Garrett considered letting Broncos score, decided to try for a stop


When Tony Romo threw an interception with 1:57 remaining and the Cowboys and Broncos tied 48-48 on Sunday, the Cowboys were probably going to lose no matter what. But would they have had a better chance if they had simply allowed the Broncos to score a touchdown, rather than keeping them out of the end zone long enough for the Broncos to run the clock down to two seconds remaining, call a timeout and kick the game-winning field goal as time expired?

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says his team discussed the scenarios but ultimately decided to play defense, rather than allow the Broncos to score a touchdown with enough time left on the clock for the Cowboys to get the ball back and try to force overtime.

“You’re balancing the idea of getting a stop there,” Garrett said, via the Dallas Morning News. “If you get a stop there, they kick the field goal and you give yourself a much better chance to tie the football game coming back. You have no timeouts and all that, so you weight those out. We decided to try to make the stop on third down and they made it by about an inch.”

According to a statistical analysis published at Deadspin, the Cowboys made the wrong call. Once the Broncos got a first down with 1:49 to play when Peyton Manning hit Demaryius Thomas for a 13-yard completion at the 11-yard line, the Cowboys would have been more likely to win the game if they had allowed the Broncos to score on the next play. The Cowboys’ chances wouldn’t have been great in that scenario, down 55-48 with less than two minutes remaining. But their chances would have been better than the alternative of allowing the Broncos to keep running time off the clock.

The Broncos essentially sealed the win when Knowshon Moreno picked up a first down — but didn’t score a touchdown — on third-and-2 with 1:40 left in the game. That allowed Manning to take a knee three times and set up Matt Prater’s game-winning chip-shot field goal. Moreno getting a first down but not a touchdown on that run was the worst-case scenario for the Cowboys. If Moreno had been stopped short of a first down, the Broncos would have kicked a field goal on the next play, and the Cowboys would have gotten the ball back down three points. And if the Cowboys had allowed Moreno to score a touchdown on that run, Dallas at least would have gotten the ball back with a chance to send the game into overtime.

As it turned out, the Cowboys stopped Moreno only after he got the first down, when it would have been better just to let him get into the end zone.

59 responses to “Garrett considered letting Broncos score, decided to try for a stop

  1. It wouldn’t have mattered because right before the play you could see Peyton yelling at Moreno to fall down after the first down marker.

  2. Manning told Moreno not to score. Obviously if the Cowboys intent was for him to score they could have helped pull him across the goal line. Tough spot.

  3. Dallas had an opportunity to hold them to a field goal & get the ball back. Denver just did what both offenses did all afternoon, they executed. Once Denver got that last first down, they sealed it. Simply put

  4. Jason Garrett is one of the worst coaches in the history of football. I think it’s hilarious that they thought firing Rob Ryan would help them when it was clear that Jason Garrett was the problem. Look at what Rob Ryan has achieved this year and look at the Cowboys’ pathetic 2-3 record. There’s your answer. And by the way how about that Cowboys defense!

  5. —————–
    sGoDonkos says:
    Oct 7, 2013 7:52 PM
    we wouldn’t have scored cause Peyton didn’t hand it off, he took a knee, but really kinda bellyflopped actually

    Um, you kind of missed the point here. The article is talking about third down, when the running back had the ball. The Cowboy should have just let him score.

  6. 2 ways to lose a tied game, give Romo the ball at the end or allow your opponent to eat the entire clock. There would of been ~1:15 left if they let Denver score & fielded the kickoff.

  7. Garrett’s logic would be understandable if they hadn’t given up that last first down to Moreno. The D had not been able to stop Manning all day — slow them down, yea, but not stop them–, so how could he rely on that D inside their own 20 in FG range to stop them with enough time for the Cowboys O to do anything with the remaining time and no timeouts? I would have told the D to part the red sea and let Moreno walk in.

    Cowboys should have let them score. They had all three timeouts after the turnover and, despite what people may say, Romo was lighting up that Broncos secondary. Romo gave them their best chance to win otherwise they would have been blown out!

  8. Jason Garrett sucks. Jerry Jones is just being stubborn and wasting the last effective years of his veteran players careers. Make the move, Jerry!

  9. Dallas should have stayed with their defensive game plan of letting the Broncos score on every possesion.

  10. Also, thank you for keeping Garrett as your head coach, Romo as qb, and not hiring a GM that knows something about football.

