Jason Garrett spends a lot of time talking about process, talking about learning and practicing – basically he talks about doing things repeatedly until you’re conditioned to do them correctly. Let’s see if Garrett as a head coach is a follower of his own philosophy. Jason Garrett didn’t lose the game for the Dallas Cowboys yesterday, but he helped prevent them from winning it.
Most galling of all the decisions he made in the game was failing to call a timeout after Tony Romo completed a pass to Dez Bryant with roughly 24 second left in the game. Garrett can rationalize the decision after the fact anyway he likes, and he does, but there’s no getting around it, the decision was a huge blunder. And that’s not an after-the-fact rationalization either just because Dan Bailey missed the 49-yard FG to win the game. I, like thousands of other amateur Cowboys coaches, was howling immediately after the Bryant catch – why the heck were the Cowboys letting precious time slip away with two timeouts still left? It was inconceivable.
Garrett’s decision-making process, as he explains after the game, was this:
“We very well could have taken a timeout there,” Garrett said. “We felt like we were in field goal range. We have yard lines that we use as guidelines before the game. We felt like we were in range at that point. Tony [Romo] had them on the line of scrimmage quickly, so we went ahead and clocked it and used that as a timeout. … “You see so many situations where you have negative plays in those situations. We felt like we were in his range to give him a chance to kick the game-winner.”
There are just so many things wrong with that line of thought. First and foremost, when did a 49-yard FG in the NFL become a gimme? I would say that unless you’re in range for a 35-yard FG, there’s no excuse for not trying to gain more yards if you have the time to do it. Heck, I could even broaden that in certain cases to 40 yards. But 49 yards? Are you kidding me?
Continuing that line of thought, Dan Bailey has been automatic for most of this year. But was Jason Garrett watching the game at all? Bailey had already badly missed a 53-yard attempt earlier, it was a terrible kick, unlike anything Bailey has done all year. Then Bailey got lucky to hit a 50-yarder after that when he got a fortuitous bounce off the upright. Garrett should have seen red flags everywhere that his kicker was not quite right on Sunday. Sure you still trust him, but you also try to help him in anyway you can. Coming into the game you might have thought Bailey was automatic from 49 yards, but once the game unfolded, that assessment needed amending.
Finally, Garrett speaks of the fear of a negative play, either losing yards or even the dreaded turnover. There is no denying these factors were in play, but given what was obvious (see above), you have to treat the situation like you would at any other time – and that’s to get more yards for your kicker. A running play, a safe, short pass, something like that – all with a command to the troops during the timeout (the one he never called) calling for maximum ball security. Running backs keep two hands on the ball, or Romo throw it way if a sack is imminent or coverage is good. You have to trust your players to do the right thing becasue the kick wasn’t a gimme, and Garrett should have realized that.
I’m actually not that upset about the timeout that Garrett took before Bailey “made” the kick. The play-clock was running down and the last thing you want is a penalty to back you up. You also don’t want the snap/hold/kick process to be rushed in a situation like that. So I’m willing to say that Garrett made a defensible decision there, even though the outcome looks bad for him.
Now, I’ve spent plenty of time in this piece ripping Jason Garrett for poor decision-making in the final seconds, but the Cowboys as a whole should have never been in that position. Only having 13 points going into that final kick was a collective failure on offense. The old saying of “they should have never been in that position of having to win it at the end” rings true here. The Cowboys offense played below expectations and some of that falls on the players. In this game, though, Garrett was plain out-coached. That will be the subject of Part II of this article later today.
Of course I still believe in Jason Garrett, he has the Cowboys closing in on the playoffs even with yesterday’s failure. As long as he learns from his mistakes, and holds himself accountable like he does the players, he should come out of it just fine. Just follow your own philosophy.
