Dallas Cowboys once again undone by coaching staff

Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

A botched non-challenge effectively ended the season for the Dallas Cowboys.

There were plenty of reasons behind yesterday’s 23-19 loss for the Dallas Cowboys. Quarterback Andy Dalton had a bad first half, but he was also under siege for the entire game to the tune of six sacks. He also had his left hand unintentionally stomped on and gashed at the end of a scramble that continued to bleed through the remainder of the game.

The defense was firmly “ok” at times, but there were also occasions where Giant wideout Sterling Shepherd (8 rec, 112 yds, 1 TD) sliced thru the Cowboys’ secondary and kept the chains moving. The Dallas run defense wasn’t particularly effective in giving up 125 yards. All in all, the Cowboys didn’t have a particularly good game in the New Jersey cold and rain.

Yet despite falling behind 20-6 in the second quarter, the Cowboys–much as they did last week–methodically pulled back into the game and found themselves within a point of the lead as the contest drifted into the fourth quarter. And it was in that fateful quarter where a struggling team got submarined by their own head coach.

It seemed like a no-brainer, too. New York quarterback Daniel Jones found receiver Dante Pettis for a 10-yard gain on 3rd-and-16 that put the Giants into field goal range. However, subsequent replays shows that Pettis had trapped the ball. It seemed perfectly clear, but Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy never threw the challenge flag. Giants’ kicker Graham Gano drilled the kick and gave them a 23-19 lead. The Cowboys wouldn’t score another point.

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Look, it’s one thing if it wasn’t so obvious. Don’t waste the timeout. Live to fight another day. But when you have the entire announcing crew questioning why the challenge flag didn’t get thrown, you can’t help but scratch your head. On a day in which points were at such a premium, it’s hard to absorb McCarthy’s logic behind not disputing the catch. The non-challenge effectively represented the difference between the field goal attempt and a punt. This team has struggled enough this season without assistance from their head coach. Not pulling the trigger on yesterday’s challenge was the boneheaded decision that ultimately helped seal their fate.

So if this is what we’re to expect from Mike McCarthy down the road, then what’s the purpose for bringing him back? Can you imagine what the local and national outcry would’ve been if this egregiously bad decision had been made by Jason Garrett? I know how it works with this franchise, though. There’s no way the Jones family jettisons a coach only one year after a mostly disastrous season in which their franchise quarterback got his right leg mangled only five games in.

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But as someone who cares about the fate of this team, I’m simply very concerned about the in-game decision making. Yesterday’s non-challenge basically threw any notion of winning out the door. For a team with so many shortcomings, they surely don’t need the head coach making such horrible oversights at the worst possible times. That will have to change if they have any hopes of improving in the future.