When is blocking a punt a bad thing? When an obscure rule allows the kicking team to keep the ball.
The Cowboys, of course, were involved in one of the most infamous plays in NFL history on a snowy Thanksgiving Day in 1993. Leon Lett tried to recover a blocked field goal in the waning seconds, allowing the Dolphins another opportunity to kick the game-winner after they recovered the touched ball.
On Sunday, Cowboys receiver Malik Turner blocked the kick of Broncos punter Sam Martin after Denver went three-and-out on its first possession of the second half. It briefly seemed like a momentum swing, giving the Cowboys a short field after trailing 16-0 at halftime.
“I’ve got about 200 punt blocks on tape over the last 10 years, and this is only the third time I’ve seen it,” Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel said, via David Helman of the team website.
“It” was rookie cornerback Nahshon Wright touching the ball beyond the line of scrimmage as he tried to catch the blocked kick. Denver linebacker Jonas Griffith recovered the ball.
Instead of the Cowboys having the ball at the Denver 19, the Broncos kept the ball. The Broncos ended up with a field goal on the drive, deflating the Cowboys’ comeback hopes.
Wright’s touch, because it was beyond the line of scrimmage, was a muff by rule. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones called it a “tough rule.”
“You’d like to see the rule change,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “But what are going to do?”
Fassel did not blame Wright for trying to catch the blocked kick. It merely was wrong place, wrong time and that kind of day for the Cowboys.
“The ball got blocked right to him, so of course he’d try and handle it,” Fassel said. “I said a million out of a million times, if the ball got blocked right to me I would, too. Because you really lose a sense of exactly where the line of scrimmage was.”