The Cowboys have won four games in a row (against bad football teams), and they will look to make it a fifth this weekend in Arizona. The Cardinals are suddenly hot as they have won 3 of their last four games (but 2 were against the Rams). Here is a look at the matchups in this game:
When the Cowboys have the ball: The Cowboys are so much better now that the offense is balancing a lot more. A lot of that credit should go to rookie RB DeMarco Murray, as he is playing great right now. The Cardinals are giving up 123.5 yards rushing per game and 4.0 yards per carry, so Murray could be in line for a big game. Tony Romo has benefitted from the Cowboys’ newly found success running the ball, as he has had much more time to throw lately. TE Jason Witten and WRs Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson are in line for good games this weekend for the Cowboys.
When the Cardinals have the ball: The Cowboys might have some problems stopping the suddenly balanced offense of the Cardinals. Beanie Wells is in a good groove, so the Cowboys’ front seven is going to be challenged all day by him tomorrow. Kevin Kolb is going to be back at QB after missing some time with turf toe. The Cowboys hope that he’s a tad rusty and they are going to be blitzing him left and right. If Kolb has time to throw the ball, the Cowboys could be in some trouble as WR Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best playmakers in the NFL.
PREDICTION: COWBOYS 27, CARDINALS 24
The Philadelphia Eagles will look to rebound after losing 30-24 to the Bears last Monday Night in Philly. The Arizona Cardinals finally broke a six game losing streak last weekend against the Rams, 19-13 in O.T. Here is a look at the matchups in this game:
When the Eagles have the ball: The Eagles are going to try to get the running game going early this Sunday to set up the passing game. Lesean McCoy and Michael Vick will likely find more running room against the Cardinals than they did against the Bears last weekend, but the Cards only only giving up 3.9 yards per carry so it won’t be easy. Michael Vick will also likely have more time to throw the ball, so Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin could be in line for big games today. TE Brent Celek, WR Jason Avant and RB Lesean McCoy are also likely to get targeted a bit in the passing game this weekend, making the passing game even more deadly than usual.
When the Cardinals have the ball: The Cardinals might try to give the Eagles a heavy dose of Beanie Wells on the ground in this game. The Eagles will likely try to put a lot of pressure on QB John Skelton, who is making only his second start of the season. The Eagles will focus on stopping WR Larry Fitzgerald, forcing Skelton to beat them throwing the ball to guys like Early Doucet, Andre Roberts and his TEs.
PREDICTION: EAGLES 34, CARDINALS 10
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The Packers scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Cardinals last night. Aaron Rodgers was sharp again as he completed 9 of 12 passes for 97 yards with 1 TD pass and 0 INTs. Matt Flynn was also razor sharp as he completed 5 of 6 passes for 141 yards with 1 TD pass and 0 INTs. His TD pass was a 97-yard bomb to WR Chastin West. Graham Harrell looked a lot better this week as he completed 7 of 9 passes for 81 yards with 1 TD pass and 0 INTs. He also carried the ball 2 times for 14 yards (7.0 ypc) in this game. Dimtri Nance led the way for the Packers on the ground in this game with 28 yards on 4 carries (7.0 ypc). Ryan Grant looked solid again with 23 yards rushing on 5 carries (4.6 ypc) in this game. Rookie RB Alex Green pitched in with 6 carries for 8 yards (1.3 ypc) with 1 TD run. He also caught 1 pass for 25 yards last night. WRs Chastin West (5 rec, 134 yards, TD), Greg Jennings (2 rec, 24 yards, TD) and Kerry Taylor (1 rec, 6 yards, TD) all made big plays in the passing game for the Packers last night. TE Jermichael Finley also pitched in with 4 grabs for 33 yards (8.3 avg) last night. The Packers finished up with 85 yards rushing on 23 carries (3.7 ypc) and they also completed 21 of 27 passes (77.8%) for 297 yards last night.
The Packers played well against the run last night but not so good against the pass. Safeties M.D. Jennings (7 tackles) and Nick Collins (5 tackles, 1 pass defensed) led the way for the Packers’ D in this game. CB Brandian Ross pitched in with 2 tackles, 1 pass defensed and 1 interception. The Cardinals finished up with 95 yards rushing on 27 carries (3.5 ypc) and they also completed 24 of 41 passes (58.5%) for 289 yards. The Packers are now 1-1 on the pre-season.