Cowboys say NFL acknowledged error on 2 tripping penalties against Patriots

Jori Epstein


Published 9: 01 PM EST Nov 25, 2019

FRISCO, Texas — The Cowboys followed up with the NFL after two of their offensive linemen were flagged for tripping in Sunday’s 13-9 loss to the Patriots.

The league’s stance: Center Travis Frederick and left tackle Tyron Smith should not have been flagged on the respective plays, said a member of the team with knowledge of the conversation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league had not addressed the matter.

The NFL did not immediately respond to a USA TODAY Sports request for comment.

Frederick was called for tripping Dont’a Hightower—the Patriots linebacker involved on both calls—on Dallas’ penultimate series. The Cowboys were driving downfield with 2 minutes to play, down 13-9, when Hightower dove between Frederick and right guard Zack Martin. The penalty yardage shifted what would have been a first-down conversion to a third-and-11 with 1: 25 to play at Dallas’ own 25.

Quarterback Dak Prescott missed receiver Randall Cobb on the ensuing play. On fourth-and-11, a 20-yard throw to Amari Cooper was reversed to a ruling of incomplete.

“Yeah, no real comment on that,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said at a Monday news conference when asked about tripping.

Smith was penalized for tripping with 3: 01 to play in the first quarter. The left tackle was engaging Patriots linebacker Shilique Calhoun from when Hightower barged at his right knee. The Cowboys’ second-and-13 became second-and-23, eventually leading to a fourth-and-12. The Patriots blocked that punt to set up the only touchdown at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

In 190 other games this season, seven tripping penalties were called. The NFL rulebook prohibits tripping, which it defines as “the use of the leg or foot to obstruct any opponent.” Prescott said he had never played in a game with two tripping flags.

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“I haven’t, no,” Prescott said Sunday night , adding the team has had calls against them “all season long.

“So it’s no surprise. It’s nothing new. As I’ve said before and I continue to say, I’m just going to play the play. That’s my job. I’ll let those guys do their job. And that’s for y’all to decide what they’re doing or not.”

The Cowboys rank among the top five most penalized teams in yardage. Only the Browns, Raiders, Jaguars and Jets have lost more yardage to penalties than Dallas’ 773 across 11 games.

“Obviously that’s not something you want to have,” Garrett said. “I think it’s important to evaluate what kind of penalties they are: If they’re penalties that are self-inflicted, if you will, pre-snap penalties, post-play penalties, you really have to make sure you address that. Sometimes penalties happen within a play that are going to happen if you’re going to be an aggressive, physical kind of a football team. You certainly want to keep those to a minimum as well. We try to address them as they come and if there’s some overarching theme, we have to make sure we have a focus on it to make sure we eliminate it.

“Because they impact the game.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein

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