USA TODAY Sports
The Cowboys took a calculated risk late in Sunday night’s loss to the 49ers. And it failed.
With 14 seconds left, no timeouts and the ball on San Francisco’s 41, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy called a draw quarterback.
Dak Prescott sprinted to the 24-yard line before sliding to a stop. But Prescott, instead of giving the ball to the referee, gave the ball to a teammate. This set the stage for the referee to rush in a bid to spot the ball before the next snap.
And that stopped the Cowboys from snapping the ball before the clock hit zero.
After the game, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy told reporters that they practice the quarterback toss in this situation every week, via ESPN’s Ed Werder. (Apparently they don’t practice enough.) Prescott stayed up too long and, as mentioned above, he didn’t give the ball to the referee.
McCarthy also said officials told him the modified sky judge device operated from the league office was likely to put more time on the clock. That didn’t happen, of course.
It’s probably good that the league office didn’t intervene. Had they given the Cowboys another shot and had the Cowboys won the game, the cries of “the fix is in” would have been heard all week, with 49ers fans and others insisting the league “wanted” the Cowboys to advance.
In the end, it’s the fault of the technical staff and the players. The game was poorly executed from the back, meaning the coaches failed to teach enough about the importance of getting things done quickly and cleanly as the final seconds of the game evaporate.