Dallas Cowboys

What Jason Garrett said about that penalty, turnovers and the Cowboys’ run defense issues

Jason Garrett offered his thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys’ 34-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday at AT&T Stadium during his post-game press conference.

He address the Cowboys’ struggling run defense, Dak Prescott’s interceptions and the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he got for his emphatic challenge at the feet of the side judge.

Here’s an edited version of Garrett’s post-game press conference via the Cowboys’ transcription service:

On what happened in the first half:

“The biggest issue on offense was just the turnovers. We ran the ball well, threw the ball well, we were right down the field on them. We made the throw and catch to Amari [Cooper] on the first one and they intercept it, and we drive the ball again and Dak makes the decision to force the ball a little bit. He probably should have checked the ball down. I thought the mental run and pass were good and we were moving the ball down the field. The two turnovers really hurt us.”

On did the gap running game keep the team on their heels defensively:

“That was the biggest issue on defense. They were able to run the ball. They ran the ball inside on us when we got down to the red zone a couple of times. It was very uncharacteristic of our defense. That’s the thing we do as well as anything. So, the gap discipline and just physically getting off the blocks and making plays across the board wasn’t consistent enough. Particularly early on in the game. I thought the game got better as it went on. They ran the ball too easily against us.”

Did the Packers do anything that he wasn’t expecting?

“Not really.”

What happened on the replay challenge where you were flagged?

“Obviously, on that play we had a great view of it and they called it an incompletion. It was such a big play in the game, you know you have to use your flag there. We had already challenged an potential pass interference earlier. You know in that situation you are going to have to use the flag to get the call corrected or you’re not going to have that for later in the game. Obviously, I didn’t handle that situation as well as I should have. I knew we would get the play, because I saw it. Unfortunately, we had to use the flag there. Then they made that decision to throw a flag on me.”

On about the team being a first place team with two losses and what this says about the club and where they are now:

“We’re not really in the business of that. I’m in the business to get to work and try to get better. Our goal every week is to get better each and every day in practice and get better from week to week. And we will continue to strive and do that. Two challenging games, we didn’t get it done in any of them the last couple of weeks, but we’ll get the experience, we’ll grow and get stronger as we go.”

Were you given an explanation from the side judge as to why he threw the flag?

“That was the play where we had that big completion and we had to get it corrected by me throwing the flag at him. He apparently didn’t like how I threw the flag.”

Do you agree your emotion merited an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty?

“That’s not my decision.”

Was it the spiking of the flag or what you said to the judge?

“I really don’t know.”

On if he felt the throw was coming from the call on the Brown interference that caused him to react that way:

“Again, it was just a big play in the game. I know we had used the flag once, and we were going to have to use it again to correct the error. And when you do that, and it doesn’t get overturned, you are out of challenges. So, I knew that was the situation, but we had to use it in that particular situation to correct the mistake that they made. I didn’t handle it well, our team handled it well. I don’t know if you saw the rest of the game after that. We completed a 26-yard on the next play and we right down and scored. Our team did really good job handling that adversity.”

Do you think it was a poorly-officiated game?

“It’s not my place to share my opinion about that.”

Should [offensive tackle] Cameron Fleming have had a little more help in the game?

“We’ll look back at the tape. It looked like at first glance that Cam did a good job fighting the battle. They did a front. Certainly you try to help in a different way to protect what you call and all that, but I think for the most part he stood in there and blocked fairly well both in the run game and in the pass game.”

On how terrible was the turnover on the first drive of the game, did you think that changed the tenor of the game?

“Obviously turnovers are critical. You only have so many possessions and you have to maximize them. It was such a makeable play. It was a good throw. Amari ran a good route and won. Unsarcastically the ball came out, and he didn’t make the play. You’ve got to put it behind you, and move on to the next play.”

How do you unpack a game like this?

“I think the basic analysis is, I thought we fought hard. I think the spirit of the team is unbelievable. The closeness of the team is really strong. You have to play winning football. You can’t turn the ball over three times. So, we have to do a better job defending the run. If we do a better job in those areas, we are doing a much better job to win the game. We’ll go back tomorrow and look at the tape and break it down play by play, player by player. What we did, what we didn’t do. All of that. At first glance it comes down to those things. Turn the ball over, minus three on the turnover ratio, you are not going to win a lot of games. The last 100 years in the NFL, look at that statistic, and obviously not stopping the run as well as we needed to.”

Is it surprising to see Dak make those mistakes in a game where he could have made a lot of plays with an open receiver?

“The first one was a throw and catch. It came out from Amari, so I wouldn’t necessarily put that on him, not that we are in the interest of placing blame here. The other one at first glance looked like he was a little aggressive and forced it in there. The third one, I don’t know if you saw the play, the receiver was contacted the whole time and pulled down. It was an interference on it, and again that goes back to using that flag in the game. Other than having to correct the call, you don’t have the flag in your pocket anymore. You know those things are going to happen in a game like that, so it’s certainly a little disappointing it went that way.”

Are you frustrated?

“Again, what we are trying to do is learn and grow as a team. Certainly a lot of effort and energy goes into one of these ball games, and unfortunately we didn’t get it done today. We’ll get better for it, we’ll get stronger for it. The team will respond the right way.”

On [kicker Brett] Maher’s performance and the two missed field goals:

“Obviously, he missed two big kicks.”

On Armstrong’s sack on Aaron Rodgers for 12 yards. His thoughts on Armstrong’s play and his progression:

“I thought our defensive line did a good job staying after him. He’s (Rodgers) such a good player and one of the things, one of the many things that makes him great is that he can make plays, get out of the pocket. He’s got people all around him, and some how some way gets out and keeps his eyes down the field and comes out of big plays. So it was important for us to somehow, someway keep in the pocket and stay after him when he gets out of the pocket. I thought that was a great example of that. Those guys played hard. They chased, they tried to get him a number of different times, and that was one of them where we were able to do that and it certainly was a big play in the game.”

On how the players responded to the challenge call and if he could sense it on how his emotions manifested and how they finished the game?

“We just had a lot of really great people on our football team. Great men. They love football, care about each other love each other, and they are going to compete, claw, scratch and fight. I think, it was a manifestation of that. Obviously it wasn’t the kind of game we wanted to play. We talked about the turnovers, we talked about our inability to consistency to stop the run. But the fight and the spirit of the football team was there. I saw and we’ll grow from it. We’ll be better because of it.”

On knowing how the pass interference has been, the challenge rule is gone, does he regret making that decision on the Anthony play, or did he think that was not pass interference?

“That was too big of a play and obviously the standard was very high of overturning, but that was more of a situational challenge. I don’t think it was pass interference. If it was pass interference I wouldn’t have thrown the flag. Understanding the standard is high because of the situation, you have to give yourself a chance, and I thought he did a good job. Often times when you slow it down, things look a little more magnified than they are. I know it’s hard to get those things overturned, but it was to big of a play in the game and not do it.”

Any word on [La’el] Collins’ injury?

“He hurt his knee, and was not able to get back, so we will see how he does tonight and get him rechecked in the morning.”

Is there an issue with Maher?

“Obviously, there were two big kicks missed that we needed, and he didn’t make them, but he’s made a lot of big kicks for us in the past. We have a lot of confidence in him and we will continue to give him opportunities.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.