Skip to main content

Fassel Turning Around More Than Opposing Punts


FRISCO, Texas – If you're just looking at a 12-month calendar, it doesn't seem like Sept. 19 was too long ago.

But in terms of an NFL season, as we get ready for Week 11, that seems like a lifetime ago.

And to special teams coach John Fassel, it probably was.

If you remember that Week 2 game against the Chargers, Fassel and his special teams units received a healthy share of criticism after the punt block team was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for aggressively trying to block a punt that gave Los Angeles a first down before the half.

While the Cowboys were able to overcome that penalty and eventually win the game, the overall view of the special teams wasn't too favorable.

And here we are, two months later and the Cowboys have now blocked three punts, including two in the last two games.

Not since 1991 have the Cowboys blocked three punts in one season. And since the NFL technically has Dallas as blocking two this year – not crediting the deflection by Malik Turner in the Denver game as a block because the ball went across the line of scrimmage – it's been since 1992 since the Cowboys have blocked two in a season.

So either way, it's been a while since the punt return team has been this effective.

To Fassel, he said the recent success is more a product of efficiency, rather than a bigger focus in making plays.

"We're not out there trying to manufacture or force big plays," said Fassel, who joined the Cowboys last season. "We just go in with what we think is a pretty simple and sound game plan and the guys have done a good job executing. It's really not much more complicated than that. I think every game is new, and one of our mojos last week was spaceships don't have rearview mirrors. So, that was something that will be a part of this week because Kansas City is really good on special teams."

And on the flip side, the Chiefs have to be saying the same, if not more, about the Cowboys, who have blocked three punts in their last four games.

It started at the Patriots on Oct. 17 when linebacker Luke Gifford broke free to block a punt in the second quarter. And then against the Broncos, Turner went straight up the middle and got his shoulder on the kick, but the ball went forward and into the hands of rookie Nahshon Wright, who didn't catch the ball so it went back over to the Broncos in a rare play that has the Cowboys even wondering if that should be the proper NFL rule, considering the ball never traveled far enough for the needed first-down yardage.

But last week, Dorance Armstrong – again coming from the middle of the line – blocked the punt against Atlanta. The ball rolled backwards this time into the end zone, where Wright was once again around the ball and pounced on it for a touchdown.

"You can't make this up," Fassel said of Wright getting to redeem himself. "For him to find the ball again, you know just shows he has a little nose for the ball."

Not only was it the first touchdown by the Cowboys off a blocked punt since 2015, but it was also the first time they capitalized with points this year off a blocked punt.

And Fassel's play, and his always cheerful attitude and spirit, is something that has been noticed by everyone, starting at the top.

"His enthusiasm is contagious, which is a big thing around special teams," Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "The special teams coach touches more of your players, other than the head coach, than anybody because he gets them from both sides of the ball, offense and defense, and gets so many of them. His enthusiasm for the game, his zest for the positive is very important to a team. And he's as good as anybody I've ever seen. I've also never seen a special teams coach that didn't want to put his fingerprint more on the outcome of the game."

Right now, the Cowboys lead the NFL in total offense. The defense ranks fourth in the league in takeaways.

But the special teams have been special in their own right. Especially when the opponent lines up for a punt.

Related Content