The Cowboys have flirted with disaster in each of their last three wins, but that kind of behavior finally bit them this week in the form of an overtime loss to the Jaguars. It happened in soul-crushing fashion, too, with a ball bouncing off the hands of Noah Brown and into a defender’s hands for a pick six.
At one point, though, Dallas led 27-10. Just like the Packers game, though, they took their foot off the pedal, blew the lead, and then came up short in overtime. How did it happen, though? These five plays went a long way to getting the Cowboys in a less-than-ideal position.
Dallas settles for field goal inside the Jaguars 10-yard line
The story of this game should center around the Cowboys not going for the Jaguars’ jugular when they had the chance, and they had several chances. Jacksonville began the third quarter with a solid offensive drive, but were limited to a field goal. The Cowboys still led 21-10.
Then the offense marched down the field before coming up short on third and four at the Jaguars’ six-yard line. It would’ve made a lot of sense to go for it in this spot in an effort to go up by three scores, whereas a field goal only puts them up by two touchdowns. Plus, a failed fourth-down attempt sets the Jaguars up in terrible field position.
Mike McCarthy opted for the safe option and took the points. Brett Maher dutifully nailed the kick and turned a two-possession game into a two-possession game. Who needs a killer instinct?
Dallas settles for another field goal on fourth and short
Right after settling for a field goal, the Cowboys turned around and picked off Trevor Lawrence, who hadn’t thrown an interception in six weeks. The offense started out in Jaguars territory and had another opportunity to further bury their opponent.
Dallas went three-and-out though, bringing up a fourth and three at the Jacksonville 35-yard line. While this one wasn’t deep in Jaguars territory like the last drive, it also came with a shorter distance to move the chains. Once again, Dallas could’ve gone for it here and tried to score a touchdown.
Once again, though, McCarthy opted for a field goal. These were consecutive drives for the offense where they settled for six total points instead of potentially 14. Had they played aggressive and succeeded each time, the Cowboys would’ve led by 35-10. Instead, they led 27-10, making it that much easier on the Jaguars.
Dak Prescott’s risky throw gets intercepted in Dallas territory
After settling for their second field goal, the Cowboys kicked it back off to the Jaguars. It only took them three plays to score a touchdown, with Kelvin Joseph giving up yet another deep play down the sideline. A poor kick return from KaVontae Turpin set the Cowboys up in poor position to respond.
The field position got worse when Dak Prescott was sacked on first down, setting up second and 18 at the Dallas eight. Once again under pressure, Prescott tried to step up in the pocket and throw to Dalton Schultz. However, Prescott got hit from behind as he began his throwing motion, and the ball sailed over his tight end and into the hands of a defender.
A penalty from Jacksonville on the return wiped out the extra yards, but the Jaguars still started their next drive at the Dallas 39. Four plays later and Joseph was targeted for another touchdown. And just like that, Dallas led by a field goal.
The entire sequence that led to a Dallas three-and-out late in the fourth quarter
Had the Cowboys managed to win this game, we would be talking about the clutch forced fumble by Jayron Kearse that led to Micah Parsons’ recovery. That gave Dallas the ball with 88 seconds left in the game, and Jacksonville had all three timeouts. All the Cowboys had to do was get one first down and the game was theirs.
That was too much to ask. Ezekiel Elliott got stuffed on first down for a loss of three. Tony Pollard gained those three yards back on second down. And then the Cowboys opted to throw it deep on third down, which fell incomplete.
The Cowboys ran three plays and burned just 16 seconds off the clock. The first two plays were busts, and a run on third and 10 likely wouldn’t have moved the chains but it would’ve at least forced Jacksonville to use their final timeout. Instead, they were getting the ball back with over a minute to go and one timeout.
Replay changes the call on the field and saves Jaguars’ final timeout
We all know what happened: the Jaguars kicked a field goal to send it into overtime, where all hell broke loose. But they very nearly didn’t get into field goal range in the first place, and it took a replay review to help them out.
Lawrence hit Evan Engram down the sideline on second and eight near midfield and the officials ruled him down in bounds, causing the clock to run and Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson to use his final timeout. With 11 seconds left, that made it nearly impossible for Jacksonville to get into field goal range. However, a replay review correctly overturned the call, as Engram was out of bounds. That stopped the clock and gave Jacksonville their timeout back.
On the very next play, Lawrence fired a dagger (just over Donovan Wilson’s fingertips) to Zay Jones, who went down immediately. Jacksonville used their final timeout and kicked the game-tying field goal, but they almost didn’t have that timeout. And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Cowboys could’ve forced the Jaguars to use that very timeout had they not thrown on third down. But a calamity of errors in the final two minutes kept the Jaguars in it, and that was all they needed.