At the 1:48 mark of the second quarter just before halftime.
The Cowboys were tied 6-6 with the Atlanta Falcons. They were playing an undefeated team on the road. They were 3-4 to start the year. Hardly ranking as an elite team in the NFL. There is one rule of thumb when you are facing such a situation: go for broke. Be aggressive. Throw caution to the wind and let things rip. Play to win.
The 'boys had moved to midfield after being stuck at their own 2 yard line. They faced a third and long one from about their own 48 yard line. They ran their running back to the right side for just a slight gain. It was fourth and inches. They lined up with their "beef" formation. And they tried to get the Falcons to jump offsides. Timeout. Punt. Game over, in my estimation. I turned the t.v. off. Jason Garrett was playing not to lose instead of aggressively trying to knock off an undefeated team in its own house. When you play not to lose, you lose. Period.
Not surprisingly, I woke this morning to find out the 'boys lost. The tag under the headline said it all: "Falcons find a way to win, and Cowboys find a way to lose." Enough said.
Am I an armchair quarterback? You bet. At least at this point I am. Perhaps things would be different if I had a micro-managing owner breathing down my neck. Perhaps I would be caught up in the moment and frozen by circumstance. Perhaps I would be scared to make a mistake and avoid risk.
But usually, I take that chance. Usually, I trust those who I work with. Usually, I wade in and do things unconventionally. Is there a chance for failure? Yep. Been there. How do you think I got myself burned out earlier this year? But is there also a chance for high reward? Yep. Been there too.
Playing to win leads you to take some knocks. It leads you to failure at times (witness Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on a fourth and two from his own 28 a few years ago against the Colts). But no one questions Belichik's acumen as a head coach and his record. He plays to win. Period. That's one of the reasons the Patriots are so successful. They don't avoid risk. They take calculated ones. One's which increase their chances of winning. My gut says Belichick goes for it where Garrett punts.
It's one reason the Patriots are winners. The Cowboys lose, and why I got plenty of sleep last night.