Photograph: Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports
The thing about completing a successful Hail Mary pass is that it involves throwing an actual Hail Mary. Down six points with 14 seconds left on the clock in his team’s wildcard playoff against the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott took the ball and ran instead of heaving it into the endzone. It was a disastrous decision that ensured the once-mighty Cowboys suffered yet another early postseason exit.
The already infamous final play started on the San Francisco 41-yard line. On 2nd and 1, Prescott rushed for 17 yards before he was taken down by the San Francisco 49ers’ defense. In theory, the QB had just enough time to spike the ball and then attempt a game-winning touchdown on fourth down. Instead, after getting up, Prescott collided with the umpire as the official attempted to place the ball down, a crucial error that allowed the clock to run down. The 49ers held on for a 23-17 victory.
“That was the best option … It’s the right decision,” Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy said after the game, regarding the final play of the game (offensive coordinator Kellen Moore called Prescott’s run play with McCarthy giving it the OK). McCarthy postgame analysis will be disputed by many, particularly Cowboys fans.
It was a fitting end to a game in which the Cowboys were dinged for a whopping 14 penalties. In a game they eventually lost by six points, the Cowboys’ playoff death was primarily due to a series of self-inflicted wounds – some would say hiring a coach as unimpressive as McCarthy in the first place was the first one – with Prescott’s inexplicable run merely the last of them.
The most painful thing about that Cowboys’ loss is that they had a chance to win the game after at one point trailing the Niners 23-7. Once upon a time, back when the Cowboys were firmly America’s Team and synonymous with football, they would have pulled it off. This is a franchise that has made it to the…