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Cowboys news: Offensive struggles, controversial fourth-down decision doom Cowboys

The Monday morning links.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Should Cowboys, Jason Garrett have gone for it on 4rd-and-1 in overtime vs. Texans? - Jori Epstein, SportsDay

This seems to be what everybody is talking about — and for good reason. What do you think about the decision to pass up an opportunity to keep a drive alive on fourth-and-one and instead punt in overtime?

The Cowboys lost to the Texans in overtime after electing to punt on 4th-and-1.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after the game he didn’t want to second-guess the decision, but that an overtime 4th-and-1 like his team faced is the time for risk taking.

But after Ezekiel Elliott rushed for no gain on 3rd-and-1 with 6:23 to play in overtime, Jason Garrett didn’t elect to go for it on 4th and 1.

Instead, Cowboys punter Chris Jones sent the ball to the Texans’ 10-yard line giving Houston 5:33 to score.

A cowardly Jason Garrett blew it (again) in Cowboys OT loss - Chris Chase, Touchdown Wire

Do you think that was a ‘cowardly’ move?

For the second-straight Sunday, the Houston Texans were the beneficiary of a fourth-down call in overtime. But unlike last week, when Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich boldly refused to play for a tie and ended up handing Houston a victory, this time it was Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett making the cowardly decision to punt on a fourth-and-1 from Houston’s 42-yard line on the first possession of overtime. The Cowboys never touched the ball again. It wasn’t quite handing the Texans a win, but the thing was pretty much gift wrapped.

It was classic Garrett, foregoing the bold decision (going for it), evidently giving no thought to the risky decision (kicking a 60-yard field goal for the win) and instead taking a page from Coaching 101, the 1978 edition. Garrett wasn’t playing for the win, he was playing not to lose. It was the anti-Reich.

We’re in a new era of coaching, where decisions once viewed as bold are now seen as playing the percentages. We saw Rams coach Sean McVay go for a critical, more risky, fourth down earlier in the day. His belief: My team can’t lose if the ball is in our hands. Garrett’s situation wasn’t exactly the same, but a first down would have given the Cowboys the advantage in the in-state battle. And if they didn’t make it? Houston still would have needed nearly 25 yards to get in comfortable field-goal range.

Jason Garrett’s refusal to go for it on fourth down in overtime is peak Cowboys - Dave Halprin, BTB

Dave gives his take on Garrett’s decision to punt.

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.

Jason Garrett’s strange decision to punt on fourth-and-1 in OT will be second-guessed - Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports

Schawb points out that the Cowboys actually went for it on fourth down — in the first half!

Considering the Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott, one of the NFL’s best backs, and a pretty good offensive line, it seemed like a clear situation to go for it.

The Cowboys punted instead and never got the ball back. Houston took over at their own 10, and a long pass to DeAndre Hopkins set up a game-winning field goal.

The funny thing about Garrett getting conservative is the Cowboys went for it on fourth-and-1 at Houston’s 41-yard line just after the two-minute warning of the first half. Dak Prescott got two yards for the first down. When the stakes were higher, Garrett folded. That decision will follow him for a while.

Cowboys offense on a road to nowhere in overtime loss - Todd Archer, ESPN

Archer recaps the loss, noting how Zeke being stopped on third-and-one was “fitting”.

The third-down offense was abysmal again. The Cowboys converted just 4 of 14 chances. In the season-opening loss at Carolina, they converted 2 of 11 chances. It was 3-of-13 in Week 3 at Seattle.

In overtime, Elliott was stopped on third-and-1, setting up the Texans’ game-winning drive. Perhaps that was fitting.

Jason Garrett did not think about gambling on fourth down, and the defense finally relented in overtime.

The first half was ugly for the defense, giving up 251 yards, but it gave up just two field goals in the second half. The Texans converted a touchdown on just one of six red zone chances. Jeff Heath had two stops at the goal line, including one in the second half. Jaylon Smith sacked Deshaun Watson on fourth-and-goal from the 1 at the end of the second quarter.

