The game started off slow for the Dallas Cowboys on both sides of the ball yet again, but the Dallas Cowboys fought back to tie the game before going into halftime behind just three points. Getting back into the game was great and all and the Cowboys had a chance at the end, but the way they called plays after the two-minute warning killed the Cowboys’ momentum.
On the final drive the game, the Dallas Cowboys had to start at their own six-yard line and Dak Prescott led the team down the field. He had them in position to potentially get a go-ahead score to cap off an incredible game by Prescott. With 2:04 left to go, Prescott hit Jason Witten in the right flat, and Witten was able to pick up the first down just under the two-minute warning.
Then Prescott found Amari Cooper for an eight-yard gain on first down to keep things moving with just over a minute and a half to play in the game. Then, though the running game hadn’t worked at all during the game, the Dallas Cowboys made the decision to run the ball twice on second and two and third and two. The third-down play led to a three-yard loss, which set up a 4th and 5.
Jason Garrett and the Cowboys coaching staff got in their own way on this one. They began to worry about leaving too much time on the clock for the Minnesota Vikings after the defense struggled to stop them for much of the night. However, the only thing they needed to concern themselves with was scoring. We always hear that prevent defense prevents you from winning, well the Cowboys coaching staff went into prevent offense in an attempt to take as much time off the clock as they could before getting the potential go-ahead score. Getting conservative on second and third down and just assuming they’d pick up the first was terrible coaching and it cost them the game at the end.
If the goal was to try and milk the clock, Dak Prescott and the offense didn’t do a very good job of it. On the second down run to Elliott, the offense snapped the ball with 22 seconds left on the play clock and 1:32 left in the game. On third down, they snapped the ball with 19 seconds left and 1:06 left to play in the game.
Jason Garrett and the coaching staff got too cute in a game that they couldn’t afford to lose. They took the ball out of their best player’s hands on that third down and went back to their old, clock controlling ways. Sure, their defense struggled to get stops throughout the night, but at that point in the game, your number one priority is to score the touchdown.
In a long line of issues on that sequence after the two-minute warning, the final nail in the coffin was the intended target on the fourth-down throw. The Cowboys faced 4th and 5 and they decided their best option there was to throw the ball to Ezekiel Elliott on an out route. Sure, Elliott had single coverage on a linebacker, but he’s honestly your sixth-best pass-catching option when you need to get five yards to extend a drive and potentially win the game. After the snap and Prescott’s initial read, he looks at Elliott the entire way before making the throw. Elliott can make plays for you as a receiver, but he doesn’t need to be your go-to target on 4th and 5 in a very important game.
This was a new low point in the season for the Dallas Cowboys. With an opportunity to complete a comeback and win a game late, the coaching staff, primarily Jason Garrett and Kellen Moore, went conservative to not give the Vikings a lot of time and it ultimately led to their defeat.
Were there plays to be made prior to the final minute and a half that could have helped the Dallas Cowboys win the game? Absolutely, but when your franchise quarterback gets you down the field and into scoring range, you have to keep riding his arm and playing to score. The Dallas Cowboys are getting everything they want out of Dak Prescott this season and yet they continue to insist that they’re a running football team. Even when the running game isn’t working.
The leash for Jason Garrett just got a bit shorter after a disappointing loss to a good team. The Cowboys, after falling behind by two scores, had a chance to steal that game at the end. Getting cute with the clock by running Ezekiel Elliott on second and third down put this team in a horrible position and it cost them at the end.