As the Cowboys drove down the field in the waning moments of Sunday’s Wild-Card matchup against the 49ers, anyone who has ever watched the Cowboys for a considerable period of time knew that two things were about to happen: The Cowboys were going to lose, and it was going to blow your mind.
Down 23-17 with 14 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts, the Cowboys lined up for what would likely have been the first of two Hail Mary attempts at the end zone to tie the game.
Instead, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott took off with the ball and picked up about 16 yards. However, Prescott seemed to forget about that pesky ol’ rule that requires an official to touch the ball before snapping it for the next play. Prescott gave the ball to his center instead of the official, the official collided with Prescott while attempting to rest the ball, and you’ll have to see it for yourself.
— NFL (@NFL) January 17, 2022
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy is being universally panned for the decision to run Prescott in that situation, though his reasoning is entirely defensible. Would you rather have one or two Hail Mary passes at the end with a high probability of an interception? Or maybe get 15 yards closer and call an actual play?
The fact is Prescott has to know to hand the ball to the official in that scenario. Yes, the timing of the end of the run and the end of the game would be very tight. However, as McCarthy said in his press conference, they should have been able to get the ball spotted in that situation.
“I have never seen that come down the way it came down as far as the collision between the umpire and the quarterback,” McCarthy said. “We were trying to get inside the 30-yard line to set up that last play. The mechanics were intact, I felt, from our end of it. Communication that I was given on the sideline when they were reviewing it is they were going to put time back on the clock. The next thing I know, they’re running off the field. That’s all the facts I know.
“It’s the right decision. Just like anything, the execution, and the officiating spotting the ball wasn’t in tune. We should not have had any trouble getting the ball spotted there.”
It doesn’t mean that it would have worked even if Prescott had handed the ball to the official, but the opportunity Dallas would have had from the 25-yard line would have been more advantageous than the other scenarios. McCarthy is correct about that.
Don’t expect that to make Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones feel any better though.
“Extraordinarily disappointed,” Jones said after the game. “Very disappointed. Disappointed for our fans. …This is quite a letdown. They outplayed us.”
The Cowboys have now gone 11 straight playoff appearances WITHOUT reaching the conference title game.
The longest streak of all-time. pic.twitter.com/s2bhjSEyet
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 17, 2022
It was the right call, but that may not save McCarthy’s job.