Jerry Jones wasn’t happy with Jason Garrett’s playcalling late in the game against New England, according to Mike Silver of Yahoo Sports. First, the Cowboys settled for a field goal when the game was tied at 13-13 with about 6 minutes left. You can second guess any play, and I don’t think there was a problem with any one specific play call in a vacuum, but the whole sequence felt very conservative, and they ran an inside shovel pass that was shut down right away on third and goal from the 5.
“When you get in a situation like that, you’ve got to go for the kill,” Jones told Y! Sports shortly before leaving the Cowboys’ locker room. “I felt like we could’ve been more aggressive. Our defense had been good all day, but you knew Brady had a length-of-the-field drive in him – so it didn’t surprise me at all when he took them down at the end.”
After the Dallas defense had forced a punt, Dallas got the ball back with 3:36 remaining, and with New England having all three timeouts. Every situation is different, but I don’t see how this situation favors being conservative. The Cowboys had struggled to run all day, and Felix Jones was already lost to an ankle injury. The biggest matchup advantage in this game was the Dallas passing offense against the New England pass defense, and this would be a situation where the Patriots would overplay against the run. Oh, and Tom Brady was on the other side. I know that the Cowboys had success in limiting Brady in this game, but as we saw (once again), you give a great quarterback another chance, and you pay.
The Cowboys weren’t going to bleed enough clock/timeouts to provide a strategic advantage without picking up a first down. Getting the ball back with 2:31, a timeout, and the two minute warning wasn’t going to bother Brady, needing a field goal to tie. The Cowboys ran it three straight times, losing yards each time (a penalty on third down pushed them back further). I think the mistake was not to pass on either first or second down.
My impression of Garrett so far is that he can be conservative. I thought he was very conservative, for example, in last year’s Thanksgiving game against the Saints, settling for field goals in what turned out to be a close loss. I know you will say “Tony Romo“. Yes, Romo had a bad game against Detroit in the second half–those interceptions came much earlier in the half and you are not going to run it every down. Yes, he has made some errors. Looking at his career, though, he’s also made a lot of good plays, game winning plays in the fourth quarter, and you may be surprised to know that he has the highest yards per attempt of any quarterback in the fourth quarter when leading by a score or tied over the last three years. If Garrett didn’t trust him to get back out there and win, that’s a problem. A reliever, a quarterback, and a coach must have a short memory and make the calls that win the game. Garrett coached scared.
At least he’s got an owner that recognizes this as well. You won’t beat good quarterbacks in the playoffs bleeding them of a few timeouts and punting right back with more than two minutes left. I doubt Bill Belichick would have approached it the same way with Tony Romo on the other side and a three point lead.
[photo via Getty]