Thursday, January 24, 2008
Cowboys Lose on Failure to Hold
The 2006 season ended infamously for the Dallas Cowboys because Tony Romo failed to hold successfully during a game winning FG attempt. The 2007 season ended less obviously because Wade Phillips failed to instruct his team to hold N.Y. Giants wide receivers at the end of the first half.
Here is the situation. With 1:01 to go in the first half of the divisional playoff game between the Cowboys and Giants, Marion Barber scores on a 1 yard touchdown run to put the Cowboys up 14-7. At this point in the game Dallas seemed pretty much in control. To everyone's surprise however, Eli Manning leads the Giants down the field, all the way to the Cowboys 4 yard line with 11 seconds remaining in the half. If the Cowboys can hold the Giants to a field goal here, they will keep the momentum and probably win the game. They fail to do so though, as Manning throws a 4 yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer.
Here is my question. Why wouldn't Wade Phillips tell his defensive backs to deliberately hold the Giants wide receivers and prevent them from getting off the line of scrimmage? The worst that happens is you get a half the distance to the goal line penalty and you waste 5 seconds. Now you only have 6 seconds remaining in the half and the Giants are forced to make the tough decision of whether or not they have time to run another play and then kick a field goal if it is unsuccessful. If the Giants decide to run another play, then the Cowboys can just hold again, and the Giants will almost certainly be forced to kick a field goal on the last play of the half.
Why does no team ever do this? What is the point of playing straight up defense at this point of the game? Similarly, shouldn't a defense always do this if they are protecting a lead at the end of a game and the other team has the ball on their own side of mid field? Wouldn't you rather give up 5 yards and burn time off the clock, then risk the chance of a long pass?
Anyway, Wade Phillips failed to employ this maneuver, and it may be the biggest playoff blunder that nobody will ever hear about.