DALLAS — When a team sells out to block a punt and succeeds, it can be a momentum changer, and it was in Week 9 on Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
Dallas Cowboys receiver Malik Turner blocked Denver Broncos punter Sam Martin's punt with 12:43 to go in the third quarter. Down 16-0, recovering the ball deep inside Denver's territory would have been the momentum Dallas needed to get back in the game.
Instead, the ball crossed the line of scrimmage and startled rookie cornerback Nahshon Wright, who was unable to come up with the possession after touching the ball. Jonas Griffith did for Denver, and, despite not crossing the 1st down marker, the drive continued.
According to Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel, who has a collection of 200 blocked punts in the last 10 years, such an occurrence has taken place just three times in the past decade.
"We talk about that, but it’s not something honestly that we talk about every week or every month," Fassel said. "It’s something that you cover early in the season. It’s a super rarity."
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told "Shan & RJ" on 105.3 "The Fan" [KRLD-FM] Tuesday that the rule is "odd" in that it "rewards the team that makes the bad play."
"I guess I knew the rule, but I’d never seen it applied when it applied to us," Jones said. "Under those circumstances, it’s a backbreaker. Again, what you’re looking for are those types of things that will switch that momentum. I call it ‘body language’ and that takes its toll."
Cowboys COO Stephen Jones, who is on the NFL's competition committee, anticipates that the rule will be discussed in the offseason when the league takes a look at amending the rules.
Said Jones: "Certainly it will come up and we’ll discuss it at length again and go back through the history of it and why we have it in and is there any reason to discuss a change in the rule. Obviously we were going through different machinations of this. We at least have to go past the first down marker or those types of things. But all those things are what you discuss in the offseason. Certainly applied the correct way and we have to accept that.”
What Fassel knows is that the special teams coordinators for the other 31 NFL teams will have a talk with their units about what to do in such a scarce situation.
"A lot of teams are looking at it and coaching their guys up on it," said Fassel. "Some of their guys are saying, ‘But, coach, what if I don’t know where I’m at when the ball is right on the line?’ The answer is probably attack the football, get a handle on it, get as many yards as you can and don’t lose possession if you recover it.
"I’d imagine that’s what we’d have told our guys.”
Dallas lost to the Broncos 30-16 and fell down as far as 30-0 in the fourth quarter. The loss moves the Cowboys to 6-2, but they still lead the NFC East and are in good position to fight for the No. 1 overall seed in the conference.
Do you think the punt rule should change or was the outcome just a rare fluke? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.