Plenty of justifiable play-calling complaints are being aired around the big Cowboy water cooler today, with perhaps no situation more in question than the fourth quarter, third-and-5 shovel pass to Tashard Choice that the Cowboys botched and were forced to settle for a field goal.
Failing to get a touchdown there gave the Cowboys just a 16-13 lead with a little less than six minutes to play, one of a couple trips into the red zone in which they had to settle for three points.
Rather than throw into the end zone, perhaps with a high-percentage fade to Dez Bryant, Jason Garrett arguable got cute, dialing up a play the Cowboys haven't run all season, and hardly at all in recent years, the shovel pass. Picked out in the two weeks of preparation because the Cowboys believed they could score on it against New England, the play failed because of the Cowboys' inability to block Pats linebacker Brandon Spikes. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork got in on the tackle in the backfield as well.
"(Spikes) was actually coming on a blitz on the weak side," Bill Belichick said after the game. "When they pulled, it looked like he kind of just got in the back pocket of the puller and they weren't able to cut him off, so he ran it down from the backside."
A replay (fast forward to the 2:25 mark) shows left tackle Doug Free got a slight shove on spikes, but let him go, and right guard Kyle Kosier was simply beaten by Wilfork at the point of attack.
Unable to simply power over defenses in the red zone, the Cowboys are having to get cute far too often, and are converting just a third of their red zone possessions into touchdowns, next-to-last in the league.
"They had a lot of deceptive plays," Belichick said. "They ran the submarine pass for a touchdown (to Jason Witten), they ran the roll pass out in the flat to the tailback. They do stuff like that, that's misdirection or plays that are a little bit different down there that you don't get a chance to work on, and fortunately we were able to make a play on that. Brandon made a good tackle and that was a big stop for us."