The final Cowboys offensive play of regulation was one of the odder calls you'll see this season.
With time running short and the team in field goal range, Jason Garrett dialed up a toss play to Miles Austin, who you'll note isn't a running back, that wound up losing a yard and forcing a more difficult kick for Dan Bailey. If that wasn't bad enough, Austin also aggravated his hamstring injury on the play and could wind up missing several games as a result.
The injury isn't the problem with the play call. Austin could have gotten hurt just as easily if he was blocking or running a pass pattern. Injuries are just part of the game any way you slice it.
The problem with the play call was the idea that a toss sweep to a wide receiver was the sensible thing to do with 49 seconds left in a game that the Cowboys were losing by three points. It was so poorly executed that they were lucky to escape with a one-yard loss and it is the kind of play that holds a higher than acceptable risk of turnover.
There's a time and place for plays like that. Getting the ball into Austin's hands in that spot can catch the defense off guard and go for a big gain, but the downside has to come into play. On second-and-four in the second quarter, the downside isn't so big. In the fourth, with the game on the line, it is much too big to take that kind of risk.
It would have been smarter to simply jam the ball into the middle of the line and try to push the pile forward a yard or two to make Bailey's kick a little bit easier.
The play wound up being reminiscent of Garrett's decision to pass the ball to Tashard Choice on the final play of the first half of the 2010 season opener against the Redskins. Choice caught the ball, but fumbled and DeAngelo Hall took it for a touchdown that wound up being the margin of victory in a 13-7 win. It was first-and-20 deep in Cowboys territory with four seconds to go when that play got underway, a situation better served by a kneel down than an attempt to make something out of nothing.
Sunday's play call made you wonder what, if anything, Garrett learned from that experience. His comments about the play on Monday made it clear that he was aware of what he did wrong.
"I don’t like the call," Garrett said. "I say it every week, there are about 10 calls throughout the week that I don’t really like. Conceptually, it was a good idea for that situation. We wanted to run the ball there. We’ve run similar type runs from that three-wide receiver set in the drive, so we wanted to do something different. Sometimes, when you put guys in different spots and then run a play, that you’re comfortable with, it can affect the defense. We did have an opportunity to get that thing outside, and Miles just turned it up in there. We wanted to run the ball and not have too much of a negative play. We wanted to kick the field goal. In hindsight, I would’ve run a different play."
Garrett's reaction was as good as the play call was bad. The Cowboys haven't been great about admitting when things go wrong in the past, so this bodes well for the future.
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