Mike McCarthy trusted analytics, and his players, on failed fourth down


Trailing 20-17 in the fourth quarter, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy eschewed a game-tying field goal attempt and went for it on fourth-and-3 at the Rams’ 11-yard line on Sunday night. The play failed, but McCarthy defended the thought process behind it after the game.

McCarthy said he was relying both on analytics and on his gut feeling that his offense would make the conversion. Instead the Cowboys completed a pass, but CeeDee Lamb was tackled short of the line to gain.

“Analytics gives you good structure and it would tell you to go for it. But you have to look at the variables and trust your players,” McCarthy said, via Joe Reedy of the Associated Press. “I want our offensive guys to play wide open. Clearly we were in field goal range and it was three-point game. The conservative play is to kick the field goal, but I felt good about how we were moving.”

Cowboys players indicated that they agreed with the call. No one in the Cowboys’ locker room was saying the decision was wrong, they just wished the play had turned out better. It didn’t, and it became the biggest stop of the game.