When the Dallas Cowboys look over the tape from their 34-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers, they will probably ponder how the game could’ve gone differently if two crucial penalties weren’t called against them.
Brice Butler was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on Dallas’ second drive, which erased a 22-yard gain from a Dak Prescott pass to Terrance Williams.
“They brought in a two-receiver set on a substitution, and No. 19 [Butler] was one of those two players and came into the huddle, stayed in the huddle, then departed,” referee Tony Corrente said in a pool report after the game. “He was substituted for. He has to stay either in the game or they can call a timeout to get out of it. Of course, he went out. It’s not an obscure rule. It’s just part of the substitution mechanics and part of the substitution rule.”
Rather than facing a first-and-10 at Green Bay’s 15, Dallas encountered a second-and-20 from their own 48 and wound up punting instead of putting any points on the scoreboard. The Packers then proceeded to score a touchdown on the following drive, which gave Green Bay a sizable 14-3 lead.
“It ended up being about a 30- or 40-yard penalty,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Obviously we didn’t handle that situation well enough.”
For Garrett, who has been a coach since 2005, this was the first time he had witnessed the penalty called in his career.
During the fourth quarter of play, cornerback Anthony Brown, who played in place of Morris Claiborne, was hit with a pass interference call on Aaron Rodgers’ throw to Ty Montgomery on first-and-10 at Dallas’ 45. Corrente originally declared the penalty to be on safety Barry Church, who was nowhere near the action, but claimed he was told the wrong number.
Jeff Heath registered an interception from Rodgers on an overthrown pass, but the play was nullified due to the penalty. Four plays after the flag was thrown, Mason Crosby drilled a 56-yard field goal to give Green Bay a three-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
However, many people may wonder why a pass interference penalty was called instead of a hold, which would’ve given the Packers less free yards.
“The ball was in the air,” Corrente explained. “Once the ball is in the air, and he grabbed him, which normally would be a defensive holding, now becomes a pass interference. It prevented him from continuing down to make a play on the ball.”
Garrett wasn’t told much after the play, something he confirmed following the conclusion of the game.
“I didn’t get a real good explanation on that,” he said.