It did not seem to matter that much at the time, but it turned out to be a major part of a game that the Dallas Cowboys went on to win over the New York Giants in the first game of the NFL season a week ago.
It cost Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith a fine of $15,750, as it turned out, but it will go down as one of the more worthwhile fines in franchise lore.
In a tight game, Smith chased down Giants linebacker Micahel Boley, who had intercepted a Tony Romo pass and horse-collared him to the ground at the 1 yard line, saving a touchdown.
It seemed inevitable that the Giants would pound it in for a touchdown. The Giants instead got the ball at the Cowboys 1, but the defense held, including stopping Ahmad Bradshaw to minus-3 yards on the first two runs from scrimmage.
Eli Manning’s pass fell incomplete on third down forcing the Giants to settle for a field goal.
“It’s a difference-making play in the ball game, to force an offense to say, ‘OK, you don’t have a touchdown; you’ve got to score from the 2-yard line,'” coach Jason Garrett said Monday.
“Our guys stepped up. I thought our run defense was outstanding. We knocked them back on the first play, knocked them back on the next play, forced them into a passing situation, and defended well on third down to hold them to a field goal. None of that happens if Tyron doesn’t make that play. So his hustle, his determination, his will, did a great job of carrying over the practice emphasis to the game.”
It also was an illegal tackle, hence the fine.
Buoyed by that play, Dallas went on to win 24-17.
Though the teams traded possessions several times in the quarter, the Cowboys eventually scored a touchdown, with Kevin Ogletree catching a 10-yard pass from Romo to take a 7-3 lead. Dallas went on from there, with Smith’s play – and the defense – the kick-start of a good night