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NFL reminds players to ‘clearly’ report as eligible receiver after controversial officiating decision ends Lions-Cowboys game

The NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams on Tuesday to remind players to “clearly” report as eligible receivers after a controversial officiating decision ended Saturday’s Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys game.

In the closing seconds of the Week 17 game at AT&T Stadium, a late two-point conversion which would have given Detroit a one-point lead and likely an impressive road victory was wiped away after officials ruled offensive lineman Taylor Decker – who wears No. 68 – was not an eligible receiver when he caught a pass from quarterback Jared Goff.

Two more attempts at the two-point conversation were unsuccessful and the Lions would go onto lose 20-19.

According to referee Brad Allen in the pool report afterwards, Lions offensive lineman Dan Skipper – who is No. 70 – reported as an eligible receiver, not Decker. Decker told reporters after the game that he had said to Allen that he was reporting as an eligible receiver.

The decision left the Lions perplexed, with head coach Dan Campbell explaining to reporters that he had spoken to officials before the game about how the team would line up on the play.

“I explained everything pregame to a tee. OK? I did that. 70 reported, 68 didn’t. We threw it to 68. That was the explanation,” a frustrated Campbell said.

Decker catches the two-point conversion that was overturned by a penalty during the fourth quarter against the Cowboys. - Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
Decker catches the two-point conversion that was overturned by a penalty during the fourth quarter against the Cowboys. - Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

On Tuesday, the league sent a video to all teams reminding players about the importance of clearly signposting their eligibility as receivers to officials to avoid such an incident happening in the future.

“It is the responsibility of the player to be sure that change in status is clearly communicated to the referee by both a physical signal, with his hands up and down in front of his chest, and to report to the referee his intention to report as an eligible receiver,” NFL senior vice president Walt Anderson said in the video.

For the controversial play, Decker is seen approaching referee Allen to report as eligible, but two other offensive lineman – Skipper and Penei Sewell – also approached Allen in an attempt to confuse the Cowboys defense on who would be the eligible receiver.

In the video, it shows comparisons between how Skipper – who is circled – takes to the field for the two-point conversion attempt and a similar play in the first quarter of the game.

According to NFL ruling, any offensive player numbered 50-79 or 90-99 is permitted to line up as an eligible pass receiver, but the player must immediately report the change in his status to the referee.

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