January 16, 2017


How the Dallas Cowboys blew it (Chris Chase, Jan. 15th, 2017, Fox)

Late in the game, with Dallas trailing by three, Dak Prescott hit Jason Witten for an 11-yard gain to set up first-and-10 at the Green Bay 40 with 49 seconds left and the Cowboys holding one timeout. They had enough time and downs to do what they wanted. But when Prescott took the first-down snap, he spiked the ball to stop the clock. The ripple effect was subtle but undeniable.

You kill the clock when there's no other option. You don't kill the clock when you have plenty of time to run plays and downs are your most precious commodity. Yet the Cowboys -- down three and in field-goal range -- wasted one of their three offensive downs because they didn't want to take a few more seconds to call a play. They killed a clock that wasn't close to killing them. It had a multi-pronged effect:

1. Dallas would only have two plays to make a first down because, barring a sack, it would have to attempt the game-tying field goal on fourth down. When you have first down why do you intentionally make it second?

2. The spike cut down the chances of an Ezekiel Elliott run on the next two plays. A handoff to Zeke should have been called on first down, and if his 5.7-yards per carry were any indication that could have put Dallas in a position to run any number of plays on second or third. Instead, Elliott didn't get the ball again and Dallas had to kick. Elliott getting only 22 carries against a Packers defense unable to stop him was practically criminal. If he'd had 30, that defense might have collapsed unto itself. Instead, the Cowboys passed eight more times than they ran, a situation brought on by the deficit but exacerbated by a lack of guts and imagination. Prescott was great, Dez Bryant played one of his best games, and the Packers corners couldn't hang. But Zeke was the force behind all of it. Once the ball was taken out of his hands, Green Bay's defense stiffened.

3. And then there was the ultimately crippling effect. When a team's down in a game it's easy to say it should do this or that with the clock. Don't score too early! Let some time run off! (Don't spike it!) But that's hindsight stuff. In the moment, you have to worry about getting your points. Since the Cowboys' worry was in stopping the clock with 49 seconds left, when the second- and third-down plays both stopped the clock there was still 35 seconds left after Dan Bailey kicked his game-tying field goal.

Of course, they should have been trying to win the game outright, instead of playing for a tie, anyway.
Posted by at January 16, 2017 6:09 AM