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McCarthy not up for the challenge in crucial moment of Giants loss

Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy surprisingly opted against challenging a catch that led to a pivotal Giants field goal.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, center, works on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)

FRISCO, Texas —

Twenty-nine seconds doesn’t sound like much, but time is relative. And in the half minute before the Giants kicked a fourth-quarter field goal to take a 23-19 lead, the Cowboys had plenty of time to challenge the play.

"I mean we’re trying to gather as much information as possible,” said Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy.  "We have coaches in the box that relay the information, but ultimately I make the decision."

It’s not like the Giants rushed the field goal. They snapped the ball with 11 seconds left on the play clock. Still, McCarthy was not up for the challenge.

"We just felt it was too close,” he said. "We felt it was kind of a bang-bang type situation....we were in a tight game and the three timeouts were of high value there. So, we just didn’t think it was enough information to overturn it."

I get wanting to save timeouts, but if you know the rules, the replays clearly showed it wasn’t a catch. But now we will never know.

And even if the Cowboys weren’t sure, with seven minutes left in the game, the risk-reward of losing a timeout versus giving up three points should have led McCarthy to throw the challenge flag.

"As I’ve addressed it, I didn’t feel there was enough information for them to overturn it. We didn’t think it was clear and obvious,” said McCarthy, doubling down on his decision.

Still don’t know how they missed it. But I do know in a New York half-minute, this game could have changed. A challenge leading to a Giant punt would have allowed the Cowboys to kick a go-ahead field on their next drive. Instead, well, you know how it worked out.

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"Frankly, in some ways, this game’s a bit of a microcosm of our season,” said McCarthy.

It was agonizingly familiar: a start so bad, despite plenty of grit and determination, it could not be overcome.

"Just got to learn from this and figure out how to come back stronger than last year,” said running back Zeke Elliott.

That goes for players and coaches alike.