For the first time since 2015, the Dallas Cowboys dropped a game to the Washington Redskins while dropping a game and a half out of first place in the NFC East in the process. Jason Garrett, Dak Prescott, and the Cowboys offense had a chance to tie the game, but Brett Maher missed a 52 yard field goal, which would have sent the game into overtime.
While the missed kick is what prevented them from tying the game, what happened leading up to the field goal attempt had just as much to do with the Cowboys taking home an L as anything else. And no, I'm not talking about the penalty enforced on L.P. Ladouceur.
The Dallas Cowboys had enough time to try to drive the field for either a game-tying field goal or if things fell right, a go ahead touchdown. Once they got into field goal range, they took the foot off the gas and eliminated any opportunity to try to take the lead.
Let's look at how the drive unfolded.
1st and 10 at Dallas 36 – 1:09 to Play
Incomplete Pass to Dalton Schultz
The Dallas Cowboys got the ball back with a time out and a little more than a minute to play. It's beyond my understanding why the Dallas Cowboys had Dalton Schultz on the field with under two minutes to play in a game that was essentially a must win.
I know that the Dallas Cowboys love to run 11 personnel in obvious passing situations. It's all the craze in the NFL now. Like Pogs were in middle school. I get that most teams run 11 as their base package, but when you're in a must score situation with under two minutes to play, Dalton Schultz is not one of your best four receiving options.
It's inexcusable to me to have a rookie tight end, who was suiting up for his first NFL game, on the field in crunch time because you don't have any 10-personnel packages (1 RB, 4 WR, 0 TE). Scott Linehan is calling plays and constructing formations like they still have Jason Witten on the team. News flash, Scott, you don't.
You'd think that at a time when they need their best playmakers on the field, that they'd have some packages that would get their four best receiving options on the field.
2nd and 10 at Dallas 36 – 1:04
Incompete Pass to Cole Beasley
At least Dak Prescott goes to his go-to-guy on this play as he goes to Beasley and barely overthrows him. It wasn't the best throw by Prescott who was under pressure. Had he hit Beasley, there's a great chance for yards after catch.
3rd and 10 at Dallas 36 – 0:59
18 Yard Completion to Cole Beasley
After back to back incomplete passes to start the drive, Dak Prescott finds Cole Beasley for an 18 yard gain to get the Cowboys into Washington territory.
This was the biggest play of the drive. Big time, accurate throw to Beasley who makes a contested catch in double coverage that picks up a first down and puts the Cowboys just outside of field goal range.
1st and 10 at Washington 46 – 0:52
Nine Yard Completion to Cole Beasley
Because Cole Beasley got out-of-bounds and Washington Redskins Corner Back Fabian Moreau was injured, the clock stops and the Dallas Cowboys get a moment to catch their breath and game plan the next couple of plays.
If you needed anymore evidence about who is Dak's go-to-guy, it's Cole Beasley. He comes right back to him. Prescott finds Cole Beasley for a nine yard gain to get the Dallas Cowboys into field goal range.
Cole Beasley catches the ball and is ruled down by contact with 45 seconds remaining in the game. How in the world it took them 17 seconds to get to the line of scrimmage is really hard to understand. As a team, if the receiver gets tackled in bounds, you know you have to hurry to the line of scrimmage to either get another play off or to spike it. The Cowboys take their time and prevent themselves from being able to run at least a play or two to get them a more favorable field goal attempt.
Instead, the Cowboys take 17 precious seconds of the clock and now have less than 30 seconds remaining.
2nd and 1 at Washington 37 – 0:28
Six Yard Completion to Cole Beasley
This is where you figured out that Head Coach Jason Garrett was playing for the tie. The Cowboys were able to pick up the first down on a quick pass to Cole Beasley, but then took way too much time getting to the line of scrimmage for the next play.
After Cole Beasley makes the catch and is tackled, there was roughly 24 seconds left on the clock. They took another 12 seconds to get to the line of scrimmage to run the next play. They weren't prepared and because they weren't prepared, they didn't have a ton of time left to run a play. If they get to the line faster, perhaps they leave themselves more time to get the ball up field to make Brett Maher's kick more manageable.
The catch went under review and so the Cowboys get yet another opportunity to regroup and come up with a play to get them further down the field.
Instead they do the following.
1st and 10 at Washington 31 – 0:12
Three Yard Run by Ezekiel Elliott
This is the biggest give up play of the night. With 12 seconds left and a timeout, the coaching staff takes the ball out of their quarterback's hands — who just drove them into field goal range — and they give it to Ezekiel Elliott who picks up roughly three yards on the play. They had time to throw a short pass to try to pick up some yardage. With a timeout in their pocket, Dak could have even thrown it to the middle of the field to get Brett Maher into a better position.
2nd and 8 at Washington 28 – 0:03
Five Yard Penalty Against L.P. Ladouceur for a Snap Infraction
The penalty puts them at the Washington 33 with three seconds left in the game.
There are a lot of things we can say about the missed game-tying field goal attempt.
Though the penalty was bogus and Brett Maher should have made it, the biggest issue, in my humble opinion, was how the drive went to get to this point. The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff didn't put their team in the best position to win the game, let alone tie.
Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan and the Dallas Cowboys were super conservative once they got into field goal range. It was like they didn't even consider trying to score a touchdown at that point, which for someone who has long been a defender of Jason Garret, is a problem.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
I've long been a believer that Jason Garrett is a head coach that could win this team a championship based on the way he gets his players to play. On Sunday, however, he coached like an NHL coach that was on the road and just hoping to squeeze out a point with a tie. That's twice in two weeks that Garrett played conservatively with a chance to win the game and he cost his kicker a chance at a shorter, more makeable field goal. Play aggressively and it's possible he's kicking at worst a 45 yarder, even after the penalty.
Instead, Maher has to kick a 52 yarder with swirling winds and is unable to squeeze it inside the left upright. Now the Dallas Cowboys are 3-4 and need to go on a serious run over the last nine games to have a shot at making the playoffs.