With 1:24 remaining in today’s game between the Cowboys and Lions, the Cowboys took the ball over at the Detroit 31 while leading 27-24. The Cowboys had just stopped the Lions on a fourth-down play. According to Advanced NFL Stats, the Cowboys’ chances of winning the game at that moment was 99%.
The Cowboys only had to run out the clock. Detroit had two timeouts. That meant that the Lions should not have had more than about 25 seconds to try to score a field goal or touchdown, no matter what Dallas did.
The Cowboys ran two plays, and the Lions called two timeouts. Dallas faced a 3rd and 14 from the Detroit 35 with 1:14. If the Cowboys ran one play, odds were very good that the Cowboys would run the clock down to less than 30 seconds.
Of course, that didn’t happen. The Cowboys ran a play to Phillip Tanner, who gained 9 yards. However, Tyron Smith was called for holding. Although the Lions declined the penalty, the clock stopped with 1:07 left. Dallas then kicked a field goal with 1:02 remaining to increase the lead to 30-24.
Yes, the Cowboys just had to run the clock out with the opposing team having just two timeouts, yet the Cowboys only managed to burn 22 seconds.
That put the burden of winning the game on the shoulders of the Dallas defense. The Cowboys had forced four Detroit turnovers and had just made a huge stop on the Lions’ previous possession. Detroit had to go 80 yards in 62 seconds and with no timeouts.
Pass to Calvin Johnson for 17 yards.
Pass to Kris Durham for 40 yards.
Pass to Calvin Johnson for 22 yards.
Short touchdown run by Matthew Stafford.
And yes, the Cowboys managed to blow a game they had a 99 percent chance of winning just one minute earlier.
This wasn’t like the loss to the Lions in 2011, when the Cowboys blew a 24-point lead thanks to two interceptions of Tony Romo that the Lions returned for touchdowns.
However, the results feel about the same. The loss puts the Cowboys at 4-4 in a season that feels very much like yet another 8-8 year.
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The loss ruined great days by Dez Bryant and Sean Lee. Bryant had two sensational touchdown receptions, including a 50-yard catch and run that gave the Cowboys a 27-17 lead in the fourth quarter.
Lee recorded two interceptions. He returned the second pick 74 yards inside the Detroit 5. Dallas ended up scoring when Romo hit Bryant in the side of the end zone and Bryant made a highlight-reel grab off his shoulder pads.
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At least three of the radio callers in the team’s official station were calling for Jason Garrett’s head. For a fan base that had no patience with Wade Phillips and his 34-22 record in Dallas, it is shocking that calls for Garrett’s firing have not become louder than they have.
The team under Garrett has had its share of clock-management problems, to say the least.
Remember when the genius coach iced his own kicker two years ago?
Remember when the same coach could not manage to run more than one play in 26 seconds against the Ravens last year, even though the Cowboys still had a timeout remaining?
At that point, Garrett said: “We have to do a better job in that situation, and it starts with me.”
I turned off his press conference out of disgust, but I think he said basically the same thing today. His polished post-game statements are sounding as hollow as Wade’s post-game comments made Phillips sound clueless.
The loss brings Garrett’s coaching record to 25-23, including 20-20 since Jerry Jones named Garrett as the permanent head coach after the 2010 season.
And speaking of Jerry, how did he get his name in the news this week? He said he wasn’t worried about Calvin Johnson. Of course, Megatron caught 14 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown.