ARLINGTON, Texas – There was 1:23 on the clock. The Cowboys had all three timeouts. And they needed a yard to keep the potential game-winning drive alive.
Incompletion. Incompletion. Interception.
Dallas didn’t even try to run the ball.
“You could second guess that one,” Jerry Jones said, “but I’m not.”
Coach Jason Garrett, whose trust in Tony Romo was widely questioned all week after conservative clutch play-calling in Carolina, left the decision up to his quarterback on third down. Garrett called a running play and a passing play, allowing Romo to make the decision at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s dictated off coverage,” said Romo, who attempted a franchise-record 62 passes. “They’re going to have a free guy if we run it. So you could bang it in there, but at the same time, you could be wasting a play. It is what it is.”
Romo opted to try to hit Week 1 hero Kevin Ogletree in the end zone. It would have been the only catch of the game for Ogletree, who has regressed back to being an undependable receiver in recent weeks.
That's a real head scratcher.
However, it’s not like the Dallas running game did anything to inspire confidence all afternoon. With DeMarco Murray watching from the sideline, the Cowboys ran for 19 yards on 17 carries.
“They had a lot of guys in there,” Garrett said, referring to the Giants’ commitment to stopping the run. “That’s why we had to throw the ball consistently throughout the ballgame. … In those situations, we hope those are our best plays.”
Romo’s throw on second down was just a few inches too far outside for tight end Jason Witten to make the catch as he was headed out of bounds. Hard to fault trying to get the ball to one of the most productive pass-catching tight ends in NFL history, especially on a day that Witten set a franchise record with 18 receptions.
Fourth down was doomed for failure by an offensive line breakdown. Romo threw the ball up for grabs while running for his life and it was picked off, but a miracle completion wouldn’t have mattered. Right tackle Doug Free was whistled for holding anyway.
And the pass-happy Cowboys couldn’t pick up a yard they desperately needed.