Thu, 28 Jan 2021

Fassel: Fake Would Have Worked Earlier In Game

Dallas Cowboys
28 Nov 2020, 19:24 GMT+10

The unsuccessful 4th-and-10 fake punt that changed the course of the Cowboys' Thanksgiving loss to the Washington Football Team might have looked like genius.

In fact, it probably would have...if it had been called earlier in the game, based on the way Washington played it, according to special teams coordinator John Fassel.

Washington had sent their cornerback to run with the gunner on the Cowboys' previous punt. That would have been "the ideal look" for the fake punt that went so disastrously. The notion that Washington would again send their cornerback with C.J. Goodwin was a key expectation for the play's successful execution in the fourth quarter.

But this time Washington switched things up. "They changed their play call from the first look to the next one," Fassel said in hindsight.

The unsuccessful 4th-and-10 fake punt that changed the course of the Cowboys' Thanksgiving loss to the Washington Football Team might have looked like genius.

In fact, it probably would have...if it had been called earlier in the game, based on the way Washington played it, according to special teams coordinator John Fassel.

Washington had sent their cornerback to run with the gunner on the Cowboys' previous punt. That would have been "the ideal look" for the fake punt that went so disastrously. The notion that Washington would again send their cornerback with C.J. Goodwin was a key expectation for the play's successful execution in the fourth quarter.

But this time Washington switched things up. "They changed their play call from the first look to the next one," Fassel said in hindsight.

"[Washington] played a little more of a zone defense [on the fake attempt]," Fassel said. "They cut our gunner loose and the corner just sat there and zoned it where we were trying to throw the ball to."

What looked like a butchered play was actually run the way it was supposed to be run. "It was calculated," Fassel said. "It wasn't sloppy."

Cedrick Wilson was given the ball on the fake punt with the plan of throwing it, but he was put in a nearly impossible position when Washington had his first option clearly covered. With no realistic options to pass it, he settled for what Fassel deemed "the emergency option" and tried to run with the ball. He was tackled for a 1-yard loss, 11 yards shy of a first down.

On one hand, you could call it bad luck that Washington guessed the right coverage for the type of play design Dallas had planned, but Fassel also admitted that Dallas had been getting "a lot of unpredictable looks" in the special teams coverages they've faced this season. That's likely due to Fassel's tendency to call fake plays. Washington may well have been switching up their coverages with the hope of possibly luring Dallas into an untenable fake attempt.

"If we had run it the first time they wouldn't have been able to stop it," Fassel claimed. "But we didn't call it [then.]"

From Fassel's vantage point, the momentum-altering play was really pretty simple in hindsight. "Their corner sat. It comes down to that. He didn't run with the gunner. We anticipated the corner running with C.J. [Goodwin].

Any good gambler isn't big on regrets, and Fassel wouldn't take back the call, as surprising as that may sound. "I've sat here before on games we've lost and been like 'Damn, we should have called it,' because maybe we would have won."

The play might have worked the first time. But the Cowboys have hung a lot of losses this year on "what-ifs."

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