Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy defends calls on two failed fourth downs

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Two failed fourth down conversion tries from their own side of the field by the Dallas Cowboys led directly to two quick touchdowns for the Washington Football Team in Thursday’s 41-16 loss to the Washington Football Team.

A throw to CeeDee Lamb on fourth-and-1 from their own 34-yard line resulted in a five-play scoring drive for Washington that gave them a 17-10 lead in the second quarter. Then while trailing 20-16 early in the fourth quarter, a fake punt from their own 23-yard line was brushed aside by Washington with Antonio Gibson scoring one play later on a 23-yard touchdown run as the game spiraled out of hand for Dallas.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that he was happy with the play calls made in those situations, the team just didn’t convert the first downs.

The fake punt involved Cedrick Wilson taking a reverse pitch from the up back and looking to throw to punter Hunter Niswander or running for it himself. However, Washington cornerback Danny Johnson didn’t take off after the gunner and was positioned to cover Niswander’s release and shut the play down.

“Well, I mean it’s definitely a big play opportunity,” McCarthy said, via quotes distributed by the team. “There are certain things you look for tendency-wise on when and where. But obviously, we didn’t execute it. That’s how those things go. Obviously, it’s ultimately my responsibility particularly when a play like that doesn’t work. But we’re trying to generate a big play. At that point in the game, our information that you look for going into it, it was a solid call.”

McCarthy knew it was a risky situation to call such a play but that he believed the call was a good one given their study of Washington’s tendencies. It just didn’t work.

“Well, you don’t get anywhere if you think about the negatives all the time,” McCarthy said. “Obviously, it was a solid play call. It’s a good play design. Their gunner made a good play. He came off of it and put us in a high/low read for Cedric [Wilson]. It’s a play that if we hit it, we’re sitting [good]. That’s the nature of those plays. So, you can never hit them if you don’t call them and don’t believe in them. I clearly understood the situation when it was called.”

The pass to Lamb was a bit more straightforward and less critical cause it was earlier in the game. Lamb had a pure one-on-one matchup with cornerback Ronald Darby. Darby drove on the throw and got to Lamb a touch early. However, no flag was thrown and Washington took over on downs. Alex Smith would hit Logan Thomas for a 5-yard touchdown five plays later.

“It was a clean matchup,” McCarthy said. “Honestly, we had one-on-one on the perimeter. Obviously, the result wasn’t what we were looking for. I think everybody saw what happened on the play. Those are plays that you look to create opportunities and it was a good play call. We had one-on-one on the outside. We just didn’t convert.”

The calls failed in their efforts to help the Cowboys win a game and make the postseason. They succeeded in helping the Cowboys have a more favorable position in next spring’s NFL Draft.

18 responses to “Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy defends calls on two failed fourth downs

  1. Earlier this year McCarthy was being called out for being too conservative. Now they are on him for being too risky??? Headslap…

  2. Of course if it worked it was a “great play call”.
    How could it be a “great play call” if it didn’t work, too?
    These coaches never want to admit that they got out-coached.

  3. Sorry but that was one of the most stupid plays of the year! Deep in your own territory and you try that? Wow!

  4. I think the issue with Mike McCarthy is that–a good or great coach knows when to roll the dice–whether a trick play, going on it on 4th door, or otherwise. In the modern era with analytics, you can look at tendencies, direction of the play, and know when to throw in something unexpected for the defense.

    It seems from his time in Green Bay and now with the Cowboys–the issue isn’t so much trying something different–its knowing WHEN to do it. IT seems McCarthy is doing it to appease people saying he is too conseverative.

    He might not be as good a coach without Aaron Rodgers, to be honest. He likely made a bad decision to bring a coach out of retirement to run his defense…and the massive injuries the cowboys have had certainly is not going to help.

    I just remember in that playoff game a few years ago in Seattle, he had a huge lead, early in the game kicked a bunch of field goals when he had 4th and goal to go…one touch down instead of a field goal, he might have had too much of a lead for the Seahawks to mount a comeback.

    He stuck with the field goals…and managed to lose after his team muffed the onside kick attempt.

  5. What a bafoon. Have fun next next year Cowboys fans. Jerruh already said he’s staying 👍

  6. McCarthy seems unable to account for the situation when making and/or signing off on these calls. Whether it is a fake punt or an attempt to convert on a 4th down or going for a 2-point conversion, his brain just seems to shut down. I hated the McCarthy hire when it was announced. I hate it even more now. But like his buddy in the White House, Jerry is unable to admit a mistake which means we’ve got a minimum of three more years of this crap before we can move on from him.

  7. To me both play calls were bad. The first 4th down should’ve been an easy quarterback sneak. As for the second 4th down. A reverse on a fake punt should always be a pass unless the hole is so big he can easily get it.

  8. I watched McCarthy coach for about 15 years as a fan of a division rival of Green Bay. He only does well when he has a HoF quarterback to bail him out, neither of whom he drafted. I don’t know where Dak Prescott will end up, but Dak isn’t playing right now.

  9. I was not sold on McCarthy when Jerry Jones hired him, and I still not sold on McCarthy being the right fit in Dallas. McCarthy does seem to be able to reach out and inspire his players. In today’s NFL a coach need that trait.

  10. I get going for it on 4th and 1 to CeeDee Lamb, it didn’t work, but not a terrible call. The fake punt looked like something called by a first year Pop Warner Coach. Inside your own 30, ok I get it you want to surprise them, no one is looking for it. The play design with the big looping drop back completely took the run out as an option. A surprise trick play has to take quick advantage of the element of surprise. The play took too long to develop and the result was not a surprise at all

  11. If the division lead wasn’t on the line, one would think that McCarthy was trying to get fired.

  12. So I do not watch the Cowboys as much as others.
    When the McCarthy hire was made, it was alleged that he would make the difference over Jason Garrett. I never thought he was an upgrade.

    I thought he was equivalent to guys like Josh McDaniel (Brady), Adam Gase (Peyton Manning in his historic Denver year) or Dirk Koetter (Matt Ryan). McCarthy (Rodgers).

    They are capable guys but nothing special like Sean Payton or Andy Reid as offensively brilliant guys.

    It seems we are seeing evidence of McCarthy being JAG.

  13. There’s a reason that he’s no longer the coach in Green Bay. This could be why. Clueless, i never liked the hire.

  14. Yes, Darby got there early but call it a make up for the no-call when Cooper clearly pushed off Darby on the long touchdown catch.

  15. Going to see a lot more “business decisions” in Dallas over the next few weeks as the injuries (and losses) keep piling up…..

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