Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys’ Heath on holding penalty: ‘They made the right call’

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston fumbles the football while leaping for the goal line, but a holding call negated the Dallas Cowboys’ end-zone recovery.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston fumbles the football while leaping for the goal line, but a holding call negated the Dallas Cowboys’ end-zone recovery. AP

Jeff Heath answered every question, more than once. The third-year safety was among the last players to leave the locker room Sunday.

Despite the first multi-interception game of his career, Heath took the blame for the Cowboys’ loss, admitting he held.

“They made the right call,” Heath said.

The Cowboys momentarily thought they had stopped Jameis Winston on third-and-goal from the 4 with 59 seconds to play. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie quarterback couldn’t find an open receiver, and pressure from Greg Hardy forced him to scramble toward the goal line.

“Honestly, I messed up at the beginning,” linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “I was supposed to be spying him. He actually took off. I ran one way. He ran the other way. Someone hit him first, and I got there as the ball popped out.”

Dallas Cowboys are 2-7 and will need a miracle to make the playoffs (video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram).

Winston lost control of the football before he went airborne over the top of cornerback Tyler Patmon and before he crossed the goal line. Patmon and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence covered the loose ball in the end zone.

“I thought it was a fumble, so I just got on it,” Patmon said. “I was just thinking, ‘Get on the ball and make sure we get it.’ 

Heath saw the flag before most of his teammates. He was hoping for the best, but figured the worst.

“When I looked back, he kind of threw it by where he dove, so I thought it might have been something on that part of the field,” Heath said. “But ... I figured it was on me.”

Cowboys veteran DE Jeremy Mincey's team is tied for the fewest NFL wins with just two (video by Mac Engel/ Star-Telegram).

Replays showed officials could have called the Cowboys for any one of three defensive holding penalties on the play. Heath grabbed receiver Russell Shepard first, and then safety J.J. Wilcox latched on. Mike Evans also was held.

Heath, who had no holding calls before Sunday, was the player officials cited. It gave the Bucs a first down at the 1.

“Guys are all just running across the field,” Heath said. “We ended up kind of zoning it off. I don’t know. It happens kind of fast. I just saw a white jersey flash in front of me, and he felt open. I just ... I don’t know.

“I’ve got to move my feet better. I’ve got to play it better, play it different. It was kind of a reaction thing. I felt like he was running open in the end zone. I’ve just got to be more disciplined than that, especially in that situation.”

The Bucs scored the winning touchdown on the next play — a Winston bootleg around right end with 54 seconds remaining.

“We’ve got to do a better job trying not to hold when we play man-to-man — as a team,” Hitchens said.

Heath had a game to remember before the play to forget, intercepting Winston twice to thwart scoring opportunities for the Bucs.

Bryant met with reporters following the Cowboys' loss on Sunday in Tampa. Video by Drew Davison.

His first came late in the second quarter when he picked off Winston on a tipped ball at the 5-yard line after Tampa Bay had reached the Dallas 26. His second came midway through the fourth quarter when he caught a tipped ball at the Dallas 9 after the Bucs had reached the 23.

It marked the first two-interception game by a Dallas player since Bruce Carter had two at Washington last December. It was only the fifth and sixth takeaways for the Cowboys this season.

“Both of them happened in zone defense,” Heath said. “Everyone’s vision is on the quarterback. You can kind of tell when the ball’s a little off the mark. Those haven’t been going our way these last eight games, and they went our way today.

“We work on those all the time. We tip balls and those low ones, those are really tough to make plays on. So we work on it, and it’s just good to see that the work kind of paid off today.”

In the end, though, it was a footnote in yet another loss.

“At the end of the day, nothing came out of it, really,” Patmon said.

Star-Telegram columnist Mac Engel laments what is shaping up to be the worst season ever under Jerry Jones (video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram).

Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

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