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Finale Futility: Did Mike McCarthy, Cowboys Again Bungle Clock Management in Another Playoff Loss to 49ers?

Dak Prescott is to blame for Dallas' playoff exit, but his coach deserves an assist.

We get it. Dak Prescott had his chance Sunday in San Francisco. And woefully whiffed.

With the Dallas Cowboys down seven points and with 2:59 remaining in the NFC Divisional Round playoff game, the quarterback had the opportunity to drive his team to a legacy-defining, game-tying touchdown. Instead, he went three-and-out.

First and foremost, Prescott is to blame for the 19-12 season-ending loss. Not kicker Brett Maher. Not a defense that played its butt off. Not owner Jerry Jones. And not coach Mike McCarthy.

But ...

Look, we're not going to chastise offensive coordinator Kellen Moore for not designing some diabolical final play that would have somehow converted what was essentially a 4th-and-76. We'll let others - like former Carolina Panthers star receiver Steve Smith - have their fun doing that.

What we will point out is that - for the second consecutive season - the Cowboys were not buttoned-up down the stretch in a playoff loss to the Niners.

Last year: Prescott not being able to spike the ball in time for one final snap. This year: Wasting 35 seconds of precious time while casually lining up to punt.

After Prescott was sacked on Dallas' next-to-last possession with 2:45 remaining, McCarthy - whom we've criticized before for poor clock management - should've stopped the clock. The Cowboys had three timeouts, but instead chose to let time run ... and run ... and run some more.

By the time the Niners caught Bryan Anger's punt, 35 seconds elapsed. Might not sound like a lot, but when the Cowboys got the ball back only :45 remained. Wouldn't 1:20 have been much better?

Especially, remember, that Patrick Mahomes drove the Kansas City Chiefs 44 yards in only 13 seconds to beat the Buffalo Bills in the playoff last season.

At their own 6-yard line and voluntarily without those extra 35 seconds, the Cowboys had minimal chance to drive for a touchdown. It didn't help that tight end Dalton Schultz got tackled out-of-bounds going backward, allowing the clock to keep ticking. And that later Schultz nonchalantly didn't drag his right foot, turning a 15-yard catch into an incompletion.

Again, when Prescott gets badly outplayed by rookie 7th-round draft pick Brock Purdy, the Cowboys were doomed. But - Ezekiel Elliott lining up at center and getting trucked on the final, futile play notwithstanding - it's troubling that the Cowboys and their coach weren't more urgent and efficient at the end of another season-ending loss.

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