After a Calvin Johnson touchdown gave the Lions a 34-30 lead over the Cowboys on Sunday, Dallas still had time for one final drive, and on that drive the Cowboys quickly picked up a couple of first downs and got into Lions territory.
But that drive came up short, ending with a boneheaded mistake by Cowboys running back Felix Jones.
Although Tony Romo’s three-interception second half has been given the lion’s share of the blame for the Cowboys’ loss, Jones deserves some of the blame, too: On fourth-and-20 on the Cowboys’ final offensive play, Romo hit Jones with a short pass, and Jones did a nice job of breaking one tackle. And then he simply stepped out of bounds after gaining just seven yards. The Lions got the ball, kneeled down once, and that was the game.
So what was Jones thinking?
“I think he probably lost track of the down at the end,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.
Obviously, if you’re an NFL player, you can’t afford to lose track of the down at the end of a game, and Jones has taken some criticism for his mistake: Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com wrote that Jones’s football IQ and jersey number are roughly equal. But Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says that clock management mistakes are just learning opportunities.
“Those are all real good learning experiences for everybody,” Garrett said. “It’s our job as coaches to show those guys on tape: This is what happened; this is the reaction that you had; this is why it was a good reaction or a bad reaction; and this is how we can learn from it. These situations will not go away. They don’t go away for any team in the league. We’ll come back again, and we need to be good in them.”
The Cowboys have been in nothing but close games this season. If that’s going to continue, Garrett had better be sure his players are actually learning something from these learning opportunities.