Cowboys blame miscommunication on Tavon Austin’s final fair catch

Charean Williams
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is being second guessed for the team’s play selection on three snaps in the red zone late in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings. He also is being second guessed for what followed when the Cowboys got the ball back in need of a miracle.

They missed their best shot at a miracle when Tavon Austin fair caught a Britton Colquitt punt with 17 seconds left.

Austin was just following orders, or so he thought, when he raised his hand with no Viking anywhere close to him.

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“We didn’t communicate that well enough,” Garrett said Monday. “In that situation, you’ve got a couple of different options. You can go try to block the punt. We decided not to do that. We decided that we thought there would be a good chance that we could get the ball around the 50-yard line. The biggest coaching point for Tavon was make sure you don’t bleed the rest of this time off by spending a lot of time trying to return the ball. So fair catch was a very viable option. The part of it that we didn’t communicate well enough was just simply if you do feel like you have a good return opportunity, take advantage of it. Catch it and go north and south and get as much as you could. We did a poor job as a staff making sure he understood that. Hopefully, we’ll learn from that experience.”

Who knows how far Austin would have gone? He has three punt return touchdowns in his career but with a long of only 22 in his two seasons in Dallas.

The Cowboys, though, probably had a better chance of scoring a touchdown with a return — or at least getting into position for a better shot at the end zone — than they did with a fair catch. Instead, Dak Prescott threw an incompletion and then had completions of 3 and 6 yards to Blake Jarwin to set up a Hail Mary.

Prescott’s desperation heave was intercepted on the final play.

“I think if you look at it, you say maybe there was a chance to have [Austin] catch it and go north and south and maybe make 10 or 15 yards and maybe start that drive a little closer to the end zone,” Garrett added.

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