October 12, 2008. The Cowboys lost to the Cardinals 30-24 in OT when Matt McBriar’s punt was blocked and returned for the winning touchdown. The game also saw serious injuries to Tony Romo, Felix Jones, Matt McBriar (on the blocked punt) and Anthony Spencer.
December 25, 2010. The Cowboys lost to the Cardinals 27-26 as Miles Austin scored with less then two minutes to play, but David Buehler missed the extra point which made the score only 26-24. The Cardinals then drove down the field and kicked the winning field goal with five seconds left.
December 4, 2011. I keep trying to find something positive from the loss to the 4-7 Cardinals on Sunday. But the more I think about the game the more angrier I get. Let’s start with head coach Jason Garrett who continues to have suspect game plans and his playing calling leaves a lot to be desired. The Cowboys threw the ball 42 times and ran it only 20 times against the Cardinals. How does one justify only giving DeMarco Murray 12 carries when he has been arguably the best running back in the league the last month? Garrett baffles my mind each and every game. Maybe being a head coach is too much for him. Maybe he has no trust in Tony Romo or his offensive line. Or maybe he just knows that Jerry Jones is always over his shoulder watching his every move and is coaching scared. Of course as a fan these are just my opinions, but the way Garrett manages games sometimes has to make one wonder what is happening.
In the first quarter the Cowboys faced a 4th and 1 from the Cardinals 36 yard line. They looked like they were going to go for it and then Garrett called a timeout. After the timeout Garrett changed his mind and sent Dan Bailey out to attempt a 53 yard field goal, which he missed. Why would Garrett decide to do this? Why not go for it? Why not punt and try to pin the Cardinals against their goal line? I understand that Bailey had connected on 26 straight field goals, but at the same time you have to think about field position in those situations. With the miss the Cardinals took over at the 43 yard line. They then took advantage of the good field position and drove down and take a 3-0 lead.
After the Cardinals converted the missed field goal into a field goal of their own something happened that baffled me and goes along the same argument as far as thinking about field position in certain situations. On the kickoff Felix Jones returned the kick 69 yards to the Cardinals 35 yard line. On first down Romo was sacked for a seven yard loss. Then on 2nd and 6 Murray ran for six yards to set up a 3rd and 11 from the 36 yard line. Garrett then calls for a short pass to Bryant that only gains one yard. It seems to me that Garrett doesn’t like to be aggressive with his play calling. If they need 11 yards for a first down pass the ball down the field. Even if they don’t get the first, maybe they can pick up six or seven yards to make things easier for Dan Bailey. So that makes it 4th and 10 from the 35 yard line and now Garrett decides to punt which he maybe should have done on the prior possession when the Cowboys were on the 36 yard line. McBriar punted and the Cardinals had to start the drive from their own ten yard line. Football is a game of field possession and it has to be taken into consideration.
Then there was the series of events at the end of the game that everyone is talking about. With 26 seconds left in the game and the Cowboys sitting at the Cardinals 32 yard line with two timeouts why doesn’t Garrett call for the timeout? How can he justify letting the clock run down to seven seconds and then call a timeout? I can’t understand that way of thinking. If the Cowboys call a timeout with 26 seconds left they have their entire playbook to work with. They can get closer for Dan Bailey and still have a timeout in their pocket. Run the ball, pass the ball and be aggressive. I know one thing that if it was Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in that situation they would have run a play to get their team closer. And yesterday it was Aaron Rodgers who did run a play to get his team closer. I just don’t understand the thinking when it comes to Garrett and a lot of his decisions. It was poor clock management and there is no excuse or reasoning that will change this fans mind. This was how Garrett explained his decision.
“We very well could’ve taken a timeout there,” Garrett said. “We just felt like we were in field goal range. We had yardlines that we use as guidelines before the game, and we felt like we were in range at that point. Tony had them on the line of scrimmage quickly, so we just went ahead and clocked it, and used that as a timeout.”
Let’s not forget the fact that Jason Garrett called timeout as Dan Bailey kicked the winning field goal. Isn’t it the opposing team that normally tries to ice the kicker? Not the kickers own head coach! Don’t teams practice game situations where the field goal team runs out onto the field with only seconds left to kick the game winner? Everything was sitting right there for Garrett at the end of the game. Call a timeout with 26 seconds left and then run a play to try and get your kicker closer. And no matter what would have happened on that play the Cowboys could have then called their last timeout to setup the game winning kick. I understand some people might argue that if the Cowboys turn the ball over then Bailey would have never had the chance to win the game. But the thought of a turnover has to be the furthest thing from your mind in that situation because that just means they are coaching and playing scared. They need to be aggressive and coach and play to win the game.
“We just felt like we wanted to have a clean operation,” Garrett said when asked about the timeout on the first (unofficial) kick.
Now don’t get me wrong. Although the loss to the Cardinals had a lot to do with Garrett, it wasn’t his entire fault. Maybe if the defense tackled better, then the Cowboys wouldn’t have been in the position they were in. This was most evident in overtime on the winning 52 yard pass and run as LaRod Stephens-Howling ran through the entire Cowboys defense.
The contract extension that was given to Orlando Scandrick continues to make me scratch my head. Not only is he constantly getting beat by opposing receivers, but he is also not much of a tackler in my opinion. In the Cardinals game it was his special team’s play that stood out and not in a good way. In the second quarter the Cardinals punted to Dez Bryant. As Bryant caught the punt at the Cowboys 48 yard line he fumbled due to Scandrick being in the way as he was blocking someone in the back. The Cowboys recovered the fumble, but due to Scandrick’s penalty the drive started at the 38 instead of the 48.
Then with just over two minutes to play in the game the Cowboys defense forced the Cardinals to punt from their nine yard line. Dez Bryant returned the punt past midfield and into Cardinals territory to put the Cowboys in great position to win the game. But on the return once again it was Scandrick who was called for the block in the back and the Cowboys start the drive at their own 32 instead of deep in Cardinals territory.
So instead of the Cowboys being 8-4 with a two game lead in the NFC East with the Giants losing to the Packers. They find themselves only one game ahead with an all-important match-up with the Giants Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium. In a game that just might decide the division title the Cowboys better play much better and make better decisions then they did against the Cardinals. And those decisions start with Jason Garrett.