Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy explains failed final play during divisional round loss vs. 49ers

Though it was an obvious attempt of desperation, the play was so poorly executed that it lit up social media. All Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy could do in the aftermath was lament what happened.

After Dallas crashed out of the divisional round of the NFL playoffs Sunday night with a 19-12 loss against the San Francisco 49ers, media and fans scrutinized the final snap of the game, a gadget play in which the Cowboys lined up running back Ezekiel Elliott as the center and had offensive linemen out on the far ends of both sides of the field.

“Yeah, it didn’t get going,” McCarthy said after the game. “I really don’t want to get into the detail of it, but that obviously wasn’t the plan. It’s obviously a gadget play or whatever. It’s a last-play-situation call that we practice.”

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy pushes a cameraman away while walking off the field after an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

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The play came with six seconds left in the game, with the Cowboys 76 yards away from the end zone. The apparent plan was to have a quick pass completed and then to have Dallas players execute several laterals – using the blocking linemen on the edges of the field – to advance down the field.

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Instead, after Elliott snapped the ball, he was bowled over by a Niners pass rusher and quarterback Dak Prescott completed a quick pass to receiver KaVontae Turpin, who was instantly blasted by 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward. The play gained eight yards and the clock ran out.

Given the odd formation, Elliott’s feeble attempt at blocking and the lack of a single lateral, fans took to social media to mock the play call, though, frankly, it was an improbable proposition.

Given the struggles of place kicker Brett Maher, who made only one of his six extra-point attempts in the postseason, McCarthy said that if Dallas would have somehow gone on to score the touchdown on the final play of the game, he would’ve opted for a two-point conversion try instead.

“When we got the ball back in the last series, the plan was to go down and score and go for two for the win,” McCarthy said. “That was the thought process. That had more to do with that I just felt like our defense was on the field a long time and I thought we picked it up in certain areas in the second half. But like I said, we just came up short.”

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