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Cowboys' Punt Block in L.A.: Bone(s)-Headed Explanation

Special teams coach John Fassel claims he's crowd-sourcing strategy from Cowboys fans

In 1984, the Dallas Cowboys held a fiercely contested quarterback competition during training camp between Danny White and Gary Hogeboom. At the end of the summer, head coach Tom Landry held a dramatic press conference to announce the starter.

"At quarterback," Landry accidently and infamously said, "we're gonna go with (offensive lineman Phil) Pozderac."

Landry's was, of course, a misspeak. What special teams coach John "Bones" Fassel said Monday was not only intentional, but also crazier than anything Landry ever uttered.

The Cowboys led, 14-11, at the first half's two-minute warning Sunday in Los Angeles. They had forced a fourth-and-20 Chargers' punt from L.A.'s 46 and - with two timeouts remaining and a hot Dak Prescott - seemed intent on scoring again before intermission. CeeDee Lamb fair-caught the punt at Dallas' 10-yard line and ...

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Wait, what?!

Fassel not only inexplicably called for a punt rush, rookie Azur Kamara inexcusably rolled into punter Ty Long and drew a flag for roughing the kicker. First down, Chargers.

If the crime didn't make Cowboys fans cringe, get a load of Fassel's motive.

"I think Cowboys fans aren't the play-it-safe type. So I was going to give them what they wanted, come after their ass on the punt rush. So I hope they're happy with it. We came after him."

The Cowboys are an above-average NFL team, with a realistic shot to win the mediocre NFC East and make the playoffs. The Cowboys are not good enough to leave their strategy to some kind of cockamamy crowd-sourcing.

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Similar to head coach Mike McCarthy's end-game clock mismanagement being bailed out by kicker Greg Zuerlein's 56-yard game-winning field goal, Fassel was spared when the Chargers settled for a field goal before halftime and kicker Tristan Vizcaino's 44-yard attempt doinked the left upright.

Luck be damned, pressuring the punter in a situation that begged for passivity, or outright inaction, is a losing strategy. We know that McCarthy - unlike his red-headed predecessor - is a gambler. Against the Chargers he went for two fourth downs, one at Dallas' 48 on the game's opening drive.

But how does the head coach allow Bones to make a call that is wholly bone-headed?

"Part of our game plan was to come after them with a real aggressive mindset. Give the Cowboys fans something they were looking for," Fassel explained. "The call to rush the punt? That was my decision."

Even owner Jerry Jones, speaking on his weekly radio show on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday morning, struggled to defend the radical punt block.

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"I’m a little more conservative," Jones said. "I do believe the bad plays in the kicking game are the equivalent to turnovers. I really like to choose my spots on taking those kind of risks.”

The crowd in L.A. was decidedly pro-Cowboys. And, sure, taking over possession inside Chargers' territory would have been better than at Dallas' 10. But did the reward merit the risk?

“Anytime you rush the punt, there’s a risk,” Fassel said. “Last week Pittsburgh was up by three points in the fourth quarter, they rushed the punt, blocked it and ran it in for a touchdown. The reward is high, the risk is high.”

Let off the hook once, Fassel needs to be careful when taking his cues from Cowboys fans. Remember, they are the same people incessantly screaming for Jerry the owner to fire Jerry the GM.