  11. When the other team runs up 51 points, I don’t see how you can lay the loss at the feet of your quarterback and his last-second interception. Did the defenses get lost on their way to the field? Or is this what we can expect in the new, “improved” NFL? Wish I could believe all the rules aimed at neutering defenses were really about increasing player safety … rather than appealing to fantasy players and casual viewers who are easily bored by the nuts and bolts of the game as it’s supposed to be played.

    The irony is that the late, late game between Oakland and San Diego provided a lot less splash, but more satisfying football.

  12. Wrong. If Dallas let Denver score a TD, Denver would have let Dallas return the kickoff for a TD on the next play and would have gotten the ball back with over a minute and a bunch of timeouts with the score tied at 55.

    This is sarcasm. Thanks for ruining football Roger.

  13. I was there when Westbrook took a knee on the one and the Eagles beat the ‘boys in the old Texas stadium. We drove down from Philly. Me and my son knew exactly what had a happened, but the fans in the stands were baffled…. Best…game…ever….
    I doubt that the red headed kid thought of letting them score… But if it makes him feel better…. 🙂

  14. This is all incorrect.

    The Broncos were the ones who didnt want to score a TD. Listen to both John Fox and Peyton Mannings press conference. I called this during the game that we want to get the first down but not score a TD. Moreno could have easily ran it in but he fell down at the 1 yard line to get the first instead. Kick field goal and end the game.

    This was great coaching by the Broncos at the end of the game. So, sorry Garret you had no choice here.

  15. I dont agree with this at all. If they stuff the run play on 3rd and 1, its 4th and 1 and they had the timeout to stop the clock with about 1:30 left. So Denver kicks a FG and Dallas gets the ball with 1:30 and down by 3. Thats a very good scenario.

    Instead, moreno barely gets the first down and they run out the clock, but had they stuffed him there, they would have been in very good position being down 3 with 1:30 left.

  16. This would have been a great game to watch even if I wasnt a Broncos fan. Don’t want to see my team get in a shootout like this every week but I would imagine this was a very entertaining game to watch regardless of what team you cheer for.

    Just wasn’t so much fun when it’s your team and their team is going score for score with you. Don’t need a heart attack in my 30’s and would rather our defense actually stop someone.

    HALF of our defense was out though and many don’t know that. Ayers, Champ, Miller, Harris and Woodyard (our captain and play caller). All of these guys I just mentioned are probablly our best players on defense and this really hurt our team. So when you have 11 players and 5 KEY players are missing that is huge, especially against an offense that can score on many good defenses.

    Good game Cowboys….good game.

  17. crazy times we live in where you seek to win ball possession by offering no resistance on defense.

    sadly cowboys will probably win their division. get it together eli!

  18. Its absolutely mind boggling that many of these COACHES have access to the charts of this information, yet they go ahead and make the WRONG decision and still get to keep their jobs.

    You know some people at times would try and convince you that these guys know more than you …no they don’t!!, because you don’t have to look far at some of the decisions that are made.

  19. Listening to people complain about the “new” NFL sucking due to no defense is hilarious.

    First off, they’re breaking 50 year old records.

    Secondly, the NE-CIN game had one total touchdown scored between both teams. That was the same day.

    So, sorry that Peyton Manning has an insane offensive arsenal? Sorry that the Broncos played without 5 of their best defensive starters?

  20. This just shows that you don’t need much of an IQ to be an NFL head coach. First thing out of my mouth with 1:49 to go was give up the score and then you have almost 2 minutes and 2 time outs left and you’ve got your shot. You want to leave 0:00 on the clock with Manning.

    That was a no brainer. And every football fan I’ve spoken to that has more than a modicum of common said the same thing.

    What Garrett did there was frankly stupid and inexcusable. Although I’ll be Jerrah Jonz had something to do with it either way.

  21. Oh sure, THAT’S when they decided to play defense. Wonder why didn’t they think of that 50 min earlier?

  22. No way Manning lets anyone on the Broncos score in that situation. He by far the most cerebral QB to ever play. Kind of sad, but he has probably forgotten more about football than Jason ever knew…

  23. So, the Broncos had already scored 48 points on you, just as you had scored 48 points on them, and your strategy was to try to stop them instead of trying to score on them, Garrett?

