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Eatman: No Problem With Fourth-Down Decision


LOS ANGELES – Before we get going here, I have to say this: 

Man, I'm glad that we're talking about fourth-down decisions and controversial penalties.

Of course, both of them went against the Cowboys for this game. 

But I think it's completely short-sighted to overlook the biggest storyline of them all – and not it wasn't the national anthem either. 
To me, the biggest takeaway I've got on this night is that … there was an anthem. There was a fourth-quarter in which the Cowboys decided to go for the lead instead of a safe field goal. And there was a play at the end of the game where the Cowboys had a big play wiped out due to a penalty. 

Hey, I'm not trying to be sappy here. But this is one of those "you had to be there" moments to really get how surreal the situation was. 

On TV, I'm not sure how it actually looked or sounded. But being there, and seeing the empty stands and watching these long runs and passes that had absolutely no response that is supposed to go with it, was just the most unique thing I've ever seen in covering this team. 

Yet, I'll take it. Just like you'll take it as well. 

That was football, even if it doesn't always look and sound like it. 

Now, that being said, I've still got my opinions about the game was played, even though it seems like it's not a popular one. 

Sorry, but I don't mind the decision to go for it on fourth down midway through the fourth. 

There's never any set rules on these types of decisions. It usually just comes down to the feeling the head coach has. In this case, he felt it was the right call. And at the time, I felt the same thing. 

What I liked the most is what he did on third down. So many times it seems like coaches make decisions play to play. But head coach Mike McCarthy knew he was going for it on fourth down so he ran the ball on third-and-6 with Zeke and picked up half of it. 

That's the first thing I liked about it. But the decision to go for it didn't bother me. What I wonder is if the people who didn't like the call are the ones that always criticized Jason Garrett and past coaches for not being aggressive and "not playing to win." 

Like it or not, that's what playing to win looks like. The team is down three points and can attempt a field goal to tie the game. Or, they can keep it rolling and try use one these playmakers to go pick up three yards. 

McCarthy chose the latter and it didn't work. His rookie receiver, CeeDee Lamb, who certainly looks like he's going to be a big-time player, didn't run a deep enough route and got stopped short. 

To me, that's an example of a player who has never played in an NFL game before. At Oklahoma, he can get away with that move and run past the defender. Or maybe shake off the defender and get the first down. But in the NFL, the guys tackle pretty well and Lamb just came up short. 

He will learn from that. 

Honestly, I hope McCarthy doesn't. Again, I don't mind the call. If you don't get it, the Rams are still pinned back at their own 11 and it was up to the defense to stop the Rams which they had done two straight times before that sequence. 

But again, it just didn't work. Great calls in sports are only great because they worked. 

To me, this is no different than a college game when a team is down seven in overtime and has just scored. Do they tie the game and move on to the second overtime, or just try to win the game right then?

I guess you could argue that there was still plenty of time left in the game, but personally, I still like the aggressiveness. And so did the players as well. From Zack Martin to Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, all of them said it felt like the right call to them. 

Remember this, when McCarthy told the media last month that he's not interested in just having a good team, but that his goal is to win the Super Bowl, everyone loved it. 

You really can't be a first-year coach and have those expectations if you're afraid of failing. In this case, McCarthy thought his offense was good enough to get three yards. And he thought the defense was good enough to stop the Rams if they didn't. 

So he missed this time. Still doesn't mean it was the wrong call. 

Now, speaking of wrong calls … yes, the refs missed the pass interference on Gallup in my opinion. These guys are hand-fighting all the way down the field and they call that? Sorry, that seemed like a reputation call right there. Like, there's no way Michael Gallup could beat Jalen Ramsey. And give Ramsey credit for selling the shove. It definitely worked. 

To me, at that point in the game, I don't think they should've called a slight nudge like that. Ramsey was doing twice as much on Gallup in the first few yards of that route. 

But that's how the refs saw it. The Cowboys shouldn't have let it get to that point anyway. 

In the world of clichés, some might say this game will be one to forget.

But when you take a step back and realize that many of us never dreamed there would be a game on Sept. 13, and to think of everything it took to get here … a fourth-down decision and a questionable pass interference call doesn't seem too bad after all.

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