Play-calling is complex in the NFL. Teams put countless hours into game plans. Almost each play call has layers of strategy that the public wouldn’t know about.
But sometimes, it’s best to keep it simple.
For some reason, the Dallas Cowboys went away from Dak Prescott’s hot hand once he got them inside the red zone, trailing the Minnesota Vikings 28-24 in the final minutes Sunday. Prescott hit an 8-yard pass on first down to the Vikings’ 11-yard line. He had been remarkable on the entire drive.
Then Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore made two calls they’d like to have back in the 28-24 loss.
Dallas gave Ezekiel Elliott two straight carries after having second-and-2. There’s nothing wrong with Elliott, but it looked bad when Elliott was stuffed for no gain on second down and then lost 3 yards on third down. Prescott was in a tougher spot on fourth-and-5.
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks knocked down the fourth-down pass to Elliott. The Cowboys got the ball back with a few seconds left but they didn’t get a prayer answered. It’s a tough loss, and the Cowboys will wonder if it would have been better to keep riding Prescott all the way to the end.
Vikings, Cowboys have great battle
The Vikings came out hot. A pair of Kyle Rudolph 1-yard touchdowns put Minnesota ahead 14-0 in the first quarter. Kirk Cousins was composed. Dalvin Cook was hitting big plays with ease. It didn’t matter than the Vikings didn’t have injured Pro Bowl receiver Adam Thielen. The offense was clicking without him.
The Cowboys got back in the game in the second quarter. Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb caught touchdown passes from Dak Prescott. After that, the game was a back-and-forth thriller between two playoff-level teams.
The Cowboys took a lead in the third quarter. The Vikings took it back on a two-yard touchdown by Cook on a fourth down.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if the teams met each other again in January.
Cowboys come up short in the end
The Cowboys had a shot to pull out a huge win at the end. Dallas started at its own 6-yard line with 4:34 left. Prescott moved the Cowboys downfield. He calmly guided the Cowboys into the red zone. There wasn’t one huge play, but Prescott was hitting receivers with precision. He had done that all game against a tough Vikings defense.
And with Prescott burning white hot, the Cowboys went away from him. Elliott has been very reliable and is one of the NFL’s best backs. Sometimes plays get stopped by a good defense. That’s certainly what happened on those second- and third-down calls in the red zone.
Prescott had a big game, with 397 yards. He was in sync with Cooper all night. The Cowboys should have just kept relying on him when it counted most.
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