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The Cowboys completely mishandled their final possession and sheepishly played for overtime

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Another conservative lean for the Cowboys.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago the Dallas Cowboys partly lost in Houston because Jason Garrett chose to punt when on the Texans 42-yard line in overtime. Sunday in Washington the Cowboys staff had another conservative way about their business.

Dallas trailed Washington by three points in the game’s final minute. Dak Prescott was rallying his troops to get within Brett Maher’s striking distance and hit Cole Beasley for a six-yard gain that saw him land at the Washington 31-yard line.

Beasley’s catch was one that went for review, although it was easy to see that when the officials emerged from their tablets that it would stand as one. As it was a review it provided a window of time for the Cowboys to assess the entire game situation and consider their next move.

The Cowboys had one timeout remaining and when the ball was to be set after Beasley’s catch it was going to be a first down with 12 seconds left. They could have had Dak Prescott immediately spike the ball so that they could have arranged a pass play to pick up more yardage, or they could have gone into a pass play straight on first down if that’s what they preferred. Considering the Cowboys have seen Brett Maher make some big kicks so far this season they figured they were as close as they needed to be and instead chose to run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke picked up two yards and likely placed the ball where Maher wanted, but that’s not the point here. Like punting in Houston, the Cowboys went conservative, and paid the price again.

Jason Garrett’s staff once again took the conservative approach with the game on the line

12 seconds is forever in the NFL. Time is often not exactly what it seems which is a lesson that felt learned in the game itself as Dak Prescott was in the middle of leading the Cowboys over a 10-point fourth quarter deficit. Dallas could have thrown it anywhere... they could have gone deep, shallow, to the endzone, out of bounds, the point is they could have tried to pick up more yardage for the purposes of shortening the field goal or even winning the game outright with a touchdown.

As we all know that’s not what Dallas did. With the ball on the Washington 29-yard line they felt that Brett Maher was good from that range so in their minds they settled for going to overtime, despite having only 17 points on the board through almost the entire game. Unfortunately, Dallas ended up moving backwards thanks to a fluky penalty which nobody understood, but the NFL is trying to tell the world that it was in fact legit.

Forget the penalty, though. We’re talking about what happened before that. Jason Garrett and his fellow coaches knowing, consciously, and intentionally chose to lay up when they had 12 seconds on the clock. What’s more is it’s not like this was an in-the-moment decision they instructed Dak to make while the team was running up after Cole’s six-yard catch, they had the entire review period to sit on this idea as one that they thought was the absolute best one to make.

Maybe Jason Garrett didn’t believe in his offense, but that’s also a huge problem

Perhaps your defense of Jason Garrett here is that he feared Dak Prescott would turn the ball over and therefore not even give Brett Maher any shot to tie the game at all. Wouldn’t that be really bad? Wouldn’t that be terrible? Never mind the fact that Dak hadn’t thrown an interception all game (he did fumble twice), but if Jason Garrett is worried of a turnover or sack that will knock his team out of range then he really has bigger problems than we’re talking about.

The way that Dallas handled the very end of the final drive of the game was a disaster. At the very best the truth of it all is that Jason Garrett is that fearful of things going badly for his offense which would be a huge indictment on the team on its own. Things got exacerbated a bit by the penalty, but the decision we’re talking about had long been made by then.

We had a bit of a reprieve with the way that the Cowboys beat the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but a loss like this on the road against a division rival is not going to help the Dallas cause.