Key Plays, No. 5 Clock mismanagement

At some point this offseason, Jason Garrett will lean back in his favorite chair, close his eyes and ponder what might have been.

There were 2,035 plays in the Cowboys’ 2012 season, some are more memorable than others -- and it doesn’t matter whether they went in the Cowboys’ favor or against America’s Team.

What if Dez Bryant's pinkie hadn’t come down out of bounds against the New York Giants in the final minute? Or a Washington safety hadn’t knocked the ball out of Bryant’s arms, breaking up an apparent touchdown in the fourth quarter?

What if Eric Frampton had recovered New Orleans receiver Marques Colston's fumble instead of tight end Jimmy Graham?

That’s the story of the NFL every year.

A play here or there and the Cowboys would’ve made the playoffs. It’s the reason why Garrett is forever saying every play in every game matters.

“It allows you to argue your point to your players that it’s really, really close each and every week in this league,” Garrett said. “The importance of getting all of the details right and making sure you’re on point can make a difference in this ball game and here’s why.

“All these things that happened to us this year where plays went against us...If that play had been different we would’ve won that game. Or, similarly, plays that went for us that helped us win ballgames. There were a number of those too. It’s the nature of the NFL.”

Without further ado, let's continue the countdown:

Jason Garrett’s clock mismanagement

Situation: First-and-10 from Baltimore 34

Score: Baltimore, 31-29

Time: :26 left in fourth quarter

Taylor's Take: The final sequence of this game was a joke after Andre Holmes recovered an onside kick, giving the Cowboys a chance for a miracle comeback. After a 1-yard completion to Dez Bryant with 22 seconds left, he argued briefly with the officials. Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree jogged leisurely back toward the line of scrimmage instead of sprinting. The Cowboys wasted so much time that Romo finally gave up trying to get off another play and called a timeout with six seconds left, setting up a 51-yard field goal that Dan Bailey missed.

Season Impact: The Cowboys rushed for 227 yards but figured out a way to lose the game. The time management gaffe kept Dallas from having a much better chance to win and raised questions about Garrett's ability manage the clock in crucial situations. The Cowboys played well enough to win but managed to find a creative way to lose, as usual.