The Dallas cowboys dropped another game in 2015, losing to the Bills In buffalo, 16-6. The Cowboys team that took the field today already started at a disadvantage and is a shell of what the Dallas Cowboys believed they would be this season. So, a team sans Tony Romo and Dez Bryant took on the Buffalo Bills with Kellen Moore making his first start at quarterback and being the fourth passer to start under center for the Cowboys this season.
In many ways, this game served as a look at individual performances for guys hoping to secure a roster spot for next season. It also began in similar fashion as many games this season; the offense comes out moving the ball fairly well only to have to settle for three points. We’ve seen that narrative play out so many times over the course of the 2015 campaign. In the cold, rainy conditions it had all the makings of a dog fight. The first quarter saw both Dan Bailey miss a field goal, which rarely ever happens, and Dan Carpenter responded by bouncing the extra point off the uprights after Buffalo barreled through the end zone. So, at the end of the first, the score stood at 6-3 in favor of the Bills.
The second half began with the Cowboys on offense and Kellen Moore further made his case about coming back for another go in 2016. On a third and seven, Moore brilliantly hit Cole Beasley in stride on a slant route that took them inside Buffalo territory. However, this is the Cowboys we’re talking about as just a play later they got a holding penalty and were moved back to the 50-yard line. The Cowboys would wind up punting the ball back to Buffalo after failing to get into field goal range. After the Bills’ drive stalled, Lucky Whitehead busted out a nice punt return to set the Cowboys up in Buffalo territory.
Offensively, two players really came to play in this game and their names were Darren McFadden (chasing the 1,000 rushing yard mark) and Brice Butler. Despite Butler’s third catch of the game that set-up a first and goal, the Cowboys are dead last in red zone efficiency and once again settled for a field goal after Butler failed to haul in his fourth. With less than two minutes to play in the half, the Cowboys defense began their normal string of poor tackling allowing the Bills to convert third down after third down. Even a beastly sack by DeMarcus Lawrence couldn’t save them as they were torched by Sammy Watkins on the very next play. Thankfully, Tyrod Taylor made a terrible mistake on third and one and Dejo Olatoye became only the second Cowboys corner to intercept a pass this season and give Dallas their tenth takeaway of the year. Despite all the sloppiness, the Cowboys prevented the Bills from taking what could have been a commanding lead in a game such as this and they went into the half tied at six.
As much heartbreak the Cowboys have faced this season, the Bills have been equally a team that has let down in big moments. On Buffalo's first drive after halftime, their return man caught a break after he muffed the kick but a penalty was called on Rolando McClain. McClain would make up for that by recording a sack and forcing a punt. After the Cowboys stalled on their first possession in the second half, the Bills were on the move once again after Watkins hauled in another to put them at the Dallas 29. The Cowboys were really getting hurt in the running game as Taylor gashed them on a quarterback scramble for 13 yards and put them over 100 yards rushing on the day without the help of LeSean McCoy, who was out for the game. Buffalo, much like Dallas, stalled in the red zone again, but Carpenter put three on the board for the Bills to take the lead 9-6.
On the ensuing drive for the Dallas Cowboys, McFadden continued to rack up yards on the ground. Terrance Williams got involved on a nice third down converting screen pass. However, Kellen Moore's pass was deflected and intercepted by A.J. Tarpley. All the Bills' momentum was soon stifled as running back Karlos Williams' fumbled and Brandon Carr recovered the ball to give the offense another shot. As soon as the Cowboys' drive began, they started moving backward immediately and were forced to punt but managed to pin the Bills deep. The game continued to be a slugfest as Buffalo stalled yet again due to some solid defensive effort from Barry Church, who made Taylor pay hard for running on third down.
The fourth quarter continued to be as sloppy as ever after it became a punt-off though Dallas was in Bills' territory on a fourth and eight. After the way the game had been going all day, there is no wonder they punted after Moore's passes were errant on three straight times that drive. Pinned inside their own 15, Taylor continued to look like vintage Michael Vick shredding the Cowboys defensive line and converting a scramble into a first down. With 3:25 left in the 4th, the Cowboys let the Bills' running game continue to dominate. Backup running back Mike Gillislee broke ankles on a 50-yard run to put Buffalo up 16-6. Any chance of the Cowboys making a comeback was dashed immediately as Whitehead fumbled the kickoff giving the Bills the ball back in the red zone and subsequently putting them out of their misery.
Standout performances included:
Brice Butler- He's looking more and more like a guy that could be taking Devin Street's job (who left early in the game with a concussion). In his career, Butler's best game was a three catch, 69-yard game. Today, Butler had four receptions for 74 yards and made key plays, the offense just couldn't convert.
DeMarcus Lawrence- Continuing his hot streak, Lawrence recorded yet another sack to bring his total to eight on the year. The Cowboys have really got a lot of effort from him in the past few weeks. Now, if only he can learn to be as dominant as the year begins.
Darren McFadden- McFadden has made a strong case for himself coming back next season as he only fell three yards short of 1,000 rushing yards on the year. He most certainly will get that opportunity in the finale against Washington.
Sean Lee- He was all over the place in normal Sean Lee fashion. Perhaps, he was showing the world that he deserved to be in the Pro Bowl this season. Either way, Lee finished the game with 11 tackles and half a sack.
The Cowboys now move on to the finale against the division winning team from Washington. They beat them once with Matt Cassel at the helm, maybe they can sweep them and gain some confidence heading into the offseason.