“It’s just we couldn’t get a rhythm,” wide receiver CeeDee Lamb said. “The refs wouldn’t let us get a rhythm.”

Added defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence: “I’m gonna let the NFL handle that. I know it’s a possibility we see both of these teams in the playoffs. You know hopefully the NFL can sit down with their team, review the film, learn from their mistakes and get better from it.”

It was the fourth time this season the Cowboys have had double-digit penalties and the most they have had since a 14-penalty, 166-yard day against the Las Vegas Raiders on Thanksgiving when both teams had complaints regarding Shawn Hochuli’s crew.


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“If you look around the league, this isn’t just the first time it’s happened,” linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said. “There’s other games around the league that have been dictated by, I don’t know if it’s incompetence or what it is, but it don’t make sense to me. I feel like it’s not hard to fix that, especially if it’s so blatant on the field and it’s so obvious, why someone up top is not radioing down and be like, hey, get this right. That’s not hard. That’s just the ethics of the game — getting it right. Like hey, you made a mistake here. Fix it. Here’s the right call.”

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he expected there to be flags after seeing the team’s report on Novak’s crew, but he was not as critical of the officiating as he was after the Raiders loss. Novak’s crew averaged 8.2 penalties per game, second highest to Carl Cheffers’ crew (8.3), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

“This group calls a lot of ticky-tack,” Jones said, catching himself before adding, “They call a lot of penalties, and that was going to be a concern for us today.”

Added coach Mike McCarthy: “I think the timing of our penalties, for us personally, was something that was a challenge for us to overcome.”

The Cowboys were called for four offensive holding penalties compared to just one on the Cardinals, which the Dallas defensive line noted.

“Playing against the refs again, like usual, it seems like an every-week occurrence,” said Randy Gregory, who had an animated discussion with an official as he walked to the locker room at halftime. “We just have to tune that out and just deal with it.”

Lawrence said he was called for an offside penalty after the play clock had hit zero, but he and Vander Esch were more upset that a fourth-quarter fumble was ruled down by contact with the Cowboys trailing 25-22. Because the Cowboys were out of timeouts before the 2-minute warning, they were unable to challenge the play, although replays were far from 100 percent clear that the play would have been overturned.

“I just don’t understand how with the technology we have nowadays, even if we don’t have timeouts or whatever it may be, to call a freaking challenge and challenge it. It’s so obvious,” Vander Esch said. “Certain things are so obvious in the games that refs are messing up, why they aren’t fixing it. It doesn’t make any sense to me. To me, we’re playing more against the refs than we are the other team. That is what it is. … It’s been multiple times this season.”

Dak Prescott was a little more diplomatic.

“Yeah, we will play against whoever. We will play against 11 and the others if we have to,” Prescott said. “I have become accustomed to it, honestly. I don’t know if we ever got things that necessarily go our way, but we can’t sit there and cry about it. You just got to play the hand that you are dealt and try to overcome those things and don’t put yourselves in those situations. So we can do a better job of not putting ourselves in those situations and keep them out of the game.”

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