Cowboys’ McCarthy defends first-half timeout fiasco: ‘I was comfortable’

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In the end, it made no difference. The Cowboys’ 41-21 trouncing of division rival Philadelphia put Dallas in sole possession of the NFC East lead, although that only means so much at this point in the season. Any number of things might happen between now and the finish line that could sour the optimism currently flooding Cowboys Nation.

The same could have been said in microcosm of Monday night’s game- in particular, the closing minutes of the first half. Coach Mike McCarthy’s decision to save the team’s two timeouts as the Eagles stalled deep in their own territory, to not give his own potent offense an opportunity to extend their 20-7 lead heading into the intermission, was a baffling one then and remains a baffling one in the morning light, no matter how favorably the game ended.

Yet the Dallas skipper defended his in-game strategy.

“Yeah, it was clearly a decision,” McCarthy told reporters afterward. “It was to take the lead going in to halftime. I was comfortable based on where the ball was at.”

Where the ball was at was deep in Eagles territory. The clock drained harmlessly from 1:51 to 00:20. Jalen Hurts was even delaying snaps to let more time tick away when Philadelphia (!!) finally asked for a stoppage.

Traditional and proactive usage of the team’s two remaining timeouts would have given the ball back to the Cowboys in decent field position to either drive for the end zone or attempt a field goal to add to the lead.

McCarthy, though, stood pat.

The Monday Night Football announcers, noted time management veterans Peyton and Eli Manning, and even the referee standing next to McCarthy on the Dallas sideline were all left befuddled.

By the time Philadelphia punted and Dallas took over, it was too late for Dak Prescott to do anything but take a knee.

The decision made no more sense to the Tuesday morning sports shows.

When the Cowboys kicked off to Philadelphia to start the game’s second half, it was still very much a contest. An Eagles touchdown on that opening drive would have brought the visitors to within one score. Dallas, thankfully, continued to pour it on, rendering McCarthy’s move moot.

But it marks the second week in a row that Cowboys fans are talking about their head coach’s egregious lack of basic clock management skills.

Team owner Jerry Jones, though, also brushed off criticism.

“Other teams have issues with clock management. That’s part of the game,” Jones said on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “Let’s cut [McCarthy] some slack. We were critical of [Jason] Garrett when he was here. Don’t you think that goes with the territory? That’s my point. I know firsthand Mike’s capabilities, and I’m not a bit concerned about his ability to manage a tight situation.”

But plenty of others are.

The Eagles could have mounted a comeback on Monday night with one or two well-timed chunk plays. Dallas could have let their foot of the gas or otherwise fallen apart in the second half. Stranger things have happened. And then the weird little what-was-McCarthy-thinking footnote would have suddenly become the biggest story of the night.

And the coach might be a lot less comfortable on the morning after his 19th game on the job.

It has somehow worked out for Dallas two weeks running. At this rate, though, the Cowboys’ abhorrent clock management will- sooner or later- cost them dearly.

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