The playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys played one of their worst games in recent history with a 26-6 loss on Sunday at Washington. The Cowboys, who went into the game with a chance to win the NFC East title and gain momentum into the playoffs, looked like a team fighting for the right to claim last place. From the opening drive to the final whistle, the ‘Boys never showed signs of mediocrity, much less greatness.
Where should the blame be placed? Let’s look at some of the key roles:
- Quarterback – Dak Prescott completed just 14 out of 37 attempts. His passes were consistently off the mark. Prescott’s lone interception came on what amounted to a do-over from the previous play when the potential interception was dropped.
- Running back – The highly paid Ezekiel Elliott averaged 1.2 yards per carry en route to a grand total of 10 yards. He was also targeted as a receiver, but failed to record any catches as he did not even look for the ball which hit him in the back. Even more unfortunate was that this was perhaps the most on-target pass thrown by Prescott all day. Soon to be free-agent Tony Pollard managed to surpass the magic number of 100o yards rushed for the season, despite being held to under 20 yards on 7 carries.
- Receivers – The outside receivers failed to get much separation from defenders, though CeeDee Lamb did manage 5 catches. Tight end Dalton Schultz managed to catch 4 of the errant passes thrown his direction.
- Defense – The Cowboys gave up an average of 4.9 yards per play to a team with a 3rd string quarterback.
- Special teams – Cowboys punter dropped a snap, Cowboys punt returner fumbles a punt, Cowboys kicker missed an extra point.
- Coaching – The offensive coordinator seemed to be watching a different game from the one taking place. A popular saying is that “the sign of foolishness is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result”. Kellen Moore must not be aware of this as he repeated tried the same plays in the same situation that did not work. An example of this in the passing game led to Prescott’s throwing of a pick-six when the previous play was dropped by the defender. (Although, technically that was a different result since the second attempt resulted in a Washington touchdown). Other times when the Cowboys needed fewer than 10 yards for a first down, and Moore would call for a pass attempt of greater than 30 yards, followed by another pass attempt of greater than 30 yards on an almost identical route. The running game was almost as redundant, when the Cowboys were faced with 2nd and 10 on the opening drive, a running play sweeping left by Tony Pollard was stuffed by the Commanders defense. Fast forward to 2nd and 10 later in the game, Tony Pollard stuffed on a sweep to the left. Over and over, the Cowboys found failed plays and decided to repeat them. We cannot overlook the Head Coach, all of this plays out while he has a headset on and can overrule. But more egregious was the overall lack of energy and apparent lack of preparedness by the Cowboys. If there are no in-game adjustments, is the coach really needed on the sideline?
- Owner/General Manager – The familiar pattern of the Dallas Cowboys folding late in the season cannot be overlooked. The Cowboys have not won a road playoff game since 1992, only 4 players on the Cowboys roster were even born at the time. Players change, coaches change, management stays the same, results have stayed the same. You decide.
- Honorable mention – Cowboys blue jersey jinx, but that’s for another discussion.