IRVING, Texas – Losses in the NFL usually come down to a key play in the fourth quarter.
When it doesn't work out for one team, someone gets the blame. Typically, it's either the head coach or quarterback.
Sunday's loss in Baltimore was no exception. As the Cowboys returned to Valley Ranch on Monday, head coach Jason Garrett accepted full responsibility for the mishap that occurred before the final field goal attempt, where the offense lost about 16 seconds and didn't get another yard for kicker Dan Bailey, who hooked a 51-yard try that would've won the game against the Ravens.
"When we look at that situation, the evaluation is that we need to do a better job in that situation," Garrett said to open Monday's press conference. "That starts with me, just executing and getting more out of that situation. If you look at where we are on the field, how many timeouts we have left and what we're trying to get accomplished … we understood we were in field goal range at that time. We felt good about the distance and that Dan Bailey could kick the ball. Having said that, we wanted to get closer. The plan was in place prior to that whole sequence, knowing that we had 26 seconds – this was after the interference – and one timeout."
On the pass to Dez Bryant, Garrett said he doesn't regret the call because there had been plenty of success with that all game. However, he said the fact that Kevin Ogletree and Miles Austin ran vertical routes and had trouble getting back to the line of scrimmage in time, played a factor in getting another play called.
"They chose to bring pressure and we got the ball out quickly to Dez," Garrett said. "The initial thought process was try to get everyone back on the line of scrimmage as quickly as we can and, at minimum, clock the ball. And if everyone gets back quickly, we can call a play and then we'll save the timeout for the final kick. Having said that, when you have those combinations up and you have some people running away from the line of scrimmage, it's going to take them longer to get back. When I look at that as a coach, I say, 'OK, I like the answers, but one of the issues is we have two receivers running vertically down the field and it's going to take too much time for them to get back.' So that's my responsibility. I made that play call and I've got to do a better job of that."
Another factor in that scenario is how quickly Austin and Ogletree made it back to the huddle. Garrett didn't chastise either player for their hustle, but the videotape shows both players jogging back, almost at a fast-walk pace.
Ogletree took blame for not getting back quicker.
"That's a personal mistake for sure," Ogletree said. "You want to, at that stage in the game, it's very critical to at least get aligned to run a play since the plays are so important. We've just got to get that mentality that everything is happening fast and it's going to happen fluent."
Garrett also acknowledged another scenario of calling a timeout after the catch, but said he's reluctant to run another play without a timeout in his back pocket.
"That puts you in a different situation where now all of the sudden, you have no timeouts, you have to throw the ball to the sidelines and all that," Garrett said. "So when I look at it, I say we left too much meat on the bone there. We needed to get more than one yard when we had one timeout and 26 seconds. It starts with the play call that I had and then it really goes from there. I felt after we were in the situation that we were in, we did the right thing, but we should have gotten more out of that."
Instead of being 3-2, the Cowboys are 2-3 and Garrett now has three plays in the last 10 games, dating back to last year, where fourth-quarter clock management has been in an issue.
The Cowboys had a similar loss to Arizona last December when they squandered about 20 seconds after a catch and a timeout before clocking the ball. Then they called a timeout before a field goal attempt that Bailey made, only to have him miss the 49-yarder on the second try.
Against the Giants at home last season, the Cowboys wasted about 15 seconds before calling timeout just before a New York touchdown. Dallas could've used more time in the ensuing drive that ended with a blocked field-goal attempt and a three-point loss.
"You keep working on it and keep learning from it," Garrett said. "I think we won four of five games last year in the last second or overtime, in similar-type situations, so the idea is to handle them that way every time. Those guys get paid on the other side too, and we've got to make sure we handle situations when we think we're going to be able to get this. To be able to make a good play, you have to respond better. The more you put your team in that situation in practice, the more you learn from not only your game experience, but the situations that happen around the league, the better your going to get at it."