IRVING, Texas — Bill Callahan dutifully stood in front of the media firing squad Thursday.
He declined the blindfold.
The Cowboys offensive coordinator was cordial and largely patient in his 20 minutes outside of the Cowboys locker room. He explained why the design of his play call was at fault on Tony Romo’s critical interception and addressed why he abandoned the run game in the second half of the team’s loss to Green Bay.
Critics who want Callahan to say he made a mistake by not handing the ball to DeMarco Murray more will feel empty. What they got was this:
“We love the running game, and we’re continuing to feature it and improve it,” Callahan said. “But yeah, we can always do a better job there.”
Callahan, in his first comments since the 37-36 loss to the Packers, gave the most detailed description yet of what happened on the first of Romo’s two interceptions.
The Cowboys had a second-and-6 on their 35-yard line with 2:58 left in Sunday’s game. A tag was built into the play that Callahan called from the booth. If Green Bay’s defense loaded the box to take away the run — and it did — Romo was given the option to throw to a receiver in man-to-man coverage. That was Miles Austin over the middle.
“It’s not per se an audible,” Callahan said. “It’s a different way of throwing a pass in a run structure if that’s built into the call.”
Linebacker Clay Matthews came in unblocked on the play, and Romo threw a pass that was intercepted by cornerback Sam Shields. Green Bay scored a touchdown a little over a minute later for the winning points.
“It more or less falls on me,” Callahan said of the play. “I’ve got to structure a better play and a better design and try to eliminate that option for him in those situations.”
Callahan concedes he could have eliminated the option to pass on that play call. Why didn’t he?
“It came up so quick, so fast we still had the tag on the play,” Callahan said. “We felt it wasn’t the time to take it off. I should have taken it off. I’ll live with that.
“I just would say if we had it to do all over again, we’d certainly do it different, but that was the design of the play and we can certainly do better. Certainly I can.”
Asked if Romo could have taken it upon himself to stay with the run call regardless, Callahan replied, “All I can tell you were those are the rules we gave him for the game.”
He was then asked why head coach Jason Garrett didn’t tell Romo to ignore the pass option when he relayed the play.
“I’m not going to get into all of this,” Callahan said, losing his cool briefly. “This is crazy.
“The communication is very simple. I give it to Jason to give to Tony and he executes the call. So it’s really that simple.”
Garrett, in trying to explain why the Cowboys ran so infrequently earlier this week, said the offense wanted to stay aggressive. Callahan was given his chance to explain Thursday.
“I believe we always continue to attack an opponent’s weaknesses,” Callahan said. “That’s always the strategy no matter what.
“I’m not here to justify what occurred. We did the best we could in the situation and circumstances we were in on Sunday. I think we learned a lot from it.”
The Cowboys forged a 26-3 halftime lead in Sunday’s game at AT&T Stadium. Murray gashed the Packers defense for 93 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
Yet Murray ran the ball only seven times in the second half as the lead evaporated. What did Callahan see defensively that persuaded him to call so few run plays?
“We ran,” he said. “The first drive we came out and ran it, had a decent mix and scored a field goal. Then the second drive, I thought, we took a chance.”
The Cowboys had a first-and-10 on their 15-yard line. Romo’s pass to Murray in the flat on first down was incomplete, as was his pass to tight end James Hanna on second down. Romo was sacked on third down and the Cowboys were forced to punt from their end zone.
By the time the Cowboys got the ball back, it was the fourth quarter and a 23-point halftime lead had been cut to five points.
“When you call a game like that and try to be a little more forward in your thinking and trying to get guys in different positions and targeting different players for coverage reasons, it didn’t work out,” Callahan said. “That’s all I can tell you.
“Those things happen.”