The Dallas Cowboys were embarrassed by the Buffalo Bills 31-10 on Sunday.
There's never a good time for a team to get its doors blown off on the road, but Mike McCarthy had received oodles of praise from the media leading up to the game for the job he's done both transforming the offense after early-season struggles and having his team ready to compete every week.
Everything came crashing down for McCarthy on Sunday. The Cowboys clearly weren't ready to match the Bills energy or desperation and it showed as they were bullied in the trenches, allowing Buffalo to rush for over 266 yards on 5.4 yards per carry.
It's a bad look for McCarthy, who didn't come ready to coach. Nothing proved that more than Stefon Diggs' fumble with Dallas trailing 14-3 in the second quarter.
Replay showed that Markquese Bell punched the ball loose before Diggs was down by contact. Asleep at the wheel, McCarthy didn't throw his challenge flag before Buffalo's offense got another play off.
McCarthy's explanation for not challenging the play is infuriating.
Mike McCarthy's postgame admission makes Stefon Diggs fumble, non-challenge more infuriating for Cowboys fans
In real time, it was impossible to determine if Diggs fumbled. Highmark Stadium never showed a replay of the fumble until after the next snap, which is why Diggs rushed the offense to the line of scrimmage to run another play. McCarthy never got a second look, but that's why a head coach needs to be on their toes at all times.
How's this for a solution? Call a timeout to buy your assistants the requisite time to review the play. Teams get three timeouts per half and the Cowboys hadn't used one at that point. While it wasn't clear in real time that Diggs fumbled, Donovan Wilson gestured to the sideline because he knew Diggs fumbled and Diggs hurried Buffalo to the line before Dallas could call timeout because he knew he fumbled.
That's all the information McCarthy should've needed to call timeout. These are split-second decisions that separate elite game managers from the middle-of-the-pack coaches. While McCarthy is a really good coach, he has a long track record of coming up small when it comes to challenging plays.
McCarthy shouldn't have needed the stadium to show a replay. This is the NFL. Nothing is handed to any team in a game of this magnitude. Of course the Bills rushed to the line of scrimmage. Had McCarthy been on his toes, he could've swung momentum in Dallas' favor while the game was still very much in the balance.
Bang-bang play or not, McCarthy admitted to having the challenge flag in his hand. Losing a challenge would have been worth the risk in that scenario given the Cowboys were hanging on for dear life. Regardless, the fact he was on the fence about throwing the flag proves he should've called timeout.
In trying to explain the decision, McCarthy essentially admitted to having zero situational awareness in that moment. That's unforgivable.