  24. Don’t know which team was worse.

    500 yards and 50 pts to Tony Romo???? Seriously?

    And Cowboys, you score that and lose???

    Defense wins championships.

    Enjoy yourselves while it lasts.

  25. Ask us Packer fans how well it works to intentionally let the Broncos score a touchdown. Didn’t work out too well for us in Super Bowl XXXII.

  26. If you look at those stats, we’re talking about raising their chances of winning from 2% to 12%

    While they’re likely going to lose its really a question of whether you expect your defense or offense is more up to the task at hand.

    With Manning I think I’d want to give up the TD and take a chance that your own offense can tie or win with a conversion.

    But let’s not get bent out of shape over this – at best it was 88% assured they’d lose.

  27. More reason why Garrett is a better OC than a head coach. Had he let him score (after 51 points NOW you think u can stop them?), it would’ve given Tony Romo a chance to win the game, but more importantly a chance for redemption. Bad judgment call Garrett …

  28. Regardless of what Peyton told Moreno, after you’ve scored 48 there’s no way I believe in a stop being made on 3rd an 1. It would have been operation pick the ball carrier up and put him down in the end zone.

    Let’s say the Cowboys say hey let him score and get burned by Moreno going a few feet and downing the ball I could understand the logic of that choice. However I feel like Garrett would not be able to pull the trigger on an impulse decision.

    How many times have head coach Garrett’s decisions in the final moments of the game benefited the Cowboys?

  29. Oh the delicious irony! Dallas couldn’t keep Denver from scoring all night, but when they needed them to score, they stopped them.

    If that game is what football of the future is going to be like, I am going to start watching Spongebob on Sundays. Ugliest game I ever saw. It was like watching a shootout in soccer.

  30. Jerruh didn’t think of it so, Jason wasn’t given the go ahead.

    The Puppet Master was too busy crying in his beer up there in the High Visibility Box.

    But hey?
    It’s a moral victory kinda thing.
    Paid like Manning.
    Played like Romo.

    How’s Kiffen’s Tampa 2 working for ya Jerr?


  31. ————————–
    ghjjf says:
    Oct 7, 2013 8:06 PM
    Dallas should have stayed with their defensive game plan of letting the Broncos score on every possesion.

    Comment of the decade! LOL!!!

  32. Great game period! Ya lacking some D on both teams but still a great game to watch! Denver is scary good on offense and IF they can get healthy and all there guys back I fully expect them to be in the SB well maybe cause we all know Peyton is not clutch on the playoffs what so ever… And Dallas wins the NFC east plain and simple and we will see if romo can get over his playoffs woos..

  33. “We decided to try to make the stop on third down and they made it by about an inch.”

    Only an inch, another moral victory.


  34. Let me get this straight, you haven’t stopped them all day and with the game on the line you think your defense will do something? Bad decision.

  35. I support advanced stats and the statisticians who make them, but anyone who acts like it’s a legitimate thing to go talk to modern-day gladiators and tell them “Okay, what you’re going to do is go against YEARS of mental conditioning and LET THEM SCORE” is showing how little they’ve actually played the game of football.

    And, to be honest, if Garrett tried to pull a let them score ploy, the Cowboy Hate Nation would still be just as fervent about how he didn’t trust his defense or he quit or SOMETHING.

    Even in defeat, the Cowboys proved in this game that they have ZERO competition in the NFC East because they were unafraid of the mighty Denver Broncos and overcame a Peyton-esque game from the Evil Fivehead himself, and an uncharacteristically tough game from Knowshon Moreno. They went punch-for-punch against a team that crushed the G-Boys and the Philly Ducks and came out looking like a team that will do what it has to do to compete against the best.

    Do they need to improve their defense? Absolutely, but didn’t the Packers win a Super Bowl recently with the NFL’s worst defense?

  36. “Ask us Packer fans how well it works to intentionally let the Broncos score a touchdown. Didn’t work out too well for us in Super Bowl XXXII.”

    It helps when your coach doesn’t forget what down it is.

  37. lol @ at 49er fans talking smack. They’re 3-2. Get a grip, and don’t forget the Cowboys have won a Super Bowl more recently than the 49ers have (no salary cap cheating needed).

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