5 thoughts from Cowboys’ loss to Texans: DeAndre Hopkins makes a difference; the good news for Dallas - Jon Machota, SportsDay

Give the defense tons of credit.

3. This game never even goes to overtime without some of the big goal-line stops from the defense midway through the fourth quarter. You had to think Houston was going to get seven points when it had a first-and-goal from the Dallas 1. But big plays by Jeff Heath, Tyrone Crawford and the rest of the front seven made the difference, forcing another Houston field goal. Every time it looked like the Texans had a chance to pull away, the Cowboys made big plays on defense. Then there was the Jaylon Smith stop before halftime. Dallas would have been in serious trouble if it had fallen behind 17-6 at that point. Instead, Smith helped keep the score at 10-6. The former second-round pick missed a tackle earlier in the series but made up for it with maybe his best play as a Cowboy, putting a big hit on Texans QB Deshaun Watson.

The NFC East looks mediocre thus far this season, and Dallas missed a big opportunity.

2. Good news is that the other teams in the NFC East -- Eagles and Giants -- both lost on Sunday and the Redskins play tomorrow at New Orleans. The division looks to be one of the worst in the league. A 2-3 record isn’t the end of the world. With that said, 3-2 would’ve put Dallas in a very nice spot early in the season.

Five thoughts on a back-breaking 19-16 overtime loss by the Cowboys to the Texans - Clarence Hill, The Star-Telegram

The defense played good enough to win.

4. Give the Cowboys defense credit. It certainly looked like the Cowboys were going to have trouble with the Texans offense and Deshaun Watson all night. Watson completed his first seven passes and had 29 yards rushing on their first two drives. They also got gashed by running back Alfred Blue early who had seven carries for 34 yards in the first half. But the defense hung in there and kept the Cowboys in the game.

They limited the Texans to a field goal after 1st and goal at the 6, stopping Watson on a scramble at the 2 and then forcing an incomplete pass. The Texans were set up again after a Dak Prescott interception with 1 minute, 31 seconds left in the half and holding a 10-6 lead. A 1st and goal at the 9 soon became fourth 1 and the 1, thanks to a tackle by safety Jeff Heath on receiver DeAndre Hopkins at the goal line. The Texans went for it on fourth down with :03 left and linebacker Jaylon Smith sacked Watson for a two-yard loss.

The defensive opened the third quarter with a forced fumble by cornerback Anthony Brown on Hopkins. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis returned it 14 yards to set up a touchdown pass to Allen Hurns for a 13-10 lead. And then after another Prescott interception in Cowboys territory, the sudden change defense kept the Texans out of the end zone, forcing a game-tying field goal.

In yet another anemic Cowboys offensive road game, NBC’s Collinsworth and Michaels strain to find superlatives - Brad Townsend, SportsDay

When will the offensive struggles go away?

A Cowboys team that went 6-2 on the road in both 2016 and 2017, Prescott’s first two seasons, for whatever reason has been an inept offensive mess on the road this season.

No wonder Collinsworth got so excited about Sunday night’s third-quarter touchdown. Perhaps it was a hopeful plea that he actually might see another.

He didn’t. We didn’t. Granted, both defenses were stellar Sunday, yet criticisms of the Cowboys’ offensive shortcomings in particular were strangely missing.

The Dallas Cowboys should bring back Dez Bryant - Mac Engel, The Star-Telegram

Wait, bring Dez back?? Engel believes so.

Dez Bryant, please come back.

For the rest of the season.

No, the Dallas Cowboys are not going to bring back their disgruntled ex-diva wide receiver who can’t find a job, but at this point they should. He cannot be any worse than the crew of receivers the Cowboys are punishing Dak Prescott with every single week, on virtually every single drive.

Someone within the Dallas Cowboys “braintrust” must admit they blew it not necessarily in dumping Dez, but in believing the group of receivers they handed their quarterback was good enough to win a playoff game.

Watching Dak earn his way into heaven by throwing to the collection of players masquerading as NFL wide receivers in the Cowboys’ 19-16 overtime loss against the Houston Texans on Sunday night was not pathetic, but awkward.