What could the Cowboys have done differently in a strange final play
The problem with the Dallas Cowboys’ 19-12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday wasn’t that they were trying something weird and unconventional.
It’s that they didn’t fully embrace the weirdness of their idea, and it’s even more unconventional with it.
The Cowboys have taken a beating around the NFL over the last 48 hours for a bad play, and even the owner of the flag football league has soaked them.
As bad as the play looked, the Cowboys at least had the foresight to see something else in a moment of desperation. But like many of their struggles on Sunday, it just came down to a flawed plan and worse execution.
The Cowboys lined up in an odd formation, saw running back Ezekiel Elliott snap the ball, and the team’s offensive line was split wide open. When the ball broke, Elliott was brought down, forcing quarterback Dak Prescott to throw a quick pass to KaVontae Turpin, who was immediately tackled.
Soon, mockery and criticism followed.
They obviously go for a rugby-style lateral play to move the ball downfield at the last second. Given where they were in the field, it was the only logical way to go.
When this type of gambling is your best bet, the situation is already dire and the odds are stacked against you. The number of rugby plays in football history that have actually worked is alarming.
We saw the Miami Dolphins win against New England a few years ago. The New Orleans Saints had a classic game in Jacksonville many years ago that was marred by a missed extra run. The Pittsburgh Steelers were inches away from a miraculous finish against Miami a decade ago when Antonio Brown fumbled at the seven-yard line on his way into the end zone.
All of these plays have one thing in common: a talented playmaker who picks up the ball and turns the corner amid all the chaos.
The best way to improve this situation is to get more players on the field. The best way to do this is to replace several of the offensive linemen with additional skill position players (wide receivers, running backs, cornerbacks, etc.).
Obviously, not all receivers are pass rushers (only five players can be), but once the initial pass is complete, once the ball starts going sideways, eligibility no longer matters.
The problem the Cowboys had was that they kept their blockers on the field, but put them in a position where they had no chance to block. Not for their quarterback or their starting wide receiver.
They also put Elliott on an island with only one person guarding Prescott in the blink of an eye.
If the Cowboys were going to go all out and worry about the skill position player as the only barrier between their quarterback and San Francisco’s one pass rusher, they should just let the actual center burst the ball and switch the four. with liner masters.
Could it have worked and caused the stasis? No way. But at least it could have helped them avoid further discomfort.
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