The Cowboys had one last chance last night against the 49ers, down seven points and 94 yards from a touchdown, with 45 seconds to play.
The effort left much to be desired. It nearly left even less.
On the first play, quarterback Dak Prescott received the shotgun snap at the one, rolled right, started into his throwing motion, and then took a hit from 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead. Prescott bounced away, ran toward the line of scrimmage, and threw an incomplete pass.
After the game, Armstead explained why he pulled up before hitting Dak.
“I wasn’t trying to get a penalty,” Armstead said. “I should have just smacked him.”
On Monday, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan addressed Armstead’s chance to end the game then and there with a safety.
“I think he thought Dak was going to throw it, so I think he was going in there with the mindset to get his hands up to try to tip it and then Dak didn’t and it caught him off guard and then he was afraid the position he was in, he was about to hit him high and get a penalty,” Shanahan said. “When you’re approaching a quarterback, it’s so hard for these guys to hit in that target area and not get a penalty that you really have to approach it the right way. . . . He didn’t want to get that 15-yard penalty. . . . Once I watched the tape, I can totally see why it happened and that’s just kind of the challenges these guys have.”
It’s a difficult spot for any defender, balancing the inherent aggression of football with the urgency to protect the most important players on the field. If Armstead had indeed “smacked” Dak, the Cowboys may have ended up with a first at 10 at the 21, only 79 yards from the end zone.