Mc­Carthy's call on 4th down scru­ti­nized in Cow­boys' de­but

Big Spring Herald - - SPORTS -

IN­GLE­WOOD, Calif. (AP) — Mike Mc­Carthy's first big de­ci­sion in his de­but as Dal­las Cow­boys coach is go­ing to be se­cond guessed for awhile.

In­stead of go­ing for the ty­ing field goal on the road against the Los An­ge­les Rams dur­ing the fourth quar­ter, Mc­Carthy elected to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Rams 11. Dak Prescott threw a short pass to CeeDee Lamb on a cross­ing route, but the first-round pick was stopped a yard short on a nice open-field tackle by Rams rookie Jordan Fuller, forc­ing a turnover on downs.

That was Dal­las' last, best scor­ing chance as it dropped a 20-17 de­ci­sion in the open­ing game at Los An­ge­les' pala­tial SoFi Sta­dium.

"I think it was a good play call. I think we had a chance of get­ting a first down," said run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott, who had 127 total yards and two touch­downs. "We ended up com­ing up short, and that's just one of those plays in the game where you've got to con­vert. That cost us the game."

Lamb fin­ished with five re­cep­tions for 59 yards in his NFL de­but. He said he was orig­i­nally at the marker and had enough for the first down but had to come back for the ball.

"That's def­i­nitely one of the plays I wish I had back, but live and learn. It's not re­ally a rookie mis­take, but it's def­i­nitely a mis­take from a rookie," he said.

Mc­Carthy de­fended the de­ci­sion that he and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Kellen Moore made, say­ing there was still plenty of time left and that he was try­ing to cre­ate more mo­men­tum. In­stead, it ended up be­ing a back­breaker.

"An­a­lyt­ics gives you good struc­ture and it would tell you to go for it. But you have to look at the vari­ables and trust your play­ers," he said. "I want our of­fen­sive guys to play wide open. Clearly we were in field goal range and it was three-point game. The con­ser­va­tive play is to kick the field goal, but I felt good about how we were mov­ing."

Prescott, who was 25 of 39 for 266 yards and a touch­down, said the fact Mc­Carthy was ag­gres­sive in Week 1 should give the unit con­fi­dence the re­main­der of the sea­son in key sit­u­a­tions de­spite not con­vert­ing on Sun­day. Dal­las hosts At­lanta next Sun­day.

"That's one of the good things you can take out of it. He is go­ing to put it in our hands and make plays. You have to ap­pre­ci­ate that. We have to play bet­ter," he said.

Dal­las got the ball two more times. On the fi­nal drive, Prescott ap­peared to make a 47-yard con­nec­tion to Michael Gallup to the Rams' 19, but it was called back due to of­fen­sive pass in­ter­fer­ence.

Mc­Carthy didn't agree with the de­ci­sion, say­ing Gallup and Rams' cor­ner­back Jalen Ram­sey were both hand fight­ing up the left side­line.

"I was sur­prised there was a call ei­ther way. Ob­vi­ously I'm very dis­ap­pointed in the call, es­pe­cially that late. You don't see that at a crit­i­cal part of the game," Mc­Carthy said.

Dal­las' de­fense al­lowed 422 yards, but line­backer Al­don Smith got a sack in his first game since Novem­ber 2015. Smith didn't play the past four sea­sons due to sus­pen­sions and off-field is­sues.

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