The Cowboys made a calculated risk at the end of Sunday night’s loss to the 49ers. And it failed.
With 14 seconds left, no timeouts, and the ball on the San Francisco 41, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy called a quarterback draw.
Dak Prescott sprinted all the way to the 24 yard line before sliding to a stop. But Prescott, instead of giving the ball to the umpire, gave the ball to a teammate. That set the stage for the umpire to come crashing through in an effort to spot the ball before the next snap.
And it kept the Cowboys from getting the ball snapped before the clock struck zero.
After the game, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy told reporters that they practice the quarterback draw in that situation every week, via Ed Werder of ESPN. (Apparently, they don’t practice it enough.) Prescott stayed up for too long and, as mentioned above, he failed to give the ball to the umpire.
McCarthy also said he was told by officials that the modified sky judge apparatus operated from the league office was likely to put more time on the clock. That didn’t happen, obviously.
It’s probably good that the league office didn’t intervene. If they’d given the Cowboys another snap and if the Cowboys had won the game, “the fix is in” cries would have been heard all week, with 49ers fans and others insisting that the league “wanted” the Cowboys to advance.
Ultimately, it’s the fault of the coaching staff and the players. The play was poorly executed on the back end, which means that the coaches didn’t do a sufficient job of teaching the importance of getting things done quickly and cleanly as the final seconds of the game evaporate.