Cowboys-Eagles Post-Game Notes
At NBC, I posted my initial observations from the Cowboys’ 38-33 win over the Eagles.
Slow Starts and Kicking OffThe Cowboys have certainly started slowly on offense this year, but at least a small part of the low first half scoring output is that the Cowboys have made a switch in their coin toss strategy, often electing to defer when they win. Jason Garrett has stated that he thinks it’s beneficial to kick off to start the game, especially on the road, and that sometimes provides Dallas with one less first half possession than their opponents.The primary reason I see it as beneficial to start on defense is that there’s a psychological advantage going into halftime knowing you’ll start the second half with the ball. There’s a big difference between being down seven points and kicking off to start the third quarter and being down seven with the ball. Plus, if you can properly time how you manage the end of the second quarter—which is much easier than effectively managing the end of the game because it isn’t entirely dictated by the score—you can “steal” a possession. That is, if you manage to end the first half with the ball, you can stay even in possessions in the first half and have the advantage of getting first possession in the second. In a league that is becoming more and more high-scoring, possessions are at a premium.The Cowboys really mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half against the Eagles. With a 1st and Goal at the Eagles’ one-yard line and 45 seconds remaining on the clock (and counting), Dallas called a timeout. They scored on the next play, kicking off with 41 seconds left in the half and allowing Philadelphia to drive for a field goal. Those three points were basically a gift, as the Cowboys really should have waited at least 15 or so extra seconds before calling a timeout. It was their first timeout, so with 30 seconds to go in the first half, they would have had plenty of time to run any play they wished. Instead, they provided Philadelphia with a “free” possession when it wasn’t necessary. Yes, the defense should stop the Eagles, but football is a game of probabilities, and the ‘Boys didn’t maximize their chances of winning with that decision.