FRISCO, Texas – John Fassel is well aware that the game failed.
But the coordinator of special teams in the Dallas Cowboys expressed no regret for calling an unusually timed punt-rush against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“The thought process was, I think Cowboys fans are not the play-it-safe type, so I would give them what they want,” Fassel said Monday after having the opportunity to watch movies from Dallas ’20 – 17 win. “Come after their ass on the punt rush. So I hope they are happy about it. We came after them. ”
The Chargers faced fourth and 20th on their 46-yard line as the 2-minute warning signaled that the break was near. Los Angeles striker Ty Long and his teammates on the field took the field. The Cowboys’ special teams unit lined up in front of them. With the clock showing 80 minutes played, a great pass from the defensive line of Longboys resulted in a counterattack that was smoothly brought under control by Cedrick Wilson in the center of the opposition’s penalty area, but his finish went high. Defensive end Azur Kamara, who made his NFL debut, swarmed from the left end. Kamara entangled with Charger’s linebacker Kyzir White, with White pulling him down when Kamara hit Long.
An official waving 20 flags during the day punished Kamara for grossly kicking.
CBS chief color analyst and former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo joked about the Chargers’ happiness.
“It’s almost like, ‘Hey, I want you to hardly get it off and get the punishment for us,'” Romo said. “Take a beating. It will help the team. ”
Fassel defended his decision, citing a point 1 that the Steelers blocked in the fourth quarter against the bills. A pair of Steelers special team players played a team of 23 yards back to extend their lead to 20-10 in that game. Pittsburgh eventually won 23-16.
“Every time you hurry, there’s a risk,” Fassel said. “Last week, Pittsburgh was up by three points in the fourth quarter, they rushed to hit, blocked it and ran it in for a touchdown. The rewards are high, the risk is high. ”
Fassel said he does not care about potential gross-kicker penalty situations, nor does he think Kamara’s pursuit deserved the call. The Cowboys submitted ties to the league for further review.
“I’m still not so sure we’d actually roughed him out,” Fassel said. “We could go to the tape, sit down and watch. Tell me if it’s rough. I’m biased, but I think the TV copy shows a pretty good copy of something else. … It was a train wreck at the block site. But what I got on film was their number 40 hooked Kamara and pulled him back in the punter.
“You can make a big deal, it held, or the punter hit his own block.”
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The point rush, with possession at stake and the Cowboys holding on to a weak three-point lead approaching halftime, was not out of the ordinary for a special team coach eager to play. Fassel said the game was his decision, not head coach Mike McCarthys. Is McCarthy familiar with the risk?
“I want to say yes with a star,” Fassel said. “I think he was ok with us following the game plan and coming after them. Probably sorry we have rough them. Or that they called roughing. ”
The Cowboys eventually escaped unscathed from the drive when Los Angeles kicker Tristan Vizcaino missed a 44-yard field goal 7 seconds before the break. Dallas’ special teams unit blinked its value further as Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein scored a battle-winning 56-yard field goal as time went on.
Expect Fassel to continue game planning risks, even though head coaches like McCarthy have at times turned him on to liberal game plans. How often has his head coach asked him what the heck he was thinking?
“Oh, a lot,” Fassel said. I also got a head coach to jump around my neck and hit me in the gut and say “hell to a job” when we blocked it. … Part of our game plan was to get after them with a really aggressive mindset.
“Give Cowboys fans something they’re looking for.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein