5 Cowboys red flags from 2021 season that led to playoff loss
Now that almost a week has passed since the Dallas Cowboys’ 23-17 loss against the San Francisco 49ers, it’s time to do a deep dive on what went wrong. The disappointing part is fans were led to believe things changed, that these Cowboys were different than previous seasons. Yet again, the year ends without the Lombardi Trophy.
Do not get me wrong. The 2021 Cowboys were fun to watch and had memorable performances against the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, there were moments of concern throughout the season. There seemed to be a lot of miscommunication on the sideline, a lack of depth at certain positions, and a blatant disregard for discipline across the entire team.
Those problems will panic any fanbase, but when Dallas obliterates the teams in their division going 6-0 and then scoring 50 plus points in the final weeks of the season, it can mask over cracks that developed in 2021. What cracks were overlooked? What were the red flags fans noticed, but were promised would be fixed in time for the postseason? Here are five red flags throughout the season that led to the Cowboys exiting the playoffs after one week.
Cowboys Red Flag No. 5 – Clock Management
Clock management was a concern dating back to Week 2 of the season. Against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Cowboys were driving down the field to break the 17-17 tie and win the game. At the start of the drive, it seemed as though the goal was to kick a field goal for the win.
With 0:36 left to play in the fourth quarter on the Chargers’ 45-yard line, quarterback Dak Prescott hit wide receiver Cedrick Wilson on an out route that stopped the clock at 0:33. Dallas had enough time and one timeout left for one more play to make a manageable attempt for kicker Greg Zuerlein, who, by the way, had missed three kicks the week before.
Instead, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore called a run play on third down, and the Cowboys were forced to use a timeout with 0:04 left. Zuerlein made the 56-yard attempt, but it could have been easier on him if the right play had been called. After the game, Coach McCarthy said there was a miscommunication on personnel after the play and did not want to risk calling a timeout in case the next play ended in bounds as time expired.
Fast forward to Sunday’s game where the Dallas offense had the ball on the Niners’ 41-yard line and 0:14 left in the game; Prescott ran a draw play that ended with him unable to stop the clock before time ran out to attempt a Hail Mary. The exact reason why McCarthy did not want to run a play in bounds against the Chargers cost them against the 49ers and was ironically at the same spot on the field.
Throughout the season, in high-pressure situations, it seemed as though McCarthy and his staff would get flustered and make the wrong decision that would decide the game. He has been a head coach for 14 years; these mistakes cannot happen.