One of the fun things about going back and looking over Cowboys games is that you occasionally come across these great moments in the game. I don’t mean huge plays or amazing athleticism. I mean moments that give a glimpse into what goes on under the surface. The constant one-upmanship and struggle that goes on away from the ball on every play in the NFL, and just how far these guys push their craft to the edge.
I found one such moment in last Sunday’s victory by Dallas over Washington and I thought I’d share it with you all. When Travis Frederick was called for holding, negating a 16-yard scramble for a first down by Dak Prescott, I felt sure the call was completely bogus. Being in my usual, charitable mood, I assigned the error to simply calling the wrong player's number and moved on.
Here we see Dallas lined up in shotgun with everyone but Lance Dunbar split out. The Redskins actually have a four-man front, with a fourth rusher (an OLB) lined up at the red arrow, just outside of and behind Ryan Kerrigan. They are also showing blitz with their safety.
The safety runs with Dunbar all the way. Kerrigan slants inside to Zack Martin and Doug Free is left on the other OLB. Travis Frederick and La’el Collins are initially doubling the nose.
Frederick handles his man so well that Collins looks elsewhere for something to do. The line has won this battle handily, but everyone is well covered downfield.
Dak begins to flee the pocket. La’el Collins is in perfect position to pick up the NT and keep him clean out of the play. All he has to do is move forward and take him on.
A few things happen at once, but none of them is La’el Collins moving a muscle. This is bad because Frederick has, as you can clearly see, gone for a little free tug on Chris Baker (the NT in question). It’s not a big tug, and Frederick is merely trying to get a little cheat in on Baker before Collins takes him over. If Collins moves in at all, the referee is completely shielded from this and can’t see the grab.
But because Collins does nothing it’s out there for the ref to see easily. Baker clearly has some experience playing soccer because he dramatically waves his arms and flops to the ground as if Frederick has just shoved a knife into his kidney. Out comes the flag.
It’s really kind of a dumb penalty because it didn't affect the play very much and Baker really didn’t have much chance to make this play. But Collins really causes it by failing to notice that Baker is heading outside and that this means (a) Fredrick won’t be able to keep him under control and (b) Dak is likely taking off in that direction.
And thus a drive was killed. Hopefully Dallas will clean up it’s act a bit and be able to cheat just a little better next time.