IRVING, Texas –The Cowboys entered last week’s game against Philadelphia having allowed just 99 yards on 18 punt returns all season.
Damaris Johnson ruined what had been a stellar season for the punt return unit with a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter for the Eagles’ final score. It tied for the longest the Cowboys have ever given up. Terance Mathis had a 98-yarder for the New York Jets on Nov. 4, 1990.
The previous long punt return allowed by the Cowboys this year was 21 yards.
So what happened?
“We were going to directionally kick in that situation and Line One in that situation is don’t get the thing blocked,” coach Jason Garrett said. “So the protection is first and foremost and the punter needs to catch the thing and punt it and get it out of there as quickly as he can. We wanted to punt that thing out of bounds. Unfortunately, we didn’t. It was long and high and deep right down the middle, the classic ‘outkick your coverage.’ The punt wasn’t good enough. It was not where we wanted the punt to be, and Brian (Moorman) knows that. We talked to him about that. And the other part about that is even though the coverage was outkicked, we didn’t tackle very well on the play. Guys had opportunities to make tackles and we didn’t make them and that was an important play in the ballgame. It gave them a chance with under a minute to go to get back in the game. We did a good job of handling the hands’ team. (Jason Witten) did a good job, the protection in front of him was good so we were able to ice the game at that point. That punt return should not have happened, and there were a lot of different reasons for it.”