Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 12/4/11
Jason Garrett's conservative-but-cute game management costthe Cowboys at a critical moment Sunday. Confidently burning too much time, then taking an unnecessary timeout, led to a19-13 overtime loss to the Cardinals. Garrett has proven to be a frustratingly conservative play-caller at times thisseason. He's also gotten "too cute" in potential game-winningsituations with calls that at best seem odd and at worse are risky. He was all of that in the final 30 seconds of regulation in Arizona. After quarterback Tony Romo fired a 15-yard strike to Dez Bryant for a firstdown at the Arizona 31, the Cowboys could have stopped the clock with at least24 seconds left. They had two timeouts. It's pretty simple. Use your first timeout to get your team lined up for atleast one more play to make it a more reasonable field goal. With the ball at the 31, kicker Dan Bailey's try was from 49 yards. It doesn'tmatter that Bailey had made one from 50 in the second quarter. Any kickapproaching 50 yards is a gamble, even for the best NFL kickers. There's a bigdifference between a 49-yarder and a 42-yarder. Afterwards, Garrett said they felt they were in comfortable field-goal rangeusing guidelines from before the game. This typically means they gauged whereBailey was making kicks from in pregame warm-ups. Remember, the game was played on a natural surface that had been chopped up forfour quarters. The conditions in warm-ups were not the same as they werethree-and-a-half hours later. But instead of using one of two timeouts, the Cowboys elected to line up and"clock" the ball spiking it to stop the clock with seven secondsleft. Garrett said he felt comfortable having the ball at the 30, but it was actuallyat the 31. Because it was a long-range kick, Bailey apparently spotted the balla yard deeper than the normal seven yards from the line of scrimmage.In other words, this was no gimme kick. Garrett also said he was concerned the Cowboys might lose yards if they tryanother play. He is correct. We've seen it many times when a team tries to "center"a ball for a game-winning field goal and ends up making it a longer kick. So that's why you throw the ball. An incompletion puts the ball back at the 31.Even if you lose yardage, you have time to run another playand get the yardage back. Most teams can squeeze three plays into 24 seconds. Garrett has been guilty of calling for the ball to be pitched backwards onplays when every yard counts remember San Francisco? What Garrett might have been thinking is that he didn't want Romo to put theball in the air and risk a catastrophic turnover. Garrett certainly thoughtthat at New England. But that was taken out of the equation when Garrett chose to let the clock runand spike it with seven seconds left. That should have given the field-goalunit plenty of time to line up for the kick. Except someone on the Cowboyssideline got antsy and Garrett called a timeout just before the snap. The ball was snapped anyway and Bailey sent a low missile through the uprights.In effect, the Cowboys "iced" their own kicker bycalling a timeout to let him think about it. The timeout probably didn't affectBailey as much as the "practice kick" did. Seeing how the ball stayedlow likely affected Bailey's approach to his next kick. When play resumed, Bailey's official 49-yard try had much better height butit also fell achingly short of the crossbar. At that point, the Cowboys were done. One could argue that the questionableclock management wasn't what lost the game, since the Cowboys still had achance to win in overtime. But body language and actions said the game was loston the missed field goal. The players had seen this before, especially seen it in Arizona where theCowboys have now lost seven of their last eight games, often with bizarrefinishes. The Cardinals received the ball in overtime and didn't take long to score thegame-winning touchdown against a rather lifeless Cowboys defense. Of course, the Cowboys should not have allowed the game to come down to a49-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds. But because they didn't usetheir time wisely at that point, we've all got plenty of time to second guess. Follow KeithWhitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire
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