FRISCO, Texas – Now for the Most Valuable Player Award in that Rams' 30-27 playoff victory over Tampa Bay.
Sure enough could be quarterback Matthew Stafford, completing 28 of 38 passes for 366 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 121.2 QB rating.
If not him, then for sure wide receiver Cooper Kupp, with nine catches for 183 yards and one touchdown.
Or if you are partial to defense, what about defensive lineman Aaron Donald with five tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and one pass defensed?
But for me, my pick out there was No. 30. That's right, the No. 30 wearing the black-and-white striped shirt with a black hat. That would be NFL back judge Todd Prukop.
Todd Prukop, because if not for the 13-year veteran official the Los Angeles Rams would never have spiked the ball in time in a 27-27 game for Rams kicker Matt Gay to hit the game-winning 49-yard field goal as time expired.
Did you happen to notice?
Check this out: The Rams were at their own 44-yard line, snapping the ball with 28 seconds remaining in the game. Stafford then completed the pass and run to Kupp for 44 yards to the Tampa Bay 12. When Kupp went down there were 21 seconds remaining in the game, the Rams out of timeouts, the clock running, the Rams in a mad dash those 44 yards to get to the line of scrimmage, snap the ball and spike it to stop the clock.
Sounds familiar with anything you might have recently seen in a Cowboys game when quarterback Dak Prescott took off from the San Francisco 41 on a QB draw with 14 seconds remaining, sliding in at the 49ers 24-yard line for a 17-yard gain with nine seconds remaining, the Cowboys trailing 23-17 and scrambling for one more _shot_ at the end zone?
But the clock expired.
Well, here is the difference between the Cowboys gaining but 17 yards at the 9-second mark yet couldn't get the ball spiked before those final seconds expired and the Rams gaining 44 yards with 21 seconds remaining, yet getting the ball spiked in 17 seconds.
Unlike Dak, who had to wait for the umpire coming from 28 yards away to touch the ball to put it in play, Prukop, the back judge closest to where Kupp went down, had the foresight to spot the ball, so that when the Rams gathered at the line of scrimmage with eight seconds remaining, the ball already had been spotted, giving Stafford time to spike the ball after all were set with four seconds remaining.
In the Cowboys-Niners game, the back judge was standing at the five when former Cowboys quarterback turned CBS analyst Tony Romo was shouting, "find the ump, find the ump" with like four seconds remaining, meaning got to hand the ball to the ump to spot the ball before allowed to snap it. Ump wasn't there yet, finally re-spotting the ball with :02 left on the clock, a second too late.
Then came the ensuing six words no Cowboys fans will ever want to hear again: "That's the end of the game." Might as well have said, "That's the end of your season."
Had the Rams had to "find the ump" to hand him the ball this game would have been going into overtime. Who knows? Either team then could have won, advancing to play in Sunday's NFC title game.
The Rams got their last _shot_. The Cowboys didn't.
- Payton's Place: For 1 hour, 34 minutes, Saints head coach Sean Payton explained and then answered every question thrown at him why he has decided to step away just two years into his five-year contract with New Orleans. It's a must watch if you haven't already. Sean, the Cowboys' former offensive assistant under head coach Bill Parcells from 2003-05, knocked down every rumor for why he might be doing what he did, basically saying, "It was a personal decision of feeling like it was time, but not with any regrets but with some excitement, 'All right, what's next?' … Felt the time was right." So, let's not read into his walking away is to become the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 2022. Remember, he has three years left on his contract. Now, the terms of the contract could be different, but usually for this move to happen, the Cowboys would have to pay the Saints a king's ransom in draft choices.
Also, Sean says he's not stepping away for a TV gig, pointing out not once has he talked to any radio or TV network about a job, although, "I'd like to do that. I think I'd be pretty good about that." He would go on to say he's not ruling out a return to football at some point, saying, "We're not writing an obituary today. It's a step in another direction." And I'll leave you with this food for thought: After the 1999 season with the Jets, Parcells stepped away from coaching, serving as the general manager for one year before calling it quits. Then returned in 2003 to coach the Cowboys for four seasons, calling the job "like working the big room." So stay tuned, because as Sean said, "I still have a vision for doing things in football, and I'll be honest with you, that might be coaching again at some point, but I don't think it's this year."
- Hot Commodity: Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is a hot commodity with nine teams now looking for a new head coach. Quinn is interviewing with the Bears for a second time on Wednesday, while former Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus, now the DC with the Colts, is in Chicago for an interview as well. Quinn also had an intensive interview with the Giants this week, having spoken with owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, along with new GM Joe Shoen and vice president of player personnel Chris Mara. In addition, the Giants are doubling down with Cowboys staff interviews, asking permission to interview Cowboys secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. for the defensive coordinator position, as has Baltimore and Seattle. Whitt likely would be a candidate to become the Cowboys DC if Quinn leaves. The Giants, though, have scheduled a second interview with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, the only offensive coach at this point they have interviewed for their head coaching job.
- Invasion Safe Guards: Reports in Los Angeles have the Rams taking measures to curtail another 49ers fan invasion of SoFi Stadium for the NFC title game as occurred in the season finale, limiting ticket sales to only residents of the "Greater Los Angeles region" by monitoring credit card billing addresses at checkout. But then there's always the secondary market sales. Early in the week the cheapest seats were going for more than $600 with midfield seats at more than $5,000.
- Hail To The Chiefs: Trying to lessen the sting of the Bills losing to the Chiefs in the final 13 seconds of that divisional round playoff game, Kansas City fans began a campaign to donate $13 to Bills quarterback Josh Allen's charity named after his grandmother, Patricia Allen. The campaign already has raised $173,000, a spinoff of when Buffalo fans began that fundraising campaign for former Bengals QB Andy Dalton's charity after Cincinnati's Game 17 win over Baltimore in 2017 got the Bills into the playoffs.
- Shorties: Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory's postseason knee scope was to clean up some loose bodies, and he should be ready to start the offseason … With 85 yards receiving in the divisional round game, Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski now has 1,389 playoff receiving yards, passing the Cowboys' Michael Irvin (1,315) for third place in NFL history … While the Cowboys traded away their first-round pick in 2019 for Amari Cooper, this year's 24th pick will be their lowest since 2017 when they took Taco Charlton with the 28th pick … The Cowboys lost games to half the conference championship teams, Kansas City beating them 19-9 in Game 10 and then, of course, the Niners winning 23-17 in the first round of the playoffs.
How is this for a succinct answer to a question? Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was in no mood to answer on Friday during his radio segment on 105.3 The Fan when asked about curtains going up to block the sun coming in from the west end of the stadium that blinded Cedrick Wilson on an incomplete pass.
"I wish to hell all I had to worry about was a ball hitting the screen or a little sun getting in there," Jones said. "Conditions and elements have been a part of football since it was spelled the first time. No, that's about 10,000th on my list of things to worry about. And, no, we're not going to do anything with (the sun). It goes both ways.
"What we got on our minds is the fact we didn't play well enough in the first playoff game with a helluva team and those are other issues. I'm not going to worry about the popcorn over this. I'm not going to worry about other stuff over there. I need to be worrying about something, frankly, that gets us back next year in the playoffs."