The Cowboys had worked their way to the Texans' 42-yard line during the first possession of overtime Sunday night and didn’t need all that much more yardage to, at the least, get into field goal range for kicker Brett Maher. But they faced fourth and one, and Dallas Coach Jason Garrett faced a decision: Try to grind out that one yard, or punt it away and hope for the best?
He chose the latter, and it wasn’t at all hard to figure out what was going to happen next. The Texans took over at their 10 and — eight plays later — scored a 19-16 win on Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 36-yard field goal. The Cowboys fell to 2-3; they have topped 20 points in a game just once.
“Yeah, it was a long one [yard]," Garrett told reporters afterward, per NFL.com. “You know, we had a third and two and we didn’t make much on it, and we just felt like at that point in the game, the way our defense was playing, the idea was to pin them down there. Chris [Jones] did a great job with the punt. They got the ball on the 10-yard line, and hopefully you make a stop and you win the game coming back the other way with a game-winning field goal.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has been remarkably tolerant of Garrett’s lack of success — at least compared with the early portion of Jones’s tenure, when Dallas won three Super Bowls in four seasons — seemed at least a little troubled by the decision to punt it away.
“Not second-guessing,” he said, per Peter King of NBC Sports. “But we were being outplayed. It’s time for risk at that particular time.”
Garrett is now in his eighth full season as the Cowboys' coach but has just two playoff appearances and one postseason victory to his name, a record of mediocrity that would try the patience of the most forgiving NFL owner. Jones, as you may have noticed over the years, is not exactly that type of guy, so another middling year might not be in Garrett’s best interests. King seems to think he will make it through the season, though he might need more points and fewer punts to last any longer than that.
“Barring a complete breakdown (which 2-3 is not), I see Jason Garrett making it to January,” King wrote Monday morning. “But if Dallas doesn’t have a winning record, I think there’s a good chance Jerry Jones parts with him after the season. Garrett has a respectable record (70-58) and I think the Jones family likes working [with] him. He’s a reasonable person who believes in the Cowboy chain of command (starting with the credo that Jerry Jones is the boss), and with Jones, that counts for a lot.”
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