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Examining Cowboys' The 3rd & 18 Coverage Call


FRISCO, Texas – Among a long list of headaches coming out of a frustrating loss, there have been plenty of questions about one specific decision near the end of overtime.

Facing a 3rd-and-18 at the Las Vegas 43-yard line following a Micah Parsons sack of Derek Carr, Dan Quinn opted for man coverage on the play that ultimately incurred a critical defensive pass interference flag on Anthony Brown that helped decide the outcome.

Given Brown's struggles with defensive pass interference on Thursday, four infractions for 91 yards, it was a play call that has drawn criticism from a lot of outside observers – though Quinn did note that Brown has not struggled much with that issue this season.

"You certainly hope it's an outlier, because this has not been something through the past that has kind of crept back in," he said. "First thing that I had talked to him about was how much belief we have in him."

Asked specifically about his rationale for the play call, Quinn said it was influenced by Las Vegas kicker Daniel Carlson. The Raiders' fourth-year veteran turned in an MVP performance on Thursday night, connecting on five-of-five field goal attempts – including a booming 56-yard kick near the end of regulation.

"In my mind, I'm thinking 'Ok, he hit a 56-yarder with some space to go,'" Quinn said. "You really had to defend in the low 40s thinking of where he was capable of hitting it from."

Carlson hit his 56-yarder from the Cowboys' 38-yard line, which means Carr would've had to navigate his offense 19 yards for the same attempt. But, as Quinn noted, if Raiders coach Rich Bisaccia had been willing to let his kicker rip from further out, perhaps only 14 or 15 yards would've been required.

"In that space, you're probably defending about 15 yards of space to make sure they didn't put themselves in a spot to get a field goal," Quinn said.

Of course, it's entirely likely that Carr singled out Brown, given the flow of the game. Prior to that pass, Brown had already incurred three defensive pass interference penalties for 58 yards. Quinn said the Cowboys were aware of the officiating crew's penchant for penalties, and the Dallas defense did try to adjust to that as the game wore on.

"We certainly tried to emphasize that yesterday, saying 'Hey man, you've really got to win with your feet, you can't grab here. This is getting called too many times,'" he said.

Like most play calls, it'd be a non-factor had it worked, and it's a hot topic because it didn't. As Quinn pointed out, it's a style of defense the Cowboys have used often this season. As was the case across their team on Thursday, it didn't work out.

"In that time you want to be close and guard them and play man-to-man, which we've done plenty of times," Quinn said. "I don't regret the call. You certainly regret the outcome, but not as far as the call goes."

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