Oi ref!
The Redzone: Cowboys Ted, Cowboys
Dallas are through to the Divisional round of the playoffs after farcical scenes last night.

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TO WIN THE Super Bowl, legendary coach Bill Parcells once said, you have to have a lot of luck and the Dallas Cowboys sure rode theirs last night to win the final NFL Wild Card game of the weekend.

With the Detroit Lions leading 20-17 midway through the fourth quarter, Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens was rightly flagged for pass interference on Brandon Pettigrew on a crucial third down.

It was as obvious a pass interference call as you’re likely to see. To begin with, Hitchens makes no attempt to play the ball and instead pushes Pettigrew with his left arm. The push stopped the tight end from being able to make a play on the ball.

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Even before that, there was defensive holding as Pettigrew is clearly having his jersey pulled as he attempts to break away from Hitchens at the line of scrimmage.

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Sickeningly for the Lions, they were twice penalised for defensive holding on the Cowboys very next drive, one of which came on a crucial third down. Four plays later, Dallas would score the game-winning touchdown.

Had the pass interference been missed by officials, Lions fans would understandably be frustrated but missed calls – such as holding by offensive linemen – happen all the time.

No, instead the officials, led by Pete Morelli, flagged Hitchens for the foul and announced it over the stadium mic. However, after some chatting, they picked up the flag but failed to explain on the field why they reversed their decision.

Even more infuriating for the Lions, while the officials were chatting, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant entered the field without his helmet on to argue the case for picking up the flag.

That is also a penalty, a 15-yard one that should have given the Lions a first down at the Dallas 31 yard line.

Now, I’ve watched enough of the Lions to know there’s every possibility they could have gone three and out had they received a first down from any of those three clear penalties and there’s even no guarantee Matt Prater would have kicked the ensuing field goal.

Even if he had, a touchdown for the Cowboys would have still won them the game. Crucially though, they would have had significantly less time to score it in.

After the game, Morelli said that – when they talked it out – the officials decided that no penalty had been committed by Hitchens with the back judge feeling he was guilty only of face-guarding which is a flag in college football but not the NFL.

All of the evidence and, indeed, common sense, shows they were wrong and, for a neutral, it was an unpalatable finish to what was otherwise a great game of football, by far the best of a relatively poor Wild Card weekend.

Bad calls happen – hi Tuck rule – that’s part of football, but making the right call and reversing it under pressure from the home crowd should never be.

Were the Lions likely to go on an win the Super Bowl? It’s highly unlikely. But should they be taking on the Seahawks next week in the NFC Divisional round? On the basis of last night’s performance, all but the most rabid Dallas fan would say yes.

Brandon Wade / AP/Press Association Images Brandon Wade / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

Sometimes though, it’s better to be lucky than good.

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