With the score tied with under 30 seconds Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, the Dallas Cowboys let second after second drip off the clock, befuddling seemingly everyone. Players, coaches, fans and broadcasters scratched their heads as Mike McCarthy neither hurried in his next play nor called his final timeout following a Tony Pollard run to set up third-and-3 with about 28 ticks left.
It seemed bizarre that McCarthy would waste time instead of attempting to get closer after kicker Greg Zuerlein missed three kicks in Week 1. Apparently, a clock malfunction in the new L.A. stadium caused the confusion on the Cowboys sideline. McCarthy said the clock he was watching went out, and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore's view was blocked. By the time the coach got a view, he'd decided just to run the time down.
"The clock situation was just different," McCarthy said, via the official game transcript. "I've never had a clock go off the board on me like that. In the second down, we're trying to chip away and get a shorter field goal. We were going to attempt a third-down play, kicking on the fourth was the time frame we were in. I think 17 seconds. We were right on the threshold. When you get in these 2-minute [situations], you have thresholds -- one minute, 30 seconds, 17 seconds -- so we were right at the threshold there of our whole operation. We had personnel -- one of our players came off who shouldn't have come off -- and just communication errors.
"We were just going to run it down, but the clock I was watching came off the board. Then, the clock [offensive coordinator] Kellen [Moore] had with the camera -- the camera was great from up top, and obviously, you want to call that time off between three and four seconds."
Luckily for McCarthy, Zuerlein let him off the hook, nailing the 56-yard field goal as time expired to give the Cowboys an impressive 20-17 win over the Chargers.
First, you can question the decision to run the ball on second down in that situation. Then, as McCarthy noted, a player ran off the field following Pollard's run -- automatically triggering the refs to stop Dallas from immediately snapping the ball. Blocked view or not, you'd expect a veteran NFL coach to have a plan for whether or not to immediately use a timeout as the preceding play unfolded.
Dak Prescott said he'd just assumed the Cowboys coaches were comfortable with a 56-yard attempt.
"I wasn't sure. I'm looking at the end zone clock. I saw the time," he said. "I just thought we were comfortable, and we're good in field goal range, and that's what they wanted to do."
Maybe it's wasn't what McCarthy wanted to do. But, luckily for the coach, Zuerlein nailed the kick with no issues, or the Joneses might have left the coach in L.A.