LANDOVER, Md. – In 14 seasons and 212 career games, L.P. Ladouceur has never changed his pre-snap routine.
That's why the Cowboys' veteran long snapper was dumbfounded by his 5-yard 'snap infraction' penalty prior to Brett Maher's 47-yard field goal try that could have tied the game in Sunday's 20-17 loss to the Washington Redskins.
The penalty pushed Maher's attempt back to 52 yards, and his kick bounced off the left upright as time expired.
After the game, the NFL (@NFLOfficiating) tweeted this explanation of the rule: "Illegal ball movement by the center … causes the defense to come across the neutral zone and contact a lineman."
Replays showed multiple Redskins linemen jumping across the line of scrimmage early. But Ladouceur was adamant that he didn't manipulate the ball to draw Washington offsides.
"I just adjusted it down so put get hands on the bottom of it and snap it in the right direction," he said. "The exact same thing I've been doing for 14 years."
Ladouceur's understanding of the rule is there should be no infraction "as long as I don't pick up the ball. And the ball was on the ground the whole time.
"I put one hand on the ball, two hands on the ball, I lay it down so I can snap it. That's it. I don't do anything different."
The refs thought otherwise. Maher, who had made 16 straight attempts since Week 2 – including a 55-yarder a week earlier against Jacksonville – didn't have quite enough leg on the 52-yard try after the penalty.
"It felt like I just pulled it a little bit and maybe the wind caught it a little on the way down and hit the upright," he said.
"That penalty had zero impact on the result of that kick, I can promise you that. L.P. and (holder/punter) Chris (Jones), like they've done all year, they've made my job easy and it was the same in that situation. I felt like I was very capable of making that kick. Just didn't get it done."
Teammates defended Maher and Ladouceur afterward, blaming a collective slow start that forced them into catch-up mode late in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys trailed 20-10 with five minutes left in regulation after Washington sacked Dak Prescott and recovered his fumble for a touchdown.
"Nothing from the end of the game is why we lost this game. It was everything early," wide receiver Cole Beasley said. "Penalties killed us, and just getting behind the chains."
Ladouceur has been a model of consistency since joining the Cowboys early in the 2005 season, making the Pro Bowl in 2014. The 37-year-old literally has not had a bad snap in 14 seasons.
"It sucks," he said. "It should've been in overtime. And we're going home (Monday with a loss)."