Referees’ call before fumble impacts Cardinals rally attempt

Oct 4, 2015, 7:59 PM | Updated: Oct 5, 2015, 4:33 pm

There’s no denying how much the Arizona Cardinals’ self-inflicted wounds impacted their 24-22 loss to the St. Louis Rams, but a call by the referees in the final seconds of the third quarter left fans wondering if things could have turned out differently.

With the Rams backed up near their own end zone leading 17-12, quarterback Nick Foles found running back Benny Cunningham open in the flat. After a spin move, Cunningham found himself with several Cardinals bearing down on him. Arizona defensive lineman Calais Campbell hit Cunningham head-on at the Rams’ 8-yard line and simultaneously knocked the ball out of Cunningham’s hands before Frostee Rucker scooped the ball up before stepping out of bounds. It looked like a fumble and a turnover. But the Cardinals wouldn’t get the ball inside the St. Louis 10-yard line.

The officiating crew ruled the play had been blown dead because Cunningham’s forward progress was stopped — and before the fumble — meaning Arizona couldn’t challenge the call on the field. St. Louis would punt and the Cardinals would drive 41 yards to settle for one of their five field goals on the day.

Asked if that appeared to be a play the Cardinals needed to rally, Arizona coach Bruce Arians offered this after the game: “Hell yeah. That was first and goal at the nine, and it was blown dead.”

FOX Sports’ officiating expert, Mike Pereira, agreed with the officials during the telecast that the Cardinals couldn’t challenge the play. By rule, referees can’t review a play that ended because of forward progress. Pereira, however, did admit that it looked like a clear fumble.

One well-known Cardinals fan, Larry Fitzgerald Sr., who knows football quite well as a long-time sports writer, thought Arizona got a bad deal. 

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