Cowboys T La'el Collins ejected for punch, praised by Mike McCarthy for protecting Dak Prescott

Will Bradley-King got a clean look at Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott on Sunday. He took his shot. La'el Collins wasn't having it.

With 10:41 left in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-20 win over the Washington Football Team, Prescott rolled to the right sideline to escape pressure on a pass play. Bradley-King gave chase and shoved Prescott near the sideline after he released a pass to Amari Cooper. It was a legal hit by the Washington linebacker, but it sent Prescott tumbling into traffic near the Cowboys bench.

Collins, charged with protecting Prescott as Dallas' right tackle, carried on with his duties after the whistle. After running back Ezekiel Elliott pushed Bradley-King away from his quarterback, Collins met him face first with a shove and a right hook.

The scuffle quickly died down as players were separated. But the damage was done. Officials ejected Collins and penalized the Cowboys 15 yards, setting them up with third-and-23 and an eventual punt while leading 27-8.

Washington scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession and another on a Cole Holcumb pick-six to cut the Cowboys' lead to 27-20. But the Cowboys quelled the comeback to hang on for the win and ensure that Collins' penalty didn't cost them in the long run.

LANDOVER, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 12: Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys looks on against the Washington Football Team during the third quarter at FedExField on December 12, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Mike McCarthy voiced his support after La'el Collins stood up for Dak Prescott. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

McCarthy: Collins 'did exactly what you're supposed to do'

After the game, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy praised Collins for protecting Prescott.

"LC did exactly what you’re supposed to do there," McCarthy told reporters. He later returned to the podium to clarify that he didn't know about Collins' punch when he initially addressed his ejection.

McCarthy's overall point stands. Cowboys players declined to respond last season to a dirty hit on quarterback Andy Dalton by Washington linebacker Jon Bostic. He struck a different tone after that game — a 25-3 loss — calling out his players for not protecting their quarterback.

“We speak all the time about playing for one another, respecting one another,” McCarthy said last season. “That was definitely probably not the response you would expect.”

That 2020 loss was the second of a four-game losing streak in a season that started with Super Bowl hopes and ended 6-10 and out of the playoffs. This year's version of the Cowboys has a stranglehold on the NFC East at 9-4 after Sunday's win. Meanwhile, they're not standing for any shots deemed as cheap on their franchise quarterback.