Highly questionable play-calls, mind-numbing special teams decisions, and general unpreparedness comprised what arguably was Mike McCarthy’s worst game as Dallas Cowboys head coach.
The Cowboys fell to 3-8 on the season with Thursday’s 41-16 blowout loss to the Washington Football Team. Meaning, for the first time since 2012, they were swept by their bitter NFC East nemesis, who drove a stake through Dallas’ inexplicable playoff hopes at JerryWorld.
And shortly after the final whistle blew, the Twitterverse became aglow with scathing takes of the Thanksgiving slaughter — primarily from the local and national media.
“That Cowboys fake punt call, down 4 in a must win game is like adding raisins in the potato salad.. it doesn’t make sense now, it won’t make sense later,” said ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi.
“So #Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy was salty with the media because he was asked about his goofy decisions. Come on Mike. This comes with the j-o-b. Your coaching decisions handed Washington the game and 1st place,” said NBC 5’s Newy Scruggs.
“The Cowboys are a bad team. And they are poorly coached,” said Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“One of the ugliest Cowboys games I’ve seen in at least three weeks,” said The Athletic’s Jon Machota.
“If we’re using the roller coaster analogy, this was like one of those tower rides that drops you out of nowhere. I’m not surprised the Cowboys lost. I’m definitely surprised they played the same type of awful football we saw the last time these teams played. 3-8,” said in-house reporter David Helman.
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McCarthy Explains Puzzling Decisions
One of McCarthy’s Turkey Day errors was calling a time out late in the first half, with the Cowboys setting up for a field goal. Rather than stop the clock at :02 or :03, as to not give Washington an additional scoring opportunity, he left 19 ticks on the board following the FG.
“I made a mistake. …That was clearly my fault. It shouldn’t have been called there,” McCarthy admitted in his post-game news conference, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News.
Earlier in the second frame, McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen More dialed up a 4th-and-short pass on Dallas’ own 34-yard line. The turnover on downs led to a Football Team touchdown on the ensuing series. But McCarthy … well, he isn’t exactly regretful.
“You won’t get anywhere thinking about the negative all the time. I clearly understood the situation when it was called,” he told reporters, per The Athletic.
Neither of these situational-management flubs, however, hold a candle to the Cowboys attempting a fourth-quarter fake punt from their own 24-yard line, trailing 20-16. The trickery — presumably a joint venture between McCarthy and special teams coordinator John Fassel — severely backfired and Washington tacked on another TD en route to an easy victory.
“It was a solid play call,” McCarthy insisted of the fake punt, via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News.
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Update on Zack Martin
The Cowboys’ All-Pro offensive lineman, starting at right tackle, suffered a calf injury on the game’s opening series and was ruled out. The team also lost left tackle Cam Erving to a knee injury.
Per the team, Martin sustained a calf strain and Erving a right knee sprain. Both blockers will be re-evaluated in the coming days. “No timetable was shared on when they could return,” per The Athletic.
With Terence Steele taking over for Martin and Brandon Knight assuming blindside duties, Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton absorbed three sacks and seven hits from a ferocious Washington front. Dalton finished 25-of-35 for 215 yards, one TD, and one interception.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL