IRVING, Texas – Although it ultimately didn't cost them a critical road win against the Redskins on Monday night, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett explained questions about the team's clock management on their lone touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
First, the situation:
- 1:26 remaining
- 1st-and-10 at the Redskins' 15-yard line
- The game tied 9-9
- Washington with two timeouts
Now, the question:
Should the Cowboys have attempted to run down the clock as much as possible and settle for a potential game-winning field goal instead of the quick touchdown?
Not surprisingly, taking time off the clock was the plan, but Garrett said the dynamic changed after first down when McFadden was pushed out of bounds after his 9-yard run to the 6-yard line.
McFadden ran for a 6-yard touchdown on 2nd-and-1, which gave Washington the ball back with both timeouts and 1:14 left. The Redskins wound up tying the game 30 seconds later with a 28-yard touchdown catch by DeSean Jackson.
Of course, the Cowboys answered with Dan Bailey's 54-yard field goal on the final drive to win 19-16.
Garrett explained the team's initial thinking on 1st-and-10 from the 15.
"I think we got it with 1:25 and they had two timeouts, and so we want to run the ball (and) force them to use a timeout, run the ball (and) force them to use a timeout and see where we are on third down," Garrett said. "That was the approach going into that drive.
"Darren makes a nice run and gets knocked out of bounds. He makes a 9-yard run. Now in that situation the 9 yards is good, but keeping the clock running is paramount and we didn't do that. So it's 2nd-and-1 and they still have their two timeouts, so the thinking becomes, we need to get the first down now.
"If we run it, they call timeout; we run it, they call timeout, (and) all of a sudden we're kicking a field goal and they get it back and we're up three with over a minute. In this league teams go down the field and kick game tying field goals in those situations. So it was incumbent upon us to make a first down after that."
What about going for the first down on 2nd-and-1 but keeping the ball out of the end zone to keep the clock ticking?
"Sometimes when you get in that mode, 'OK, make the first but don't score,' what happens is you don't come off the ball, you don't make the first (down)," Garrett said. "So what we wanted to do given what we thought they would do to try to play defense, we wanted to come off and have our best football play. What happened was we scored a touchdown on it.
"Ideally in that situation you want to bleed it all the way down and not give them the chance to come back the other way."