It looked like the Detroit Lions had rallied for a win over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night, when Jared Goff hit left tackle Taylor Decker for a two-point conversion after Dan Campbell decided to go for the win.
But that victory was snatched from the Lions by a flag, as referee Brad Allen explained that Decker was not eligible, thus a penalty for illegal touching negated the play. The Lions had two more chances at converting the two-point conversion, but the limelight is on the botched call.
Allen explained to Campbell in the moment, as well as the pool reporter after the game, that (to his interpretation) extra offensive lineman Dan Skipper (No. 70) had reported as eligible while Decker (No. 68) did not. The video clearly shows otherwise. It's doubtful Decker walked over to Allen to say "Happy New Year", especially with Goff being shown telling Decker to go report as eligible once he got the play call in his headset.
Skipper runs in late, and is never really near Allen.
During his frustration-filled and brief postgame press conference, Campbell said "two people can't report", as if that's what he was told by Allen. But that's inconsequential here, unless Decker and Skipper line up in theoretically "eligible" positions, on the end of the line of scrimmage or in the backfield. Skipper was occupying an extra guard spot, covered directly by right tackle Penei Sewell, while Decker was in his usual spot, but not covered on the line of scrimmage by wide receiver Josh Reynolds.
Taylor Decker situation: What does the NFL rule book say about reporting as an eligible receiver?
The procedure for someone like Decker reporting as an eligible receiver is ripe with possibilities to be mishandled, on a player's end or certainly an official's end as happened on Saturday night.
So what does the NFL rule book say about reporting as an eligible receiver?
Rule 5, Section 3, Article-Reporting A Change of Position.
An offensive player wearing the number of an ineligible pass receiver (50–79 and 90–99) is permitted to line up in the position of an eligible pass receiver (1–49 and 80–89), and an offensive player wearing the number of an eligible pass receiver is permitted to line up in the position of an ineligible pass receiver, provided that he immediately reports the change in his eligibility status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team.
He must participate in such eligible or ineligible position as long as he is continuously in the game, but prior to each play he must again report his status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team. The game clock shall not be stopped, and the ball shall not be put in play until the Referee takes his normal position.
By all accounts (other than Allen's), visual and with all the comments from the Lions, Decker walked over to Allen and did what he needed to do to report as eligible. Skipper also confirmed he never said a word to Allen, who apparently made an assumption based on Skipper having reported a couple other times in the game.
Ultimately, as Justin Rogers of the Detroit News pointed out, the mechanics of players reporting as eligible will now likely change. But the current rule is pretty cut and dry, and Decker pretty clearly followed it.