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Rovell: Ezekiel Elliott and the Stat Correction That Shook the Fantasy Football World

Dec 22, 2018 9:54 PM EST
Credit:

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ezekiel Elliott

  • Ezekiel Elliott was credited with a fumble in the Dallas Cowboys' Week 15 game against the Indianapolis Colts, docking his fantasy owners two points.
  • But one of those fantasy owners, Daniel Haas, thought Elliott actually recovered his own fumble, and he set out to get the stat corrected.
  • This is the story of how the correction eventually ended up happening -- and the aftermath.

ON MONDAY NIGHT, Daniel Haas couldn’t sleep. He had just finished watching Monday Night Football and could not wrap his head around the fact that his fantasy season was over.

He lost by 0.5 points in his league’s semifinals.

It wasn’t about the money. The league has a $100 entry fee and a $600 prize for first place. It was about the pride.

It was also about the way he lost.

Haas couldn’t sleep because he thought he just might have won.

So, as his wife and his 1- and 3-year-old slept, Haas got to work as Monday night turned into Tuesday morning.

He signed up to a seven-day trial of NFL Game Pass. And he immediately started going through Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and his beloved Dallas Cowboys.

You see, not only is Haas a Cowboys fan, but his RB1 is Ezekiel Elliott. And an Elliott fumble on fourth-and-1 from the 3-yard line on the Cowboys’ second drive of the game lost him two points.

“I wasn’t sure if it was really a fumble,” Haas told The Action Network. “But it wasn’t reviewed and there was actually no verbal call on the field because the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs.”

So Haas said he kept the play in the back of his mind, just in case his margin of loss after Monday Night Football was fewer than two points.

And sure enough, it was.

So here Haas was reviewing tape. Speeding up. Rewinding. Pausing. Staring.

“The first thing I noticed was that Elliott definitely fumbled the ball,” said Haas, a 31-year-old software salesman from Chicago. “But I remembered the Cowboys-Eagles game from the week before and that changed things.”

In that game, the Cowboys botched the opening kickoff. The returner was ruled down before the fumble occurred. The Eagles challenged the call and the call on the field stood because there was not a player on the Eagles who clearly recovered the ball.

Flash forward to the Cowboys-Colts game, and Haas thought you could say the exact same thing about Elliott’s presumed fumble.

“It was assumed that (Colts defensive end Jabaal) Sheard recovered, but at no point in the replays could you tell that Sheard recovered the ball,” Haas said.

A couple people had written on a Reddit post that Elliott actually recovered his own fumble — in which case, he actually wouldn’t have lost points for his fantasy owners. But the post didn’t gain steam.

Haas wasn’t done.

Before he went to sleep that night, he looked at the NFL rulebook.

“I figured out that if the fumble was reviewed and there was a call on the field and the refs made that call, the statistic couldn’t be overturned,” Haas said. “But they never made a call because it was the Colts ball anyway.”

Daniel Haas realizes here that he has a shot to reverse history.

So he goes to the website of Elias, which is the official statistician of the league, and fills out the form on the company’s web page with his findings. He does the same thing when he wakes up Tuesday morning.

After he drops off his kids at daycare on Tuesday, he calls Elias in New York. The operator answers. Haas asks to talk to the person who is reviewing the Colts-Cowboys game.

Haas told The Action Network that he then talked to that person and later tweeted back and forth with a relative of that reviewer, who is the director of NFL research for Elias.

“Dan,” the director writes Haas on Twitter. “I checked with a member of the Elias team and he told me that this play is on our list of plays to look at.”

Haas has given his input to the men making the decisions.

Haas spends some of his day on Wednesday reloading box scores to see if anything has changed. Sure enough, in the afternoon, the second drive in the first quarter changes.

The initial box score read: E.Elliott left tackle to IND 5 for -2 yards (P.Desir). FUMBLES (P.Desir), RECOVERED by IND-J.Sheard at IND 5. J.Sheard to IND 5 for no gain (E.Elliott).

It is now changed to: E.Elliott left tackle to IND 5 for -2 yards (P.Desir). FUMBLES (P.Desir), and recovers at IND 5.

Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21).

ON THURSDAY MORNING, Massachusetts police officer Andrew Albertelli is awoken by his phone vibrating.

It’s a group text from his fantasy buddies — a separate league entirely from Haas’.

The text string starts with the guy who is supposed to play Albertelli in the fantasy league’s finals, saying he logged onto Yahoo and noticed it said he’s playing the team that Albertelli thought he beat.

Albertelli beat his friend Matt by 0.1 points thanks to a Christian McCaffrey reception late in the Monday Night game against the Saints. It now says he lost.

“Matt hadn’t spoken to me in three days,” Albertelli told The Action Network. “It was at the point where I was going to get a welfare check on him. Then sure enough, this morning, he rises from the dead.”

Albertelli went to Reddit and saw the recap that Haas posted.

“Tell that guy he can F himself,” Albertelli said.

Meanwhile, Jarrett — the man who Haas beat, but found out Thursday he lost — also found out that Haas was at least taking credit for the change (it probably would have happened anyway, the NFL makes plenty of changes each week).

“He’s one of the nicer guys in our league,” Haas said of Jarrett. “He told me he was pissed, but he respected my hustle.”

“I’ve been offered money, beer and someone on Reddit said they would name their first-born son after me,” Haas said. “In lieu of that, I’ve asked the people who were positively affected to make a donation to the ALS Association with their newfound winnings. It doesn’t have to be much, but my wife’s family has been affected by this terrible disease.”

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