If Greg Zuerlein hadn’t made a 56-yard field goal to become the hero for the Cowboys on Sunday, Mike McCarthy might have been the goat. But Zuerlein did, getting the Cowboys coach off the hook for his questionable clock management.
The Cowboys had one timeout and faced second-and-six from the Chargers 41 with 33 seconds left. Dallas handed the ball off to Tony Pollard who gained 3 yards. Tick, tick, tick. . . .
The Chargers, who had three timeouts, opted not to call one. Neither did the Cowboys, who appeared confused. Dak Prescott got the players to the line late, and the Cowboys finally called timeout with four seconds left. It left no time for anything but Zuerlein’s try.
Former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, broadcasting the game for CBS, questioned his former team’s thinking. Former Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg, the color analyst for the Cowboys Radio Network, called Zuerlein “great deodorant” for the game management on the final drive.
McCarthy blamed it on the game clock he was watching go out, but provided a clumsy explanation.
“The clock situation was just different,” McCarthy said, via quotes distributed by the Chargers. “I’ve never had a clock go off the board on me like that. In the second down, we’re trying to chip away and get a shorter field goal. We were going to attempt a third-down play, kicking on the fourth was the time frame we were in. I think 17 seconds. We were right on the threshold. When you get in these 2-minute [situations], you have thresholds — one minute, 30 seconds, 17 seconds — so we were right at the threshold there of our whole operation. We had personnel — one of our players came off who shouldn’t have come off — and just communication errors.
“We were just going to run it down, but the clock I was watching came off the board. Then, the clock [offensive coordinator] Kellen [Moore] had with the camera — the camera was great from up top and obviously you want to call that time off between three and four seconds.”