After Witten scored the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter, he engaged in his normal post-TD routine and handed the ball to Colombo so the offensive lineman could spike it. After the spike, Colombo and Witten did a chest bump, which resulted in Colombo falling to the turf. The 320-pound tackle then performed a backwards somersault.
That's when a flag came in.
Officials determined that because Colombo fell to the ground and rolled over, he was in violation of one of the league's myriad anti-celebration rules. Specifically, Colombo is not allowed to engage in a celebration while on the ground. (Ahh, NFL legalese. There's nothing like it.)
The 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was assessed on the kickoff. Starting from their own 15-yard line instead of the 30 led to a short kick that the Titans returned 73 yards to inside the Cowboys red zone. Tennessee scored three plays later for what would become the game-winning touchdown.
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Dallas wasn't happy about the call. "I don't want a celebration penalty there," coach Wade Phillips said. "I'm just saying the big guy spikes the ball and falls down. It's not like it's excessive celebration."
Colombo agreed. "I do feel awful giving a short field to a good team late in the game," he said. "My only intent was to celebrate Jason scoring as I do with all my teammates, not to orchestrate and intentionally hurt the team."
The Cowboys need to stop the whining. The refs didn't let Tennessee get out to a 17-3 lead. The refs didn't throw three interceptions. The refs didn't allow the Titans to gain 73 yards on the kick return after the penalty. The refs didn't fail to stop Chris Johnson and third-and-goal from the 1-yard line on that drive. And the refs didn't turn it over on downs on a potential game-tying drive. That was all on the Dallas Cowboys.
If you want to blame anyone, blame the NFL for regulating fun during touchdown celebrations. In Roger Goodell's eyes, a player crossing the goal line should act as excited as someone mailing their tax return. The "no planned celebration" and "engaging in celebrations while on the ground" rules are terrible. It's OK for the NFL to suck the enjoyment out of games by running commercials every three minutes and allowing teams to call buzzkilling timeouts right before field goals, but a guy can't do a backwards somersault after scoring a game-tying touchdown? How does that benefit anyone? (And how is it OK for Chris Johnson to stand on the Cowboys star, but not for Colombo to roll over like Lassie?)
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Witten and Colombo weren't wrong for celebrating. Jeff Triplette's officiating crew wasn't wrong for throwing the flag. The NFL is wrong for failing to remember that football is still just a game.
- touchdown celebration