Tue Jan 18 9:34am ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott speaks during a news conference following an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Dak Prescott kept handing it to all the wrong people.
He should have delivered the football to umpire Ramon George instead of to his center Tyler Biadasz before time ran out on Dallas' season, leaving Cowboys fans ruminating the quarterback draw that was called with no timeouts and just 14 seconds left.
While Prescott and Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy were busy blaming the officiating for the botched finish that sealed the Cowboys' 23-17 wild-card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Prescott praised fans for throwing trash at officials as they skittered off the field.
At first, Prescott eloquently condemned the fans' boorish behavior, but it soon became clear he misunderstood the question and thought fans were hurling rubbish at his dejected teammates.
''No, I didn't see that. That's sad,'' Prescott said. ''... You're talking about men that come out each and every day of their lives and give everything to this sport, give everything to this game of football. ... And for people to react that way when you're supposed to be a supporter and be with us through thick and thin, that's tough.''
Informed it was the officials that fans were pelting with beer cups and nacho cheese sauce, Prescott did a 180 and retorted, ''Credit to them, then.''
With those haunting words, Prescott delivered the epitaph for the ugly end to Dallas' otherwise stellar season, and Jerry Jones was left to lament a 26th consecutive season without so much as a trip to the conference championship - much less another Super Bowl appearance.
The NFL, by the way, said the officials got it right.
Referee Alex Kemp said the umpire did his job correctly as the final seconds ticked off the clock. He said George trailed the play by the proper length so he could view any possible infractions during the play and he said George properly spotted the ball after bumping into Prescott and Biadasz, causing a brief delay before the hike and spike that came a tick after the clock hit all zeroes.
Before that, Prescott was brilliant in quickly moving the Cowboys downfield.
Dallas got the ball at its 20 with 32 seconds and no timeouts remaining. Prescott completed three consecutive passes, with the receivers getting out of bounds each time, and there were 14 seconds left when he began his run of 17 yards to the 49ers 24. He then handed the ball to his center and lined up for the spike so he could get one shot at a winning touchdown toss.
You'd think a $40-million-a-year quarterback would know what every NFL fan does: The umpire has to spot the ball before it can be snapped again.
McCarthy defended the quarterback draw as the proper call in that situation even though it risked the very outcome that transpired. The 49ers had three down linemen and were defending the sideline, so the middle of the field was wide open.
''It's the right decision,'' McCarthy said. ''We shouldn't have any problem getting the ball spiked.''
ESPN analysist Jeff Saturday, who played center in the NFL for 14 seasons, said Prescott goofed by not sliding down sooner and by not looking to hand the ball to the umpire.
''Dak has to understand you really want to go down at 10 seconds. So, he ran a second or two too long,'' Saturday said. ''The other most important part: Keep the ball in your hand. You are going to hand the football to the referee, so none of the rest of this stuff makes any difference because when you hand it to him, the offensive line will be looking back, understanding he's going to get through to spot the ball and you can spike it.
''There was enough time when he went down, if he holds the ball in his hand, doesn't give it to the center,'' Saturday said. ''And here's the biggest thing: Usually when you're running these two-minute situations, it's between a receiver, a tight end or a running back and they literally are taught to go run the ball to the official. Don't throw it because they might drop it. Hand it to him on the way to the hash that the ball is going to be spotted.''
Prescott was standing at the hash mark.
''All he has to do is hand the ball to the referee who is going to run to him to him to get it, secure it and put it down,'' Saturday said.
There were 5 seconds left when the umpire got to the line of scrimmage and had to work his way past Prescott and Biadasz to get to the ball that the center had placed on the turf.
These sorts of things are practiced on a weekly basis.
''The referee has to make his way through because the ball can't be placed until he touches it,'' Saturday said, actually referring to the umpire. ''The center can't place it. The quarterback can't place it. So, it's uber-frustrating for all the Cowboys fans, but the reality is when you practice this week in and week out you have either referees on the field or an equipment manager who's going to take it and spot it.''
Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, the architect of the NFL's highest-scoring offense, now has a calendar cleared to schedule all those interviews for head coaching jobs. He'll surely be asked about that last play when he talks to the Broncos, Jaguars, Dolphins and Vikings about their vacancies.
