DALLAS - There’s a lot of adages in football, you know? Like the old one about Emmitt Smith, where the glory day (some would say ‘glory hole’ but we’re a respectable outfit here) Cowboys were something like 400-0 when he rushed for 100 yards on the day, or if you win the takeover battle, you probably win the day, or how 100 yards of offense in total generally correlates to 7 points on the scoreboard.
I guess it’s not a specific adage, but ‘Don’t throw an interception in the end zone when you’re up by 3 with 10 minutes left in the game’ really probably ought to be. Yes, Kirk, I DID like that, as a matter of fact.
The Play: 10:43 in the 4th Quarter, Dallas down 23-20, 3rd and Goal, Dallas 6
At this point in the game, Dallas’ Win Probability (W%) sat at 15%. The numbers said that Washington was holding all the pogs with an 85% shot at throwing down a slammer and picking up the win. All they had to do, really, was not Make A Gigantic, Avoidable Mistake (MAGAM).
Kirk Cousins then went and MAGAM’d.
With an empty backfield, Cousins took the shotgun snap and held the ball for almost exactly three seconds. Dallas lined up four defensive linemen, none of which made anything resembling a push, making the rushed throw stand out even further. Cousins lobbed an easy pass towards… well, really towards Church, truth be told. Pierre Garcon was in the general area, but he was surrounded by white jerseys. It’s the exact panicked, first read throw you’re terrified of Dak Prescott making, that he keeps just not making.
The Cowboys dropped seven back into zone coverage and looked to flood the end zone. To Cousin’s credit, he avoided four Cowboys defenders with the pass. After snagging the INT, Church took a few steps up the field before wisely taking a knee and a not-too-kind, slightly less professional shove from Garcon, and he had swung the Cowboys’ W% up to 37%.
Four minutes later, Prescott would connect with Cole Beasley to convert a 3rd and 11, and Dallas had crossed the 50% point. Two plays after that, Alfred Morris completed the swing (get it, his home run celebration?) with the TD to cap the final score and set the Cowboy’s W% at 74%.
While a simple incomplete almost certainly would have lead to a Washington field goal, that might not have truly swung the game. If the Cowboys responded with a touchdown, the score would have been 27-26. Had Washington hit paydirt here, though, you’re looking at a ten point lead with ten minutes to play. That would have put the Cowboys into ‘need a minor miracle’ territory to leave Washington with a win. Really, anything but an INT in that play leaves Washington with the keys safely in their pocket, instead of lying on the dance floor.
Now, let’s all take the opportunity to laugh a bit at Washington’s management, for bungling their quarterback situation this badly. Four years after investing a massive amount of picks and contract into RGIII, they find themselves giving Kirk Cousins 20 million dollars -- TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS! -- to be Kirk Cousins, the same guy they were trying to give away only a year and a few months ago.
While there’s definitely going to be some Jones family gaslighting about the process of selecting Dak Prescott on draft day (Remember Paxton Lynch? Remember Connor Cook? Charles Tapper? The Cowboys wanted all of them before Prescott), let’s not let that blind us from the fact that Dallas seems to have found a far superior QB option at the cost of a late fourth round pick, while Washington looks like they'll have to go back to the QB drawing board this offseason.
Hit Joe up on Twitter @thejoeursery and let him know what you think was the biggest play of the game last Sunday.
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