The NFL officiating department stepped in Sunday to reverse the team set for the second-half kickoff in Sunday's game between the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys, an unusual move that corrected a mistake made during the pregame coin toss.
After the Cowboys won the toss, quarterback Dak Prescott first told referee Walt Anderson that "we want to kick it," but then followed up with: "We defer to the second half."
Anderson replied, "You're going to kick," meaning the Cowboys had used their choice to kick off rather than to defer. The Cowboys kicked off to start the game and were set to kick off again to open the second half. At halftime, however, Anderson informed both teams that the NFL office in New York City had heard Prescott's request to "defer" and that it should be honored.
According to the NFL, the league office was authorized to step in under Rule 15, Section 3, Article 9 of its rulebook. It states: "The replay official and designated members of the officiating department may consult with on-field officials, or conduct a replay review, of game administration issues, including: (a) penalty enforcement; (b) the proper down; (c) spot of a foul; and (d) the game clock."
"It says that we can get involved, replay can, as far as game-administration issues: downs, enforcements, things like that," NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron said. "So, by rule, we can get involved. This is a game-administration issue, not a judgment call, for example. And we have definite audio that refers to deferring."
Riveron said Anderson might not have heard Prescott.
"Definitely a weird start," Prescott said after his team won in a rout, 44-21. "We wanted to set adversity there instead of on the field, so we could play from behind immediately. Just bad use of words by me. We listened to the audio. We got it figured out. Just wasn't the cleanest coin flip I've been a part of."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Prescott told him he used the word "defer" after Dallas won the toss, "so we felt like we had a case there.
"They needed to kind of hear it, and then I actually was coming in the locker room and [Fox Sports reporter] Erin Andrews made me aware that there was some audio that they were going to refer back to."
Rams coach Sean McVay said he immediately tried to get clarification from the referees after the initial kickoff.
"We were under the impression that we were going to be able to receive the second-half kick, as well," McVay said.
Quarterback Jared Goff said the Rams had been told they were going to get the ball in the second half, "and then it changed when we were out there."
"I don't know how or why or what happened, but we had talked to the referees the whole game in the first half, and we were told we were going to get it in the second half," Goff said. "I don't think that would have changed much at that point in the game."
ESPN's Todd Archer and Lindsey Thiry contributed to this report.