It was about a week ago that we questioned the Dallas decisions in the second half during their loss in Denver. Thankfully there were no second-half issues in Arizona, but there’s an issue from the end of the first.
Arizona, with the game tied at seven, began their possession at their own 25-yard line. There was 1:11 left on the clock and the Cardinals only had one timeout remaining, while the Cowboys had all three of theirs.
On the first play DeMarcus Lawrence sacked Carson Palmer, but there was an illegal contact penalty called on Sean Lee which gave Arizona 1st and 5 from their own 30. Tyrone Crawford would sack Palmer himself on the next play, making it 2nd and 16 from their own 24-yard line.
There was approximately a minute left in the half at the time Crawford sacked Palmer, yet the Cowboys chose not to call a timeout, despite having all three, and after an Andre Ellington rush for six yards both teams let the clock run out until halftime. There are a lot of explanations that have been offered as to why the Cowboys did this.
“The offense was sputtering and they didn’t want to chance something”
The Cowboys had literally just scored their first points of the game prior to this Arizona possession, but if they’re making a decision not to try and get the ball back because they don’t think their offense can score, then that’s an issue.
Even if they’d had to burn all three timeouts, 30-45 seconds is enough to play around with and give Dan Bailey a potential shot. Those three points could have been critical.
“Dallas was receiving the ball in the second half anyway”
Yes, it’s true that the Cowboys were set to receive the kickoff when the second half began (a possession that would end in a Cowboys punt mind you). This shouldn’t have been a force driving a settlement in the first half, in fact it should have been an even stronger motivator.
The Cowboys should have exploited the fact that they were set to receive the ball in the second half and seen this as an opportunity to come away with 10 total points in a game that was extremely close at the time.
“It didn’t make sense to potentially aid the Cardinals drive”
There was about a minute left after the Tyrone Crawford sack that made it 2nd and 16. There is absolutely zero reason why not calling one timeout there makes sense. If the Cowboys let the Cardinals pick up the first down after that, well hey then you abandon this plan.
Arizona only had one timeout themselves, so they would only be able to stop the clock once more had they gotten something going. Refusing to call a timeout there was a punt of sorts. Even if you were ultra scared of the Cardinals, there was about 40 seconds left after Andre Ellington’s run on second down.
This means there were about 40 seconds left when it was 3rd and 10 for Arizona. Call the timeout then. You have high odds of stopping a team on that long of a down, and even if they score then they have less than what is likely 35 seconds to do anything. Play the odds.
“Jason Garrett got conservative”
The idea that Jason Garrett is a conservative head coach isn’t one I agree with as a blanket statement, but given the data at hand it’s hard not to agree that this was a conservative move.
Dallas wound up winning this game 28-17, but that extra three points could have made a world of a difference had some other things not gone their way throughout the game.
What if there’s no holding penalty on Jared Veldeer against DeMarcus Lawrence at the beginning of the second quarter? And the Cardinals end up scoring a touchdown instead of attempting the field goal that Phil Dawson missed?
Or what if Phil Dawson makes that field goal instead of missing it? That final Arizona possession where they inexplicably went for it on 4th and goal (a bad decision they can worry about themselves) could’ve seen them trailing 24-28 or 20-28, making those three points the Cowboys let slide at the end of the first half all the more valuable.
It’s hard to rationalize why the Cowboys chose to not even attempt trying to get the ball back for a potential field goal at the end of the first half. It didn’t bear any consequences on them this time, but it very well could in the future.