Saturday, July 2, 2022

Cowboys’ Bryan Anger explains ‘unfortunate’ fake punt sequence in wild card loss to 49ers

ARLINGTON, Texas — There’s some very real anger emanating from within the Dallas Cowboys organization at the moment. But the one stitched to the back of their punter’s jersey is productive, because Bryan Anger has been one of the most consistent weapons for the team over the course of the season and during their eventual playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Super Wild Card Weekend. Anger, who earned second-team All-Pro honors in his first year in Dallas, found himself tasked with not only trying to constantly flip field position, but also to show off his arm talent a bit on Sunday.

So when special teams coordinator John “Bones” Fassel employed his usual aggressiveness and called a fake punt on fourth-and-5 in the fourth quarter with the Cowboys losing by 23-7, Anger understood the assignment — lobbing a complete pass to fellow special teams ace C.J. Goodwin for the first down. But in the spirit of the Cowboys’ high number of unfathomable errors, what happened next was one of the strangest things you’ll ever see on an NFL field.

The punting unit didn’t leave the field. They instead stayed put while Dak Prescott and the offense were held to the sideline. The official then threw away the ball used for punting and replaced it with another (not unusual) but would then not allow the Cowboys to snap the ball — presumably actually setting up to call a first-down play with Anger as the actual QB and the special teams unit as the offense. The play clock was ticking the entire time and, eventually, the Cowboys frantically pulled the special teams unit from the field and sent Prescott and Co. in to try and save the down.

They couldn’t, however, in part because of their own initial decision and in part because by the time Prescott and the offense were set, the official was still in between the QB and center just before the clock hit zero — the Cowboys then suffering a delay of game penalty. Take another look at it below, and you’ll see just how ridiculous it all truly was.

For his part, Anger says there was a reason the offense wasn’t immediately sent back in. At best, they were hoping to catch the 49ers in a penalty that would’ve further extended the drive or, at worst, they were actually going to run another play — Fassel having been given the green light by head coach Mike McCarthy to do so in that situation.

“We’re supposed to run the play,” Anger said following the game. “They can’t sub — since we didn’t sub anybody off the field. They should’ve called [it]. The ref stood over the ball, and we should’ve snapped the ball and had 15 people on the field because they subbed. Kind of unfortunate.”

Yes, on all fronts, it was exactly that for the Cowboys: unfortunate. The added five-yard penalty pushed the Cowboys to first-and-15 and they’d quickly stall en route to settling for a Greg Zuerlein field goal, dampening a potential momentum shift for Dallas. That said, out of sheer morbid curiosity, what was the play they were going to run, if given the chance?

“I won’t say,” Anger added. “We’ll run it later, probably. We’re going to run a play there with the punt return team on the field. It would’ve been good.”

It appears the Cowboys didn’t get the memo though, because now there is no later. There is only the offseason, something that arrived much sooner than the team anticipated or planned for. 

“Very shocking. It ended too soon,” said Anger. “We’ve been playing great ball. It’s been a privilege to work with Bones, and our special teams has been amazing. This is the funnest year I’ve had, as a team. It sucks to end.”

Anger also had another quirky moment when one of his punts hit the scoreboard, but maybe he did it to remind the offense it was still up there and operational, seeing as the Cowboys weren’t doing much to put any points on it. But that’s all now a problem for another day, and that day won’t come again until they kick the ball off in September. 

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