Welcome to How to Kill Your Team’s Playoff Chances 101 with Jason Garrett as your expert lecturer.
Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan earned a big fat F, which is similar to what Dallas fans were muttering as they left AT&T Stadium on Christmas Eve. Seattle 21, Dallas 12. The playoffs aren’t happening in the Metroplex, and Ezekiel Elliott is still waiting for a goal-line carry.
It all started so well. We were treated to some good high school football at Jerry World over the weekend. The UIL delivered in great fashion, and as Sunday rolled around, visions of sugarplums and wild-card berths were dancing in the heads of Dallas fans.
’Tis the giving season, and the Cowboys were willing recipients up until kickoff. Last week it was the index-card first down in Oakland that went in their favor, and Sunday began with two more hookups: Atlanta’s loss at New Orleans and, more important, Cincinnati’s upset of Detroit, which put the Cowboys in great position to secure a playoff spot with a win over Seattle and another at Philadelphia in the regular-season finale.
Enter Garrett and Linehan. It wasn’t one of Dak Prescott’s best performances, but he still had the Cowboys in striking distance midway through the fourth quarter. Somehow Elliott, who was back hungry with fresh legs from a six-game suspension, received only three carries in the second half and none — count ’em, zero — inside the Seattle 5-yard line with Dallas trailing by nine late.
First and goal from the 3-yard line: Prescott for a 1-yard gain.
Second and goal from the 2: definitely Zeke time, right? Wrong. Prescott with an incomplete pass.
Shoot, even Seattle coach Pete Carroll thought he should have run it there. After a holding call and a sack, Dan Bailey, the most accurate kicker in league history, missed the first of two fourth-quarter chip shots.
“The first down play was a run-pass option,” Garrett said when asked about the failed goal-line strategy. “They loaded up the box. The second down play was a play we liked.”
Betting the boo birds are calling bull crud on that one, Coach.
There’s no place like home for the holidays, except if you’re a team that was picked to win its division by some, only to miss the playoffs.
Looking ahead, the touchdown that wasn’t underscored Jerry Jones’ need to take a real hard look at who is coaching his football team. More often than not, Garrett has been in over his head in key situations. Whether it’s the clock management gaffe in last season’s playoffs that left too much time for Aaron Rodgers to lead Green Bay’s comeback or not giving the ball to an elite running back on the goal line Sunday, Jerry’s coach has come up short time and time again.
As a result, the Cowboys are out of the playoffs for the fifth time in Garrett’s seven full seasons. Jerry’s 8-7 team finished 3-5 at home and missed out on a great chance to take advantage of some nice fortune that fell its way. Meanwhile, Seattle somehow got out of here with a win and became the first team in 50-plus seasons to win a game with more penalty yards (142) than total yards (136). Yep, that’s the same Seattle that came in without Legion of Boom leaders Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman.
It was there on a Christmas platter, and the Cowboys just refused to step up and seize the opportunity.
“It’s frustrating,” Prescott said. “It will be hard to get over it, and I’m sure I will get over it in time, but now is not the time.”
There’s one bad thing about the giving spirit in this case: The Cowboys were a bit too generous with the season on the line. They gave it up to the Seahawks, who were presumably left for dead after the Los Angeles Rams blew them out 42-7 in Seattle last week. Prescott threw two interceptions, including a pick six, and Dez Bryant fumbled on a catch-and-run after the television cameras captured him throwing a tantrum on the sideline.
Funny as it sounds, there are playoff teams out there that are breathing a sigh of relief because they won’t see Dallas and its emerging defense around for the postseason.
They can thank Professor Garrett for that.