With the score tied at 17, McCarthy called a run for backup running back Tony Pollard on 2nd-and-6 from the Chargers’ 41-yard line. Pollard picked up three yards, leaving about 30 seconds on the clock.
Most figured the team would dial up another play to try and get within more comfortable field goal range. With a star quarterback in Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ receiving corps, that seemed like the right decision.
Instead, McCarthy let the clock wind down to four seconds before calling the team’s final timeout, eventually blaming the situation on a clock malfunction. He settled with handing Greg Zuerlein a 56-yard field goal attempt, which luckily for the Cowboys, he knocked down. On Tuesday morning, owner Jerry Jones was asked about the decision, and backed his coach, though this may not be the most convincing statement ever.
Jerry Jones on @1053thefan was a little surprised the Cowboys didn’t run another play in the final 30 seconds before kicking the field goal. He had no issue w/ Mike McCarthy’s explanation, especially because they won. “Thank God our quarterback saw it and got the timeout called.”
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 21, 2021
Zuerlein has a huge leg, but he’s certainly not perfect on those long field goals. He missed a 50+ yarder in Week 1 against the Buccaneers, and has hit 37-of-66 attempts over 50 yards in his career.
Based on those numbers, Mike McCarthy settled for a roughly 56-percent attempt—and probably less, considering a 56-yard field goal is more difficult than a 50-yarder—rather than use a pretty significant amount of time on the clock to try and set up a more reasonable attempt. Even 10 more yards would have made for a much more comfortable attempt for Zuerlein.
An issue with the clock certainly complicates matters, but I’d have to imagine that a team led by Bill Belichick or another stickler for details would have found a way to overcome it. The Cowboys did win the game though, so no harm no foul this time.