I’m going to say something that folks who cover the NFL haven’t have reason to say in a long time — Jerry Jones was right.
In overtime of Sunday night’s loss to the Texans, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett opted to punt on fourth-and-1 from Houston’s 42-yard line on the first possession of the extra frame. That needlessly cautious decision gave Houston the ball back, and they drove 72 yards down the field to kick the game-winning goal.
After the game, Jones called out his coach.
“We were being outplayed. It’s time for risks at that particular time.”
Why didn’t Dallas go for it?
Last week, the Colts were in a similar situation against the Texans. They went for it on fourth down in overtime. Unlike the Cowboys this week, the Colts were still on their own side of the field, their 43-yard line, with 27 seconds left. They didn’t make it, and it cost them the game.
Garrett said nothing about the Colts’ decision last week while defending his decision after the game. He didn’t need to. It wasn’t applicable anyway.
But, hey, that one yard was a really long one, not some fourth-and-inches deal.
“You know, we had a third-and-2 and we didn’t make much on it and we just felt like at that point in the game, the way our defense was playing, the idea was to pin them down there,” Garrett said after the game.
Dallas’ defense was playing well enough, but they were still giving up a lot of yards, 462 of them on the night. They were also on the field 76 plays Sunday night, 69 of them before that last Houston possession. And in a situation where the Texans only needed to get into field-goal range, handing the ball to a gassed defense was asking for trouble.
That’s exactly what happened too. DeAndre Hopkins got the ball and spun at least five would-be tacklers out of their shoes for a 49-yard gain just four plays after Dallas punted.
Dallas had numbers on its side too
Houston had done a good job of limiting the Cowboys running game. They failed to rush for at least 100 yards for only the second time that season. Garrett pointed to their inability to pick up the first down on the third-and-2 play before that.
But you still have to play the odds. And the numbers HEAVILY favored the Cowboys in that situation.
The Cowboys' rate of converting on fourth-and-1 in the Prescott/Elliott era (94.7%) is HIGHER than NFL kickers' rate of making PAT kicks over the past two seasons (93.6%).— AdamJT13 (@AdamJT13) October 8, 2018
As Blogging the Boys, SB Nation’s home for Cowboys fans, pointed out:
The Cowboys have one of the best backs in the NFL, they have a running quarterback, they have options in that situation. Instead, they did the inevitable. They punted the ball and lost the game.
This season the Cowboys have converted 66.7 percent of their fourth downs. The league average is just 56.8 percent. So even with a banged-up offensive line, Dallas is STILL better than most of the NFL at converting fourth downs.
Hell, they’ve done it before in a similar situation a week ago.
Jason Garrett didn’t go for it on 4th-&-1 Sunday. He did 1 week earlier against Detroit, saying, “When you have a belief in the guys up front & you can hand the ball to (No.) 21 & you feel good about that, that’s really where the decision-making process starts.”— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) October 8, 2018
That’s not all Jerry had to say
That Garrett’s seat has never really heated up despite a hot-headed owner is one of the biggest mysteries of in the NFL this century. This is Garrett’s eighth season, and he’s only taken the team to the playoffs twice. It’s not that he’s a bad coach, like a Marc Trestman or someone like that, but he’s become one of those underwhelming, highly average Fisher-esque guys.
Jones’ comments also included his disappointment.
Jerry on OT punt: Again, we were being outplayed there, not out of effort but we were being outplayed. It's time for risk at that particular time. That's not 2nd guessing. ...But we're all extremely disappointed.— Kate Hairopoulos (@khairopoulos) October 8, 2018
Of course, he’s not second guessing right after he second guesses. Maybe he shouldn’t pull his punch in that situation either.
It’s early, but the Cowboys don’t look like they’ll be making a third playoff appearance with Garrett this season. We’ll see how much second guessing Jones does in January.