NFL reminds players how to report as eligible receivers after Lions-Cowboys fiasco

Eager to avoid another late-game fiasco, the NFL issued a video reminding teams of the procedures that players must follow when they report as eligible receivers.

The nearly two-minute video, shared Tuesday night by NFL Media, went out days after an illegal touching penalty negated a crucial Detroit Lions two-point conversion in their 20-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

“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,” the video states.

The memo refers to players who wear numbers 50-79 or 90-99, which include offensive linemen.

With 23 seconds remaining in Saturday’s game in Arlington, Texas, the Lions appeared to pull ahead when quarterback Jared Goff completed a two-point pass to tackle Taylor Decker in the end zone. Afterward, referee Brad Allen claimed Dan Skipper, and not Decker, was the offensive lineman who reported as an eligible receiver.

“On this particular play, number 70, who had reported during the game a couple of times, reported to me as eligible,” Allen told The Dallas Morning News’ Calvin Watkins in the post-game pool report. “Then he lined up at the tackle position. So, actually, he didn’t have to report at all. Number 68, who ended up going downfield and touching the pass, did not report.”

Decker, however, said afterward that he reported as eligible. Video shows a brief interaction between Allen and Decker before the play. Skipper, who is seen gesturing as he runs onto the field, then arrives as Allen walks away.

The play sparked immediate controversy, with critics contending the Lions’ attempt to trick the Cowboys also confused the refs. The Lions failed to convert the two-point attempt after their first try was overturned, effectively ending the game.

The loss came with considerable ramifications in the NFC playoff picture, as it eliminated the Lions from contention for the top seed and a first-round bye. With the win, coupled with the Eagles’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, the Cowboys moved into first place in the NFC East and into the conference’s second seed.

Finishing as the second seed would mean playing at home in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Cowboys are 8-0 in Arlington this season as opposed to 4-5 on the road.