Sat. Oct 24th, 2020

Fourth-down calls show Jason Garrett’s trust,…

5 min read
Fourth-down calls show Jason Garrett's trust,...

ARLINGTON, Texas — When it was still a game, still a doubt whether the Dallas Cowboys could shake their three-game losing streak, still a doubt whether he would be the coach for the full season, Jason Garrett didn’t blink.

Facing fourth-and-1 from the Dallas 49 with 11 minutes and 15 seconds left in the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, Garrett didn’t think about punting. The offense never left the field.

“We needed to convert that and continue to have confidence in our guys,” Garrett said.

The Cowboys had three tight ends on the field, seemingly leaning toward a run after Dak Prescott was stopped short on a third-down quarterback sneak. At the snap, Prescott sprinted to his right and running back Ezekiel Elliott leaked past a Philadelphia defender for the simplest of pitches and catches for a 9-yard gain.

Seven plays later, Prescott threw the shortest touchdown pass of his career, a 1-yarder to tight end Blake Jarwin to give the Cowboys a 21-7 lead with 6:40 left in the half. The play pushed the Cowboys to a key 37-10 win against their NFC East rival.

There were many reasons the Cowboys won Sunday: Elliott ran for 111 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown. The defense created four turnovers and sacked Carson Wentz three times. Amari Cooper had 106 yards receiving. Prescott was efficient and set a Cowboys’ record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 21.

But don’t forget Garrett’s decision to go for it on fourth down.

“It’s something that he always says, but he has trust and believes in the guys to execute the playcalls,” Prescott said. “He has so much trust in the offense and so much trust in the team. You have just as much trust in the defense in that situation because if you don’t get it, you know they’re going to make the plays to get the ball back to you. He trusts the players and it says a lot to the players and it means a lot as a player.”

Garrett is viewed as a conservative coach, Ivy League through and through, but since 2016, the Cowboys have converted 31 of 52 fourth-down chances. Their fourth-down conversion rate is third-best in the league since Prescott took over as the starter.

It is not so much an analytics play as it is a feeling play.

Garrett called a fake punt on the Cowboys 26 with the score tied at 10 in the third quarter of a must-win game at the Oakland Raiders in 2017. In last year’s overtime win against the Eagles at AT&T Stadium, Garrett went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Philadelphia 19, knowing a field goal would not win the game. In the divisional-round game against the Los Angeles Rams in January, he went for it on fourth down on the first possession of the game.

“You want to be able to show your guys you believe in them,” right tackle La’el Collins said. “And then for us, we just got to have his back and go out there and do our job.”

In last week’s loss to the New York Jets, Garrett went for it on fourth-and-2 from the New York 7. Trailing 7-3, he refused to accept the sure field goal and Prescott was stopped on a run after Elliott lost a yard on third-and-1.

The Jets scored on a 92-yard touchdown pass on their first play.

Garrett had no reservations against the Eagles.

“He believes. His ability to block out the noise as [the] head coach is unbelievable,” tight end Jason Witten said. “He believed in us last week, we came up short on the fourth-and-2. He didn’t flinch. He called it again. He told us he believes in us. I think that’s momentum for you. It’s a gutsy call and I think his players respect that and appreciate his willingness to do that, because in hindsight, it’s not always easy to make that call.”

Eagles coach Doug Pederson has a reputation as a fourth-down guru — a Super Bowl win has added to the notion he has it figured out. Garrett has yet to get past the divisional round and there were rumblings he could be coaching for his job against the Eagles, although none of that came from Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones. Garrett does not have a contract beyond 2019.

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