By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — The Cowboys entered Gillette Stadium on Sunday as the favorites. Head coach Mike McCarthy worked to negate some of that advantage very early on.
On the opening drive of the game, the Cowboys faced a third-and-1 at their own 34-yard line. Matt Judon wrapped up Ezekiel Elliot behind the line of scrimmage and brought him down for no gain.
So they faced fourth-and-1, still at their own 34-yard line, and decided to go for it. They went with another inside handofff to Elliott, and once again, he was tackled for no gain, short of the line to gain.
The play was in absolutely no way close. Not one single replay indicated that Elliott might have reached the line to gain.
Nevertheless, McCarthy compounded his questionable call of going for it on fourth down at his own 34-yard line by throwing his red challenge flag — with some flair, no less.
Mike McCarthy throws the challenge flag with *style*. pic.twitter.com/kIuZKdja0J
— The Big Lead (@TheBigLead) October 17, 2021
The officials — as is typically required in such situations — humored him by honoring that challenge request. Alas, replay showed what everyone in the building already knew: Elliott was down short of the line to gain, and the Cowboys had turned it over on downs.
They also now lost a challenge and a timeout on top of that.
Apparently, the Dallas sideline was confident that the replay would result in a first down, too.
The Cowboys thought they’d win that challenge. They brought their offense back out onto the field. Wound up being upheld. Patriots take over on then Dallas 34. pic.twitter.com/JoM0CexhOr
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) October 17, 2021
McCarthy dropped to 0-for-3 on challenges this year.
Gifted that prime field position, the Patriots (who rank 26th in the NFL in scoring) needed just three plays to get into the end zone to take a 7-0 lead.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, they are very good offensively. So they marched 75 yards on seven plays after that Patriots touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. In doing so, they overcame what can only be described as a very Mike McCarthy moment.