A defiant Mike McCarthy justified his head-coaching display — a performance rife with apparent ineptitude — in Thursday’s blowout loss to Washington.
This arguably was McCarthy’s worst game as the Cowboys‘ head man (which is saying something), and his glaring Turkey Day errors came to a head in the first half as Dallas set up for a field goal attempt. Rather than stop the clock with two or three seconds, so as to not give Washington an additional scoring opportunity, he left 19 ticks on the board following the kick.
For which he admitted fault.
“I made a mistake. …That was clearly my fault. It shouldn’t have been called there,” McCarthy admitted in his post-game news conference, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News.
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Earlier in the second frame, however, McCarthy committed a gaffe he can’t excuse away, green-lighting an unsuccessful 4th-and-short pass on Dallas’ own 34-yard line. The turnover on downs led to a Football Team touchdown on the ensuing series.
For which he admitted no fault.
“You won’t get anywhere if you’re thinking about negatives all the time,” McCarthy said said, per the team’s official website.
“There’s obviously film study that goes into the call and when to call it. But when you call it, you’re obviously looking to convert it. You obviously understand on fourth-down calls what your options are. You either convert it or you don’t convert it. The flow of the game, all those things are factored into that decision. I’m very confident in our players and put them into position to make plays.”
But neither of these situational flubs holds a candle to the Cowboys attempting a fourth-quarter fake punt from their own 24-yard line, trailing 20-16. The trickery — presumably a joint venture between McCarthy and special teams coordinator John Fassel — severely backfired and Washington tacked on another TD en route to a 41-16 victory.
“It was a solid play call. It’s a good play design,” McCarthy insisted, via the team’s official website. “Their gunner made a good play, came off of it, he put us in a high-low read for Cedrick. That’s the nature of those plays. You can never convert them obviously if you don’t call them, if you don’t believe in them. I clearly understood the situation when it was called.”
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The 3-8 Cowboys kept this close for the majority of the afternoon at AT&T Stadium, but it became clear in a playoff-implicating affair that 4-7 Washington was the better-coached, more prepared, and focused club. And this same club completed its first season sweep since 2012.
Injuries to starting tackles Zack Martin and Cam Erving did not help matters, and the result was a rushing attack that went nowhere — Ezekiel Elliott (32) and Tony Pollard (12) combined for 44 scoreless yards on 14 carries — and a quarterback in Andy Dalton who absorbed three sacks and seven hits. Dalton finished 25-of-35 for 215 yards, one touchdown and one interception, a late pick-six with the game already out of reach.
The defense, after impressing in Weeks 9 and 11, reverted back to their hapless ways, surrendering 5.8 yards per carry and three scores to Washington’s Antonio Gibson. The Football Team made 338 total yards, 22 first downs and controlled the ball for nearly 36 minutes across 11 offensive drives.
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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL