One of the NFL’s most obscure rules could have given the Cowboys a shot at three points at the end of the first half today in Dallas, but the Cowboys may not have known about it.
The NFL has a little-known rule called the fair catch free kick which allows a team to fair catch a punt and then line up to kick the ball on the next play, without the defense able to rush and block the kick. If the ball goes through the uprights, it’s three points, just like a field goal.
The first half ended with Cole Beasley fair catching a punt at his own 37-yard line. That would have allowed Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey to come out and attempt a kick from the 37, which would translate to a 73-yard field goal.
That might sound like an impossible field goal, given that the NFL record is 64 yards. But on a fair catch free kick, the opposing team isn’t able to attempt to block the kick. So a kicker can kick the ball on a lower trajectory, which allows the ball to travel farther.
It’s not at all uncommon for kickoffs to go through the uprights in the NFL, and kickoffs are from the 35-yard line. With two extra yards, from the 37-yard line, Bailey might have been able to make it. The Cowboys should have tried it.
So why didn’t they? Coach Jason Garrett and his staff might have been worried that the kick would come up short and the Packers would return it for a touchdown. But it’s probably just that the Cowboys didn’t think of it. It’s such an obscure rule that even NFL coaches don’t know it.