One play or one call wouldn’t have stopped the Denver Broncos from rolling over the Dallas Cowboys 42-17 on Sunday afternoon.
But the Cowboys weren’t pleased with a pivotal penalty called against them early in the second quarter. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was flagged for “leverage” on a Broncos’ 50-yard field goal attempt that resulted in a 15-yard penalty and automatic first down.
The Broncos capitalized by scoring a touchdown three players later for a 14-7 lead.
“I don’t think I did, but if the referee calls it, then we have to go with it,” Lawrence said.
A leverage penalty is called when a defensive player jumps or stands on a teammate or an opponent to block or attempt to block an opponent’s kick. Lawrence appeared to come down slightly on a Broncos lineman instead of going straight up in his attempt to block the kick.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the penalty is in place to cut down on injuries on field goal attempts, although he questioned the call.
“When I looked at it played back, I thought that was a reach,” Jones said. “I understand the area that they make those calls in, but I thought the call was a reach. And, of course, very punitive at the time. Now, as we look at the whole game in general, it wasn’t a game changer.”
That is true. The Cowboys’ offense went three-and-out on the next drive and the Broncos scored another touchdown to take a 21-7 lead. Denver never looked back after that.
But the penalty diminished what had been a solid defensive stand, particularly for Lawrence. On the play before being flagged, Lawrence registered his second sack of the day for a 13-yard loss on Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian.
“It was a big play, obviously,” coach Jason Garrett said. “They kicked a field goal. We held them to three [points] there and then they got another opportunity. It gave them a chance to score a touchdown and we didn’t make the stop that we needed to.”