Jason Garrett likes to harp on “control only what you can.”
The Cowboys can’t control injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant and suspensions to Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain. But they can – at least they should – control the way they manage the game.
And, no way around it, last Sunday’s loss to the Falcons was poorly coached.
In the absence of their stars the Cowboys have to take up the slack by being better – almost perfect – in other areas. They can’t commit self-inflicted turnovers. They can’t miss field goals. They can’t get outcoached.
But in two key situations against Atlanta Garrett and his staff put the team in a disadvantageous position.
Dallas should have led 28-14 at the half, but clock mismanagement allowed the Falcons time and timeouts to sneak in a late field goal before intermission. Inexplicably, Garrett called two timeouts in the final minute with his offense driving, including one facing 1st-and-Goal with :46 remaining. Instead of either bleeding the clock or forcing the Falcons to burn their timeouts, Dallas scored but left them 40 seconds and three timeouts for a counter-punch that sparked a 25-0 run.
After the timeout the Cowboys gave the ball to Randle on a dive play. How could that simple play possibly require extra time?
“That’s a tricky situation for us because we’re changing personnel groups and we wanted to put our big personnel in,” Garrett attempted to explain in his post-game press conference. “And sometimes that can be complicated there. It turned out that we scored on that first play and we gave them an opportunity. So in the ideal situation you work that thing all the way down and don’t give them a chance to go back the other way and get that field goal. A combination of different factors: personnel group, new quarterback. A few different things.”
The Cowboys’ absences have diminished their margin for error. They have to play better, sure. But they also must coach smarter.
And having 10 men on the field on a points-play isn’t exactly savvy. But that’s what the Cowboys did after Julio Jones’ 45-yard touchdown catch. A chaotic personnel snafu led to them being a player short and tight end Levine Toilolo being wide open for the two-point conversion that increased Atlanta’s lead to three points.
“We were trying to get the information as to whether or not we had 10 or 11 on there and they had snapped the ball before we got that information,” Garrett said.
For the next two months the Cowboys will be undermanned and, at times, overmatched.
They can’t afford to be outcoached.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.