Does Dak Prescott or Mike McCarthy deserve more blame for Cowboys’ playoff loss?


The Dallas Cowboys have made 12 playoff appearances since winning the Super Bowl in 1995 and have yet to return to the NFC Championship Game. Their Wild Card win this year in Tampa Bay was just the Cowboys’ fifth postseason win since 1995.

For the second-straight year, it was the 49ers ending Dallas’ season, this time in San Francisco by a final score of 19-12. Despite a strong defensive effort, the Cowboys managed just one touchdown in the game, leaving both head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Dak Prescott under the microscope. But which key figure deserves more blame for the loss?

Danny Parkins and Andrew Fillipponi of the Audacy Original Podcast “1st & Pod” debated whether the focus should be on McCarthy or Prescott after Sunday’s divisional-round loss.

“I think there were bigger things than Mike McCarthy ultimately in that game but 4th-and-5 from the San Francisco 40 with six minutes left in the third quarter tied 9-9, chooses delay of game, punts, Niners drive down the field, immediately score a touchdown,” Parkins said (1:21). “Then he punts with 2:14 left and all of his timeouts from his own 18, doesn’t get the ball back until there are 45 seconds left from his own 6-yard line with no timeouts.”

From there, it only got worse for the Cowboys. Tight end Dalton Schultz, who caught Dallas’ lone touchdown in the game, went out of bounds while going backwards causing the clock to continue to run on the final drive. Not only that, but Schultz also didn’t drag his foot for a catch on the penultimate play of the game.

“And then the hilarious play to end the game with Zeke at center and the Niners clearly just ‘Hey, maybe we should just tackle everybody,’ and they won the game,” Parkins continued. “That was a chef’s kiss Mike McCarthy masterclass. I could not have drawn it up any better. I loved every minute of it.”

In case you somehow haven’t seen that play yet – or just want to see it again – here it is.

Even with all of McCarthy’s missteps in the game, especially late in the game, he may not be the center of attention in Dallas.

“I’m very interested to see if the focus is on McCarthy or if it’s on Dak,” Fillipponi said. “For me, it should be on Dak. I think what McCarthy did obviously, clearly were bungled gaffes late in the game, but I thought overall, look at the totality of the game, the game was there for Dak to win it and he didn’t do it. And the Gallup throw downfield before the stupid punt is an example where he’s got to make that throw. His interceptions, where they were on the field when they happened. The first interception creates points for San Francisco.

“The Niners only scored one touchdown in this game. That should’ve been enough for the Dallas Cowboys to win, and I thought Dak played – I know, against a really good defense – I thought he played a poor game.”

Prescott finished with 206 yards on 23 of 37 passing in the loss. He threw for one touchdown with those two interceptions, although it could’ve been even worse.

“Poor is being generous,” Parkins said. “Dak was awful. Dak had two picks; he could’ve had four. He should’ve ended the game on a pick-six… I told you on Thursday that I wasn’t convinced that Dak was much better than Purdy, and Purdy wasn’t great by any means but which one looked like they were getting paid over $40 million a year?”

The quarterback getting paid over $40 million a year will be watching the rest of the playoffs while Mr. Irrelevant prepares to travel to Philadelphia for the NFC Championship Game.

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