For the rest of the season, we’ll give Princeton graduate Jason Garrett weekly grades in his crash course as the Cowboys’ head coach.
Here’s a look at how Garrett passed his tests with flying colors in the Cowboys’ 38-35 overtime win over the Colts:
Game plan: Garrett emphasized that the Cowboys needed to do two things to win at Lucas Oil Stadium: establish the run and win the turnover battle. They excelled in those two areas. The Cowboys rushed for a season-high 217 yards on 46 carries and established a smashmouth tone right away, running five times for 39 yards and a touchdown on the nine-play opening possession. Their four picks against Peyton Manning, including touchdown returns by Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee, were the difference in the game. GRADE: A
Play-calling: The Cowboys forced the Colts to defend the entire field, running a wide variety of plays out of several different formations without getting too cute. Garrett’s best play-call was probably a counter-flip to Tashard Choice that gained 26 yards around the left end. That used defensive end Dwight Freeney’s aggressiveness against him. Garrett also came up with a gem on a crucial two-point conversion, getting Roy Williams wide open in the corner of the end zone to force the Colts to score a touchdown to send the game into overtime. GRADE: A
Game management: Garrett gets marked down for poor clock management at the end of the first half. The Cowboys twice let several seconds go off the clock before calling timeouts during a possession that began at the Dallas 17 with 3:10 on the clock. They were forced to burn their final timeout – instead of having the half end -- after Jason Witten was called for a false start while the Cowboys were lining up to spike the ball with seven seconds remaining. That resulted in David Buehler attempting a 48-yard field goal that sailed wide right. Had the Cowboys managed the clock better, the kick could have been much closer. Those three points could have cost the Cowboys the game. But Garrett did a good job managing the rest of the game. GRADE: C-plus
Intangibles: The Colts seized momentum and the lead in the second half. The Cowboys kept their poise and composure. It’s amazing how much more mentally tough this team has become in the last month. That’s a credit to Garrett. GRADE: A-plus