There were plenty of plays in the Cowboys loss to the Texans that you could point to as a huge turning point. There were interceptions, dropped passes, goal line stands and so much more. But one play that didn’t happen stands out among all the rest.
The Cowboys came up short (19-16) in overtime after they had the ball first in the deciding fifth quarter. On that first drive in overtime, the Cowboys drove the ball down to the Texans 41-yard line and faced a fourth and one. If there is one thing we’ve learned is that the statistics tell you to go for it in that situation. Doug Pederson and the Eagles taught us all last year what going for it on fourth down can mean for your team. The Cowboys have one of the best backs in the NFL, they have a running quarterback, they have options in that situation. Instead, they did the inevitable. They punted the ball and lost the game.
Jason Garrett will tell you that it is the right thing to do in that scenario. He will mention if you don’t make it you set the Texans up so they only have a short way to go to set up their own game-winning field goal. He might even reference what happened to the Colts last week. He’ll note the Cowboys running game wasn’t having much success on the day and they had just been stuffed on the previous play. He’ll say that his defense had been doing it all game long and that they needed to trust them to get the ball back. That’s what he’ll say.
Say all you want, the Cowboys should have gone for it. He needs to put faith in his team, he needs to believe that his team can gain one yard when they need to. The Cowboys defense had done a fantastic job in the redzone, but they allowed the Texans into the redzone plenty. Houston had 462 yards on offense so it wasn’t like the Cowboys defense was stopping them from moving the ball, they were just doing a phenomenal job in the redzone. A phenomenal job in the redzone wasn’t going to work this time.
Houston had already kicked three field goals in the game and passed up another. All they needed was a field goal to win it. Additionally, there were only five and a half minutes left in the game. You are gambling you can cause a three and out to get the ball back, because if you don’t you’re basically playing for a tie.
It’s a gamble. There is no doubt about it. It can backfire. Still, this team isn’t good enough to play it safe. Playing it safe is going to get them another 8-8 season. They need to try and take control of their destiny. You’ve invested all this money and draft picks in your offensive line, in your running back, in your running game. You have to trust them at that point. Otherwise, you get an overtime loss and you’re trying to climb out of a 2-3 hole.
UPDATE: It seems like Jerry Jones was not a fan of the decision to punt.
Jerry on OT punt: Again, we were being outplayed there, not out of effort but we were being outplayed. It's time for risk at that particular time. That's not 2nd guessing. ...But we're all extremely disappointed.— Kate Hairopoulos (@khairopoulos) October 8, 2018