A crucial pass by Derek Carr against the Chiefs fell incomplete when the ball appeared to hit the wire of the NBC Skycam

The Kansas City Chiefs held on to beat the Oakland Raiders on “Thursday Night Football” in a game that may have been affected down the stretch by the football hitting the wire of NBC’s Skycam. 

Trailing 21-13 with 9:26 left in the fourth quarter on Thursday, Oakland quarterback Derek Carr danced around the pocket on a 3rd-and-7 before letting the ball go downfield toward second-year wide receiver Amari Cooper. 

Cooper had several steps on his defenders, and the ball appeared to be headed straight toward his hands. Had he caught it, he almost certainly would have scored a touchdown.

But then the ball hit the ground, somewhat curiously, and the incomplete pass forced a Raiders punt.

“This is going to be a walk-in,” a perplexed Cris Collinsworth said from the broadcast booth, “and I don’t know what happened to Cooper. He looked like he lost his balance or something on this throw and just sort of stumbled at the tail end of it. 

Upon closer inspection, the trajectory of the ball looks to have been altered by the near-invisible wire connected to NBC’s Skycam above the field. 

“That’s why it looked like I might have stumbled,” Cooper said after the game. “I was running in the right direction and it kind of moved inside at the last minute and I didn’t have time to get it.”

Let’s take a closer look at the tape: 

The ball does not come out of Carr’s hand in a perfect spiral, but it’s clear that something alters the ball’s path. 

Another look: 

It’s impossible to tell for sure, and the necessary caveats apply. The Raiders didn’t lose because of this throw, and Carr — playing with a broken finger in the freezing cold — played terribly all night. It’s possible Cooper just misjudged the throw, and found a convenient excuse. It’s also possible the wind changed the path of the ball and we’re reading way too into this. 

But if the ball did indeed hit the Skycam and refs had noticed it, they should have ruled the play a do-over (per the NFL rule book). Even that would have been big for the Raiders: replaying the 3rd down would have given them another chance to keep the drive alive. 

Again: the Raiders didn’t lose because of this play. But it certainly didn’t help them. 

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