Cowboys made history with their huge mistake against 49ers
Mike McCarthy may have sealed the Dallas Cowboys’ fate with a bad decision on Sunday, but the coach can be sure of at least one thing — no one saw his final play call coming.
The Cowboys lost to the San Francisco 49ers after calling a run play while trailing 23-17 with 14 seconds remaining and no timeouts. They had Dak Prescott run the ball up the middle, and they were unable to set up for a spike in time to run another pay (video here). The play call was certainly unpredictable, as nothing even remotely similar has been attempted for at least the last 25 years.
No team in the last 25 years (as far back at the data reaches) has called a run play in a playoff game while trailing by one score with less than 20 seconds remaining and no timeouts.
down one score, no team has run the ball with under 20 seconds while trailing in the playoffs the last 25 years
until the Cowboys cost themselves the game by doing so
(dates to at least 1994, as far back as public PBP indexing goes)
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) January 17, 2022
Given the outcome, that is what you call being on the wrong side of history. It also helps illustrate just how bad the play call was.
McCarthy defended the play call after the game. He said the Cowboys had worked on it in practice and that he thought more time should have been put back on the clock. There was also an issue with the official spotting the ball, but that is the risk you take by calling a run play in that situation.
No matter how you cut it, McCarthy and his staff botched the call. The fact that no team has attempted anything similar in 25 years says it all.
Photo: Aug 26, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) smiles while on the field before the game against the Oakland Raiders at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports