The final game for the Cowboys was a failure of practice and execution


Getty Images

Ignore complaints from Cowboys coaches, players and fans about how officials handled the final play in Sunday’s 23-17 loss to the 49ers. The Cowboys have only themselves to blame.

They tried their luck. They made a calculated risk, multiple of them. They thought it would work. This was not the case.

It was great drama. It was a major thriller. And it proved that unlike the movies (where the stone door will never crush Indiana Jones’ forearm before he can grab his hat), the peril present in sporting events is real.

The Cowboys made it harder to move the last shot of the game from a slim prospect Hail Mary to five vertical hitting distance through a series of practice and/or execution failures.

First, the Cowboys knew or should have known that the umpire would be making a mad dash to spot the ball after the play. back and that the referee had to be ready to mount his horse?

It is not uncommon for teams to alert officials to matters of this nature, so that they are prepared to deal with the situation. If referee Ramon George had known a run was coming with a slide to cap it, he would have avoided the split second of “oh shit”, which could have been the difference between the clock having one second and no seconds. after the peak that followed. .

Second, Dak Prescott should have come down earlier. Instead of starting his slide at 26 (more on that in a moment), he should have started it at 30. This would have saved him time and reduced the distance George had to travel to spot the ball.

There is another less obvious advantage to being at 30 and not 24. With the end game starting at 24, it has become easier for the 49ers to defend the goal line and end zone. At 30, backing up too far would have given the Cowboys a chance to get off the dirt and try to run it, either with a fast guy cutting through the defense (like Tyreek Hill once in Dallas at the end of the first half) or with a hook-and-ladder style game (as the Cowboys had done earlier in practice).

Thing is, the extra six yards on 30-24 wouldn’t have made it easy to score a touchdown. It could have actually made things more difficult, for reasons other than the fact that they couldn’t get the ball broken and snagged with the previous game ending at 24.

Third, Prescott should have never, ever, ever given the ball to the center. Based on his postgame comments, it’s clear he was coached to do it that way, by head coach Mike McCarthy and/or offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.

McCarthy said Sunday they practice the game weekly. Well, they weren’t training enough. Or they weren’t doing it right. Prescott should have known to give the ball to the referee. Indeed, to practice the game properly, the Cowboys should have had someone acting as a referee, since what happens after the game is over is as important (if not more important) than what happens during the game. .

Fourth, Prescott and the other Cowboys had to realize that the referee had to get to the ball. Prescott was on the way. Other Cowboys were on the way. If they had practiced the game with someone refereeing, they would have known that George needed a clear path to the ball, so he could do his job before the next game started.

Fifth, the players should have understood that touching the ball by the referee is not a bizarre technical requirement. The referee spots the ball, not the attack. George, when he finally got to the ball, brought it back to a spot closer to the start of the slide, at 26. If he had spotted it correctly at 26 (forcing the Dallas offense to fall back even further) , the clock may have hit zero before the snapshot was even taken.

Sixth, Prescott could have (not should have, under any circumstances) realized he didn’t have time to get the snap and spike the ball. It could have (not should have) pivoted to another game. A false peak. A normal fall. A schoolyard, on-the-fly, chicken-salad effort to capture the uncertainty of the moment and keep the clock from hitting triple zeros between snap and spike.

The Cowboys were trying to thread a very fine needle on this one. Their whole season has rolled over it. This made it even more critical that every “i” was dotted, every “t” crossed out. Every detail has been planned and thought out.

From the snap, run, slide, scramble to spot the ball, line up for another play, to the next snap the ball and smash. Fourteen ticks. Every second counted. Every fraction of a second counted. The Cowboys failed to execute the play and its aftermath in a way that maximized the time remaining on the clock and minimized the chances that their last shot in the end zone would evaporate.

It’s on McCarthy. It’s on Moore. Officials did not screw them. The Cowboys knew the stakes, and they knew what had to happen (and not happen) to make sure time stayed on the clock.

Whatever they did to practice the piece, they didn’t do enough. Otherwise it would have worked. The Cowboys would have had another shot. They would have had one more chance to kick the ball into the end zone. They would have had one more opportunity to earn a ticket to a rematch of their week one barn burner in Tampa Bay.

Any effort to explain or understand what happened on the play must not focus on alleged failure by officials, but on flaws in planning, preparation and execution by the Cowboys.

Previous Disagreements over Delta 8 legality leave local stores in limbo
Next Star Wars Galactic Snackin Grogu is quite the cool toy