Spagnola: Talking The Worst Kind Of Snap Decision


LANDOVER, Md. – Snap Infraction!

Snap Infraction?

Are you kidding me?

         The line judge 30 yards away from L.P. Ladouceur, standing at the line of scrimmage on the Cowboys sideline threw his flag? From that far away? When there are three officials infinitely closer than he was, one just 8 yards away peering right in on Ladouceur, the referee behind the Cowboys line about 10 yards back and another to the other side of him roughly 13 yards away?

None of them threw a flag when Redskins rookie DT Daron Payne clearly jumped offside before Ladouceur could snap the ball for kicker Brett Maher's 47-yard field-goal attempt to tie the game at 20 and send this game at FedEx Field into overtime.

But no, the flag comes in from 30 yards away, certainly offsides, Redskins. Add 5 yards and Maher is attempting a much more makeable 42-yard field goal with just 3 seconds.

Ha! After the three-man huddle-up, this comes from head referee John Hussey, "Snap infraction," on the Cowboys, 5-yard penalty.


Snap infraction at that time of the game? With overtime looming? Did the guy have to catch a flight home that night a 10-minute overtime might have disrupted? Was getting to 60 Minutes that important since this Cowboys-Redskins matchup for the first time since 1993 was on CBS this day?

Now, we've become familiar with accusations of "fake news" from this part of the country the past couple of years. But now fake penalties, too?

So instead of the ball advancing 5 yards forward for offside Redskins, it marches 5 yards backward, from the 'Skins 28 to the 33.  Maher, who had made 16 consecutive field goals, now is facing a 52-yarder with a weird wind blowing all day long.

        Of course, the ball started hooking left, and by the time it traveled 52 yards, hits the upright, just 6-5/8 inches off the mark.

        Game over. Redskins win, 20-17, breaking a four-game losing streak to the Cowboys and a five-game losing streak to the Cowboys at FedEx. They go to 4-2 and remain in first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys go to 3-4, losing their fourth straight road game, and into a second-place tie with the Philadelphia Eagles, both two games in the loss column behind Washington.

What a way to go into your bye.

Over the past 30 years I've seen some weird things happen in this longtime rivalry. I've seen some finishes stretching the boundaries of believability. But this one takes the ever-loving cake for finishes. Especially that call in this situation.

"Nope, never before," said Ladouceur, a 14-year veteran with the Cowboys, when asked if he had ever been called for a snap infraction previously.

How about you Maher? You've been kicking for a long time, even if it's been in the CFL? You ever seen one of those?

"I don't think I have," Maher said.

And you, Chris Jones, the seventh-year punter/holder?

"Not sure what they saw or what they think they saw," Jones said. "And it certainly wasn't a situation where we're trying to draw anyone offsides."

And finally, you, Jason Garrett. You've been in the league 28 years? How many times have you seen that called?

"I can't think of … I don't know," he said, trying to be a nice as possible, although his face beet red in defeat. "Once, twice? Not very often."

If you look at the play closely, Ladouceur has his right hand on the ball, is adjusting his grip with the back point of the ball resting on the ground. Moves the point a time or two, as usual, but never picks the ball off the ground.

Then, as long snappers do, he moves his left hand onto the ball and leans the ball forward, also as long snappers do, to adjust to the proper trajectory. And seems as though as soon as he put his left hand on the ball, Payne jumps in anticipation of the snap about to happen.       

No matter what the NFL Tweeted out, the ball never moved. Go ahead and compare his setup to the setup for his two extra points and his other field goal.

To me, this must have been an illusion.

Credit Maher for being a standup guy, saying "(L.P) is getting pounded on it, but it's my job to kick it wherever it is."

And just like that, with one kick, what might have been a character-builder for the Cowboys, nearly scoring 10 points in the final 4:55 of the game to get to overtime, now goes down as just another loss.

Hey, we realize this game did not only turn on one play. But darn it, the Cowboys finished with 323 total yards, their most in four road games, and 18 more than Washington. Dak Prescott threw for a season-high 273 yards, 95 more than his Redskins counterpart, Alex Smith, and recorded a road-high 96.5 passer rating. Michael Gallup had three catches for 81 yards, both career highs, including his first NFL touchdown on a 49-yard jaunt.

         And look, I know this is nothing to write home about, but the offense scored a season-high 17 points on the road. Hey, they were only averaging 12.3 in the previous three road losses.

        And the defense? It sure didn't seem so great with Adrian Peterson running for 99 yards on 24 carries, causing Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to say, "A great running back, as advertised." And the fact that those guys only had one sack and leaked that 23-yard Kapri Bibbs touchdown on a screen pass.

        But come on, the defense is only charged with giving up 13 points, a total definitely worthy of a W, and the fewest that group has allowed on the road this year.

         Meaning the difference in this game comes down to basically three plays: A holding call on rookie Connor Williams that wiped out a 16-yard completion to Cole Beasley that would have moved the ball to the Cowboys' 36-yard line, but instead the 10 yards backing the ball up to third-and-14 at the 10.

And you know what happened next. Ryan Kerrigan records the sack/fumble with Prescott straining to get out of the end zone, knowingly holding the ball too long in that situation. Preston Smith will never score an easier TD, picking up the loose ball at the 1 and stepping into the end zone for what seemed to be a put-away touchdown, giving the Redskins a 20-10 lead with 9:46 to play in the fourth quarter.

(All reminiscent of Washington's 20-17 victory over the Cowboys in 1992, when Troy Aikman had the ball knocked out of his hands in the end zone, and then so did Emmitt Smith trying to recover the ball, leading to the Redskins' recovery for the go-ahead touchdown at RFK with 3:14 left to play when a Cowboys victory would have clinched the NFC East title in Game 14.)  

Then, of course, the phantom call at the bitter end, leaving this team stewing now for two weeks.

But as DeMarcus Lawrence says, "3-4 doesn't define the team we have. Screw it, just stay tuned."

OK, will do. No sense making any, uh, snap decision just yet.