All the Dallas Cowboys wanted was a chance.
A chance to attempt a possible game-winning field goal.
A chance to finally a win without injured quarterback Tony Romo.
A chance to start the season with a victory behind rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.
But it never came because of wide receiver Terrance Williams’ inexplicable decision to run up the field rather than try to get out of bounds after catching a pass with less than 10 seconds to play Sunday.
He was tackled near the 40-yard line and the clock simply ran out on the Cowboys in a 20-19 loss to the New York Giants before 92,867 dumbfounded fans at AT&T Stadium.
There is no guarantee the Cowboys would have won the game, but Williams’ decision to go against what he was told to do, what was he was coached to do, took away their only chance.
“I was just doing my best to put the team in a position to kick a field goal, but obviously I should have just followed the rules and got out of bounds,” Williams said. “The time wasn’t a problem. I was clearly aware of the time. It was just something that I was just thinking of, and it was like a bang-bang moment.
“And now that I have a chance to just sit back and think on it, I should have just gone out of bounds. I should have just gone out of bounds.”
Though no one blamed the loss on Williams, there were no arguments from anyone in the Cowboys’ locker room about it being a bad decision. Receiver Dez Bryant was pointing at him to run out of bounds. Everybody on the Cowboys’ sideline was yelling the same thing.
“What he needed to do there was simply run out of bounds,” coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s a well- practiced situation. Obviously, with no timeouts and 12 seconds to go, he needs to catch that ball and immediately get out of bounds. And we’d reassess the situation as to whether or not we kick it from there or try to get a little closer.”
There is no guarantee Dan Bailey would have made the field goal — which would have been roughly 62 yards if Williams had run immediately out of bounds.
But Bailey and the Cowboys would have liked that opportunity on a day in which he hit four field goals, including ones from 56 and 54 yards.
Bailey’s longest in practice has been 62 yards.
“In those situations, you can be flexible,” Bailey said. “Our number before the game was 56, 57. I think we were looking at maybe a 61, 62. But in that situation, why not? Go ahead and give it a shot. You’d love the opportunity to knock it through. Unfortunately, we were about two seconds short and didn’t get the opportunity.”
In the end, it was more of the same disappointment for the Cowboys when Romo is not on the field.
The Cowboys were 1-11 in 12 games without an injured Romo in 2015 when they finished 4-12. The Cowboys are 10-24 when Romo doesn’t start since the start of the 2006 season.
With Romo out for at least six games with a fractured bone in his back, the Cowboys had hoped things would be different under Prescott following his sensational preseason.
The rookie fourth-round draft pick was solid at best, but his inability to get the Cowboys in the end zone was the team’s undoing.
Prescott completed 25 of 45 passes for 227 yards with no touchdowns and no turnovers.
“I did well for the most part,” Prescott said. “We just have to score touchdowns down there in the red zone. We were down there I think the first three drives of the game and we had to settle for field goals. That’s 21 points you’d rather have instead of nine, so whatever that math is.”
It didn’t help that the Giants bottled up the Cowboys running backs, holding rookie first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott to 51 yards on 20 carries.
He did have an 8-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, set up by cornerback Brandon Carr’s interception. But Elliott said his performance was average at best.
“That’s not why I was brought here to be average, so we’ve got a lot of work to get done,” Elliott said.
The Cowboys lost scoring opportunities in the first half when receiver Cole Beasley dropped a would-be touchdown reception and receiver Dez Bryant had a touchdown catch reversed on replay because he didn’t keep control of the ball.
Bryant, contained by double coverage, had just one catch for 8 yards.
“I know he was frustrated,” owner Jerry Jones said. “You have to give them credit. They had him covered pretty good for most of the day. That’s why you saw Jason Witten and Beasley get a lot of throws.”
Witten led the Cowboys with nine catches for 66 yards. Beasley had eight for 65.
After the Carr interception in the third quarter, the Giants were forced to punt on their next three possessions and trailed 19-13 early in the fourth.
But a stalled Cowboys offense set up Giants quarterback Eli Manning at his 46 with 10:12 left in the game.
Nine plays later, Manning connected with receiver Victor Cruz for a 3-yard score that proved to be the game winner.
“That looked like last year,” Jones said. “Play for the defense to stop them. Don’t stop them and get beat.”
Of course, that was before Prescott’s attempted final rally and Williams’ bad decision.
The Cowboys had focused all off-season on finishing strong after losing seven games in 2015 when they were within a score in the fourth quarter.
While the Cowboys feel good about the progress and development of Prescott, the results so far are not much different.
If only Williams had run out of bounds, the Cowboys would have liked to take a chance with Bailey.
“We were going to give him a shot if we got close,” Garrett said.