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Anatomy Of A Clusterfudge: Breaking Down DeAngelo Hall’s Return

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    LANDOVER - SEPTEMBER 12: DeAngelo Hall #23 of the Washington Redskins celebrates his touchdown during the NFL season opener against the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField on September 12, 2010 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

    In the midst of all the horrible play-calling, and the shoddy pass protection, and astonishingly ill-timed penalties, and the forced plays to Dez Bryant, and the lousy special teams coverage, and Alex Barron and his stupid FSU hat ruining the end of the game, it’s easy to forget that the Cowboys easily could have won last night’s game against the Redskins. After all, they held Washington without a single offensive touchdown. If only they had decided to end the first half by… Well, you know the story by now.

    There are a number of reasons why Tashard Choice’s fumble (which resulted in the game-winning touchdown return by DeAngelo Hall) was a horrible, stupid, awful play that will live forever in Dallas Cowboys history. For the sake of catharsis, let’s go ahead and list them all right now. That’s what Monday is for. It’s for getting all your blind fury out and on the table.

    1. It wasn’t supposed to happen, yet somehow it did.

    So says the ever-lofty Peter King who notes of the play:

    Wade Phillips said he never communicated to Garrett to call off the Hail Mary. "We needed to call it off and we didn't do it,'' Phillips said. "Tony should have just taken a knee...'

    Phillips took the blame, but Garrett, obviously, should have known to call a kneel down. (Tony) Romo should have known to audible to a kneel down if it wasn't called from the sideline. Choice should have known to lay on the ground ... Just a stupid, stupid play all around that showed disorganization on the part of the Cowboys.

    And that last sentence from King encapsulates the point. Wade says they should have called a kneeldown. Yet he failed to communicate that to Garrett, who failed to communicate it to Romo. And that’s the thing that will set most Dallas fans’ hair on fire. The idea that the team lacks the communication infrastructure to properly get out the message, “Hey you, fall down,” is maddening. It’s the kind of organizational detail that Washington once so glaringly lacked. That’s stuff that keeps you from ever winning big games, which is why most Dallas fans never trusted Wade Phillips to begin with.

    2. The ball was at the 36.

    That places the front line of the end zone 64 yards away. Add five yards to get to the middle of the end zone. That’s 69 yards the Hail Mary has to travel in the air, which is just on the cusp of the maximum distance a QB like Romo can throw the ball. Chances are, under duress, Romo wouldn’t have been able to throw the ball deep enough for a wideout to come down with it in the end zone.

    I love Hail Marys. I hate it when coaches eschew Hail Marys because I love seeing if there’s a chance a team will luck out and connect on one. But that’s when a Hail Mary is realistic. Say, from midfield. From the 36? Yeah, not so much. Also, I’m a fan, so I’m allowed to root for stupid ideas. Coaches are there to be smarter than me.

    3. We already knew Alex Barron sucked.

    All first half, the Cowboys threw bubble screen and short routes designed to protect Tony Romo from Brian Orakpo. Jason Garrett knew the o-line was beaten up, so he went to great lengths to reduce Romo’s time holding the ball. Then the final play comes and he completely abandons that concern. Why? Why would you do that? Well, Jason Garrett would tell you, but you would need a PRINCETON DEGREE for such things.

    4. It was barely not a lateral.

    Take a look. Romo chucks it to Choice at the 31, and Choice takes it in right around the 33. So it was a forward pass. But if Choice were behind Romo at that instant, don’t you think Romo still would have been dumb enough to flip the ball? I do. That’s the annoying thing about Romo. He has that Favre-worship in him, where he thinks it’s awesome to show his moxie by flipping out the ball like this. It’s terribly annoying.

    5. Choice invited contact.

    He squared up on DeAngelo Hall right before the two men converged, so he was looking to take on contact. Again, there is a time and a place for such things, and the end of a half at your own 35 isn’t one of them. Good runners know to slip away from bad contact, the kind that can cause fumbles. Stupid runners get all stubborn and try and take it head on.

    So what we have here is a play in which everyone involved – the head coach, the offensive coordinator, the QB, and the runner – makes an idiotic decision. Good coaches have a communication system in place to avoid such mistakes, and have hopefully trained their players to make good decisions if left to their own devices in such moments. None of that happened last night, and it’s not a very good omen for a team that whole world has already declared overrated this morning.

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