Crew moved Cowboys' first down marker in Patriots game, what happened?

Frank Schwab

Everyone has a conspiracy theory when it comes to the New England Patriots. They have a streak of 10 or more wins each season that started before the invention of the iPhone, but to hear some tell it, it’s only because the Patriots get more calls from officials than other teams.

This week, a video of the chain crew moving the first-down marker after the Dallas Cowboys started a series of downs was under the microscope.

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Cowboys fans have a good argument that their team was hosed on a phantom tripping call on center Travis Frederick late in the game, but what happened with the crew moving the first-down marker a yard further when the Cowboys had the ball?

What happened as first-down marker moved?

Here’s the video, which was tweeted out by R.J. Choppy of 105.3 The Fan. You can see the crew move the down marker from the 5-yard line to the 4-yard line before a second-down play in the second quarter:

Is it another Patriots scandal? Not exactly.

There was a mistake, but it seems to have come on the spot of the ball. Here’s the official play-by-play:

2-8-DAL 49 (4:33) D.Prescott pass deep middle to M.Gallup to NE 29 for 22 yards (D.Harmon) [D.Wise]. P9

PENALTY on NE-D.Wise, Roughing the Passer, 15 yards, enforced at NE 29. X10

1-10-NE 14 (4:03) E.Elliott right guard to NE 11 for 3 yards (D.Hightower, J.Collins).

Except the ball wasn’t spotted at the 14-yard line for first down. It was at the 15, for whatever reason. And presumably, the chain gang was off by a yard too, and fixed it after Dallas’ first-down play.

No, officials weren’t just randomly moving the first-down marker in the middle of a series of downs to help the Patriots.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gestures toward an official. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gestures toward an official. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)

Cowboys kicked a field goal

Officiating mistakes are nothing new to the NFL, and missing the spot of the ball by a yard before a first down isn’t ideal. But it’s not really a conspiracy either.

The Cowboys didn’t score on that drive. Later in the series, they kicked a field goal on fourth-and-5. Whether it was fourth-and-5 or fourth-and-4, it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference since Jason Garrett doesn’t follow analytics anyway.

It doesn’t matter. People like claiming that NFL officials are helping the Patriots, though that doesn’t make much logical sense. So there’s likely to be a freakout over the latest conspiracy theory.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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