The Cowboys can book their trips to Cancun now while mourning the wild finish that will live in 49ers-Cowboys playoff lore like ''The Catch'' by Dwight Clark and Roger Staubach's frenetic fourth-quarter rally that earned him the nickname ''Captain Comeback.''
''Dawdling Dak'' might come to define this installment, one that drew immediate derision across social media, and which Peyton Manning even alluded to Monday night during the Rams-Cardinals wild-card game.
When Rams defenders didn't immediately touch a Cardinals receiver after a diving catch, Eli Manning suggested they were waiting for the receiver to pop up so they try punching the ball out for an ''easy turnover.''
'' I'm old school,'' Peyton Manning replied. ''Just touch the guy down, right? Just hand the ball to the umpire in a two-minute drill, right? Let's just do some of the basics the right way.''
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray completed 19-of-34 passes for 137 yards and two interceptions in Monday night's 34-11 Wild-Card Round loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He also threw for a successful two-point conversion. He looked rattled against the Rams and was 4-of-12 for 22 yards and an interception while under pressure. The 24-year-old threw a pick-six while inside their own four-yard line and later picked off again during Arizona's next offensive drive. Despite the abysmal performance in Monday's playoff loss, Murray did have a successful 2021 season. He threw for 3,787 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions while rushing for 423 yards and five scores in 14 games. The former No.1 overall pick will be a low-end QB1 heading into 2022 fantasy drafts.
Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner rushed four times for 19 yards and a touchdown in Monday's 34-11 wild-card round loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He also caught one of two targets for five yards. The 26-year-old punched it in from two yards out in the third quarter for Arizona's only touchdown of the game. Conner signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals and finished third in the league in total touchdowns. He rushed for 752 yards and 15 touchdowns while catching 37 of 39 targets for 375 yards and three scores. It's unclear if Conner will return to Arizona in 2022, but he will have plenty of interest from teams searching for a running back in free agency after his fantastic 2021 campaign.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught all four of his targets for 54 yards and a touchdown in Monday's 34-11 Wild-Card Round win over the Arizona Cardinals. Rams QB Matthew Stafford connected with Beckham for a four-yard touchdown during the team's second offensive drive. The former Cleveland Brown has now scored in four of his last five games. Since joining the Rams, Beckham has hauled in 31 receptions for 359 yards and six touchdowns over nine games. The 29-year-old will have a vital role as one of Stafford's top targets in Sunday's NFC Divisional-Round matchup versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers rushed 17 times for 55 yards in Monday night's 34-11 Wild-Card round win over the Arizona Cardinals. He also caught one of two targets for 40 yards. He came off the bench but out carried starter Sony Michel 17-to-13. The 22-year-old averaged 3.2 yards per carry but looked impressive in his second game back. The 22-year-old is less than six months removed from a torn Achilles. Akers will split carries with Michel but should have a vital role in Sunday's NFC Divisional-Round matchup versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Updating a previous report, Arizona Cardinals S Budda Baker (concussion) had movement and feeling in his extremities as he left the field. He was alert and communicative.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 13-of-17 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns in Monday's 34-11 wild-card round win over the Arizona Cardinals. He also rushed six times for 22 yards and another score. Stafford connected with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for a four-year score in the first quarter to put the Rams on the board. The 33-year-old punched it in from the one-yard line and capped off his day with a seven-yard touchdown to star wideout Cooper Kupp. Stafford was impressive in Monday's win and will look to build on his performance in Sunday's NFC divisional-round matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught five of seven targets for 61 yards and a touchdown in Monday's 34-11 wild-card round win over the Arizona Cardinals. After an uncharacteristically quiet first half (1-5-0), he finished the game strong by catching four passes for 55 yards and a score. Rams QB Matthew Stafford connected with the star wide receiver for a seven-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The 28-year-old led the Rams in all receiving categories and has now scored in four straight games. Kupp will look to continue his impressive run in Sunday's NFC divisional-round against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford completed 13-of-17 passes for 202 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the NFC wild-card game win over the Arizona Cardinals Monday, Jan. 17, and he also ran six times for 22 yards and a score. RB Sony Michel rushed 13 times for a team-high 58 yards, while RB Cam Akers rushed 17 times for 55 yards. WR Cooper Kupp added five grabs for 61 yards and a score, while WR Odell Beckham Jr. had four receptions or 54 yards and a touchdown while also completing a 40-yard pass to Akers. TE Tyler Higbee ended up with three catches for 46 yards, and WR Van Jefferson rounded things out with a 41-yard catch on his only reception. CB David Long also got into the scoring act with a 3-yard interception return for touchdown in the second quarter.
Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray completed 19-of-34 passes for 137 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in the NFC wild-card game loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday, Jan. 17. RB Chase Edmonds rushed eight times for a team-high 28 yards, while RB James Conner rushed four times for 19 yards and a touchdown while adding one grab for five yards. WR Christian Kirk led the way with 51 yards on six receptions and 10 targets, while WR Rondale Moore chipped in with five grabs for 32 yards. RB Eno Benjamin ran four times for seven yards, while contributing two catches and 26 yards, TE Zach Ertz had three grabs for 21 yards and WR A.J. Green was blanked on three targets.
Arizona Cardinals S Budda Baker (head) was carted off the field due to an apparent head injury suffered in the NFC wild-card game Monday, Jan. 17 against the Los Angeles Rams after a helmet-to-helmet collision.
San Francisco 49ers LB Marcell Harris (Achilles) and S Talanoa Hufanga (knee) are considered day-to-day because of their injuries.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette's (hamstring) status for the Divisional Round playoff game will depend on if he will be able to run full speed on his injured hamstring, according to head coach Bruce Arians.
Fantasy Spin: Fournette's status for the playoff game likely will not be decided until closer to game time, so fantasy players will need to keep an eye on the situation. He is a risky fantasy option but can be at least a flex option if he is active.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones (ankle) is still not able to cut on his injured ankle at this point and is considered questionable for the Divisional Round playoff game.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to monitor Jones' practice participation during the week to see if he has a chance to play. He may see limited playing time if active and will be a risky option.
Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll are believed to be on the short list as top candidates to become the New York Giants next head coach, according to multiple sources familiar with the Giants thinking. It's possible that both coaches could get interviews with the Giants, regardless of who is hired as the next general manager. However, both coaches could also be hired by other organizations before then, as they are hot head-coaching candidates elsewhere around the league. Flores is in danger of being off the market first, as he's the front-runner for the job in Houston, but one source said that Giants owner John Mara has a "great respect" for Flores and likes him personally.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster returned from Injured Reserve for one more game in the team's wild-card loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night, but he'll be an unrestricted free agent for the second straight year this offseason. When asked if he might re-sign again, Smith-Schuster said, "Honestly, it would be a blessing." He had 111 catches in his second season in 2018 and 97 receptions last season, but he played in just five regular season games before his shoulder injury this year and caught 15 of 28 targets for 129 yards and no touchdowns. Smith-Schuster could encounter another cold free-agent market, but the fact that he was able to return late in the year from his shoulder injury will help his cause. If he returns to the Steelers in 2022, Pittsburgh's QB situation without Ben Roethlisberger will be a big factor in Smith-Schuster's fantasy value.
Buffalo Bills DE Mario Addison (shoulder) is considered day-to-day because of the shoulder injury he suffered during the Wild Card playoff game.
Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on Monday that he expects head coach Mike McCarthy to remain the team's head coach after the Cowboys season ended on Sunday in the wild-card loss to the San Francisco 49ers. "Absolutely. Very confident," Jones said. It was a very disappointing end for a Cowboys team that had a solid regular season, but McCarthy is expected to get a chance to fix his playoff disappointment in 2022. However, he could be without both offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who are both popular head-coaching candidates throughout the league.
The Cincinnati Bengals placed defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (foot) on Injured Reserve on Monday due to a right foot injury that he suffered in Saturday's wild-card win over the Las Vegas Raiders. Ogunjobi had to be carted off the field on Saturday and will miss the rest of the postseason. With the 27-year-old out for the Divisional Round matchup against the Tennessee Titans this weekend, B.J. Hill, Josh Tupou and Tyler Shelvin could all see more playing time. In 16 games in the regular season, Ogunjobi had 49 tackles (29 solo), 12 tackles for loss, 16 QB hits and a career-high seven sacks for the Bengals defense. He was unable to record a single tackle while playing only 28 defensive snaps in the wild-card game before his injury.