It was a harrowing three-point win for the Dallas Cowboys over the Los Angeles Chargers, but nearly wasn't. You could point at a myriad of mistakes made by the former that could've awarded the latter the win, but it was Dak Prescott and Co. who had the final shot at driving the nail into the opponent's coffin -- but a timekeeping gaffe at SoFi Stadium sent head coach Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff into a state of utter confusion with the game on the line. So, as it turns out, what was initially viewed as a gargantuan brain fart by the Cowboys regarding their end-of-game clock management actually wasn't at all.
Standing at the Chargers 41-yard line with 33 seconds remaining in regulation following a three-yard gain by running back Tony Pollard, the Cowboys allowed 29 critical seconds to run off of the clock on third down before finally stopping it with a timeout.
But why? Considering Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott had already racked up 180 combined rushing yards with two touchdowns on the day, it only makes sense Dallas would use that time and down to run one more play and hopefully get a previously struggling (Week 1) Greg Zuerlein closer for a potential game-winning attempt. Well, as McCarthy explains it, the clock at SoFi Stadium went blank, so the Cowboys had no idea how much time was left as the timer rapidly approached zero -- nearly forcing overtime in the process.
"One of our players came off who shouldn't have come off, just communication there. Then we were just going to run it down, but the clock I was watching went off the board," McCarthy explained following the game, via the team's website. "And the clock Kellen had, he said he got blocked by a camera guy."
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It ultimately took the coaches in the booth screaming down to the headsets on the sideline to call timeout.
"The communication was great from up top," said McCarthy.
The insanity of it all isn't lost on him though, especially considering it could've changed the outcome of the game.
"I've never had a clock go off the board on me like that," he added. "The second down, we were trying to chip away and just get a shorter field goal. We were going to attempt a third-down play and then kick it on on fourth. That was the timeframe we were in.
"Seventeen seconds, I think, so we were right on the threshold. You get into these two-minute drills, you have thresholds: one-minute, thirty seconds, 17 seconds. We were right at the threshold there of our operation. Once you get below 17 seconds, that's a threshold.
"Just let it run down and take the kick there. But the initial plan at the 30-second mark was to run a third-down play."
They never got the chance though, but thanks to his assistants being quick on their toes, the timeout got called, the clock was stopped,-- on a boot that might've been closer, if not for a blanked out clock in enemy territory.