Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy defends calls on two failed fourth downs
Two failed fourth down conversion tries from their own side of the field by the Dallas Cowboys led directly to two quick touchdowns for the Washington Football Team in Thursday’s 41-16 loss to the Washington Football Team.
A throw to CeeDee Lamb on fourth-and-1 from their own 34-yard line resulted in a five-play scoring drive for Washington that gave them a 17-10 lead in the second quarter. Then while trailing 20-16 early in the fourth quarter, a fake punt from their own 23-yard line was brushed aside by Washington with Antonio Gibson scoring one play later on a 23-yard touchdown run as the game spiraled out of hand for Dallas.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that he was happy with the play calls made in those situations, the team just didn’t convert the first downs.
The fake punt involved Cedrick Wilson taking a reverse pitch from the up back and looking to throw to punter Hunter Niswander or running for it himself. However, Washington cornerback Danny Johnson didn’t take off after the gunner and was positioned to cover Niswander’s release and shut the play down.
“Well, I mean it’s definitely a big play opportunity,” McCarthy said, via quotes distributed by the team. “There are certain things you look for tendency-wise on when and where. But obviously, we didn’t execute it. That’s how those things go. Obviously, it’s ultimately my responsibility particularly when a play like that doesn’t work. But we’re trying to generate a big play. At that point in the game, our information that you look for going into it, it was a solid call.”
McCarthy knew it was a risky situation to call such a play but that he believed the call was a good one given their study of Washington’s tendencies. It just didn’t work.
“Well, you don’t get anywhere if you think about the negatives all the time,” McCarthy said. “Obviously, it was a solid play call. It’s a good play design. Their gunner made a good play. He came off of it and put us in a high/low read for Cedric [Wilson]. It’s a play that if we hit it, we’re sitting [good]. That’s the nature of those plays. So, you can never hit them if you don’t call them and don’t believe in them. I clearly understood the situation when it was called.”
The pass to Lamb was a bit more straightforward and less critical cause it was earlier in the game. Lamb had a pure one-on-one matchup with cornerback Ronald Darby. Darby drove on the throw and got to Lamb a touch early. However, no flag was thrown and Washington took over on downs. Alex Smith would hit Logan Thomas for a 5-yard touchdown five plays later.
“It was a clean matchup,” McCarthy said. “Honestly, we had one-on-one on the perimeter. Obviously, the result wasn’t what we were looking for. I think everybody saw what happened on the play. Those are plays that you look to create opportunities and it was a good play call. We had one-on-one on the outside. We just didn’t convert.”
The calls failed in their efforts to help the Cowboys win a game and make the postseason. They succeeded in helping the Cowboys have a more favorable position in next spring’s NFL Draft.