The Cowboys were called for eight penalties on Sunday, but only one of them managed to turn into a controversy, and that was the flag that was thrown on long snapper L.P. Ladouceur with just three seconds left in the game.
With the Redskins up 20-17, Cowboys kicker Brett Maher lined up for a 47-yard field goal. However, before he could attempt the kick, one of the officials threw a flag. Although it appeared that the Redskins might have jumped offsides, the call on the field was a snap infraction by Ladouceur. The penalty moved the Cowboys back five yards and forced Maher to attempt his game-tying field goal from 52 yards away.
The penalty ended up being huge, because Maher's kick hit the left upright and likely would have gone in if he had attempted it from 47 yards.
After the penalty was called, a lot of fans on Twitter felt that the Cowboys got screwed.
Cowboys got screwed on that field goal penalty haha— Cody Halsey (@ForgetfulCody8) October 21, 2018
Due to the controversial nature of the play, the NFL didn't waste any time explaining the situation. Almost as soon as the game ended, the NFL's vice president of officiating, Al Riveron, sent out a tweet explaining why Ladouceur was called for a snap infraction.
As you'll see in the video below, Ladouceur made a subtle movement with the ball, which is why the flag was thrown.
"The illegal ball movement by the center causes the defense to come across the neutral zone and contact a lineman," Riveron wrote.
Generally, you won't see a penalty called when the long snapper subtly moves the ball like that on a field goal. However, if the movement causes the defense to jump, then the official has to throw the flag. The one thing about this penalty is that long snappers move the ball into position all the time before they snap it, but officials rarely throw a flag. The decision to call a penalty on Ladouceur could set a bad precedent. If a defender sees a long snapper move the ball into a snapping position, the defender could jump offsides knowing the long snapper is the one who's going to get flagged.
Of course, it's not the ref's fault that the Cowboys lost this game. If Cowboys fans want to blame someone, they should probably look at Jason Garrett, who made several questionable decisions over the final minutes of the game.
After a nine-yard catch by Cole Beasley, the Cowboys had the ball on Washington's 37-yard line with one timeout and 52 seconds left to play. Instead of going for a touchdown, the Cowboys ran two plays, gained just six yards, spent their timeout and set up their rookie kicker for a difficult field goal from 47 yards out, which became 52 yards after the penalty was called on Ladouceur.