From shunning a fourth-and-1 to playing for a tie, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is seemingly prone toward the safe route in tight games.
Two weeks after being roundly criticized, even by owner Jerry Jones, for failing to go for it on fourth-and-1 in a 26-23 overtime loss to the Houston Texans, Garrett finds himself in the eye of the storm again after Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Washington Redskins.
The Cowboys rallied from a 20-10 deficit with 4:55 left in the game. A touchdown run by quarterback Dak Prescott made the score 20-17 with 1:37 left and then the Cowboys got the ball back and moved to the Washington 31-yard line with 12 seconds and one timeout left.
It was seemingly enough time to take at least one shot to the end zone or something over the middle for a closer field goal. But Garrett called a running play to Ezekiel Elliott to set the ball in the middle of the field for kicker Brett Maher.
A 47-yard field goal turned into a 52-yarder when deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur was flagged for a snap infraction.
Maher had made 16 straight field goals since a season-opening miss, including a 47-yarder earlier in the game. But this one clanked off the left upright with no time left on the clock, sealing the loss.
Garrett said he never even considered taking a shot to the end zone on the final few plays.
“The biggest thing after we got ourselves into field goal range was to try to get up there and clock the ball, preserve that last timeout and then give us the freedom,” Garrett said. “I think we were trying to get the ball down to 12 seconds. So once we got down to that point, the biggest thing that we wanted to do was maximize the field goal opportunity and run the ball, make some yards, use the timeout and then kick the game-tying field goal.”
It was the safe thing to do, just like in the Texans game when he chose to punt in the overtime on his opponents’ 42 rather than going for it on fourth-and-1 to try to win the game. The Texans kicked a game-winning field goal on the ensuing series.
That time Jones second-guessed Garrett. He said it was a prime opportunity to take a risk because the Cowboys had been outplayed by the Texans.
This time, Jones made a point to not talk to the media after the game. He left via a side door in the locker room.
Similarly, the Cowboys were outplayed by the Redskins for much of the game. But they still had a chance to win.
They had a 1st down at the Washington 46 with 52 seconds left and Prescott threw a 9-yard pass to receiver Cole Beasley.
The next play was a 6-yard pass to Beasley. Then came the Elliott run.
There we no shots at the end zone against a Redskins defense playing the short routes, knowing the Cowboys were playing for the field goal.
Let’s recap. The Cowboys had the ball across midfield with :52 left. They then ran three play, gained 15 yards and purposely burned :45 off the clock to set up a game-tying field goal.
Garrett played it safe again.