Packers-Cowboys final play included a forward lateral

Mike Florio
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Sunday’s Packers-Cowboys game concluded with a Stanford-band effort by the home team that nearly popped for a touchdown, thanks to Packers linebacker Nick Perry picking up the ball after he thought the play had ended before having it smacked out of his hand by Cowboys center Travis Frederick. But if the widely-overlooked play had resulted in one of the craziest outcomes in league history, the touchdown may have been reversed via replay review.

The coaches film, available via the excellent NFL Game Pass feature, shows that the lateral thrown by running back Ezekiel Elliott to quarterback Dak Prescott traveled forward. Of course, this doesn’t mean that an angle containing clear and obvious evidence of a forward pass would have been available to 345 Park Avenue at the time the replay review was happening.

Based on the primary broadcast angle, it’s hard to conclude that the ball definitely travels forward. The angle from the coaches film comes from a camera high enough to allow scrutiny of the ball against the background of the hashmarks, making it clear that the ball moved forward as Elliott threw it across the field to Prescott.

Regardless, if Frederick had scored (or if he’d realized both Elliott and Prescott were trailing Frederick before clumsily pitching the ball to no one), a compelling review process would have followed. And there may not have been enough evidence in the moment to generate clear and obvious evidence that the ball was thrown forward. So if the touchdown had been upheld (due to the absence of evidence to overturn it), Packers fans would have rightfully lost their minds once the coaches film was published.

And many would have argued that the outcome of the game should have been changed, since the mistake would have happened on a final play that easily could have been wiped off the books.

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