DALLAS — The biggest pockmark on the face of any otherwise beautiful Dallas Cowboys victory over the Philadelphia Eagles was the way coach Mike McCarty handled the last 90 seconds of the first half.
The Eagles were facing a fourth-and-5 from the Dallas 49-yard line with a minute to go following an unsuccessful third-and-24 conversion attempt. Dallas watched the clock melt down to 20 seconds until halftime before the Eagles called timeout to avoid a delay of game call.
Dallas was ahead 20-7, but it seemed an odd decision by McCarthy to protect a 13-point lead and not try for an extra three or seven points, especially given that Dak Prescott was healthy and performing well in the contest, had his complement of weapons, and was enjoying effective protection up front. Philadelphia would also get the ball to start the second half.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined "Shan & RJ" on 105.3 "The Fan" [KRLD-FM] Tuesday to talk about McCarthy's end-of-half clock management.
"Well, I don’t know if I did have the opportunity to watch all the games Sunday, and it was a great day to see all the other teams," Jones said. "And this is not a good solution, but I didn’t see other teams — well, other teams have issues with clock management. That’s part of the game. And, so, let’s cut them some slack and realize that if you do enough plays — we were critical of [Jason] Garrett when he was here. Don’t you think that goes with the territory?”
Jones emphasized his confidence in McCarthy's ability to negotiate and navigate end-of-half situations.
Said Jones: "That’s my point. I know firsthand Mike’s capabilities and have known how he approaches it, the logic that he uses, and I’m not a bit concerned about his ability to manage a tight situation. Is he going to have some things that he can second-guess? You bet they are. They wouldn’t have a decision-making time."
The clock issue is bolstered by the end of the Los Angeles Chargers game in Week 2. Dallas similarly ran the clock down and allowed kicker Greg Zuerlein to kick a 56-yard field goal rather than get more yards for the try. The Cowboys had a timeout remaining and over 20 seconds at the end of the game, more than enough time to get yards for a more secure field goal attempt.
Just as Zuerlein's game-winning field goal neutralized the clock management issue, so too did the 41-21 thumping of the Eagles on Monday Night Football. McCarthy's decision not to use all three timeouts and put points on the board before halftime is attenuated by the fact that Dallas won.
Do you think the Cowboys have a clock management problem in need of solving? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.