In so many ways the Cowboys loss to the Giants yesterday reminded you of everything that happened in the Cowboys' 4-12 season last year. There is only one major difference; Dak Prescott shows real potential to play the quarterback position. If there is any light that comes out of this game, it's the fact that Dak Prescott looks like he can be a player. It wasn't the quarterback that cost them this game, it was the gameplan.
Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett seem to be scared to take chances and it's going to cost them in this league. Of course, we understand that Prescott is a rookie quarterback but he's a special athlete. Prescott passed 45 times for 227 yards. What's disappointing is the fact that this offense didn't seem like they were what has been advertised. For one reason or the other, the Giants were wanting Dak Prescott to have to beat them and the coaching staff played right into their hands. There were no jet sweeps, very few outside runs to spread out the defense. They ran the read-option a few times but they seemed confused doing it. The offense didn't bother to make adjustments.
They seemed quite stale and there was no innovation. Sure, they gained yards but when it was time to score points, the Cowboys kicked field goals. So many games last season ended just like this one. Time of possession doesn't matter if you can't score touchdowns. Opting to kick field goals is going to lose you a lot of games in the NFL. Especially, when it only takes the opposing offense three plays and 90 seconds to score. Dak Prescott was failed by his offensive weapons many times but he's got to not be afraid to take chances either. It's not all coaching but together between Prescott, Linehan, and Garrett; their mindset and execution did them no favors. Tony Romo is not walking through the door to take them down the field with his late game heroics anytime soon. These coaches have to become a bit more aggressive in order to win games. We all know they have the talent.
Vaunted Offensive Line
The Cowboys offensive line got flat out beat yesterday in the running game and they need to be embarrassed by their play. Each time they lined up against the $200 million defensive facelift of the Giants, the G-men were better than them. Sure, they did an amazing job at keeping Prescott's pocket clean but Ezekiel Elliott was a non-factor and the Cowboys run game was no effect. They wanted to impose their will on the Giants' newly revamped defensive line by running right up the middle. Unfortunately for them, Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon are pretty good run defenders and they were stuffed from the word go.
Dropped Passes & Dropped Opportunities
Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant, and Terrance Williams should really be feeling like they let this one slip through their fingers, quite literally. Witten was losing balls in the sunlight, Dez Bryant dropped a touchdown, Cole Beasley dropped key passes that could have rewritten this game. Terrance Williams made a really terrible mistake that can be forgiven but not forgotten.
Again, another shot has to be taken at this coaching staff here. You have an All-Pro receiver and you have to find a way to get him more involved. One catch for eight yards is not going to cut the mustard, folks. Cowboys' fans dream of a scenario where Linehan and Garrett will learn to use their wide receiver like the Falcons use Julio Jones. Dez Bryant has made countless plays in this league and yet they still figure out ways to keep him out of the game. It's been a problem for them seemingly forever. At some point, show that you have a shred of confidence and let the beast loose. Until then, it's more dropped opportunities for this offense. Again, open that sucker up! Your offense is your key to victory in 2016.
Give them some credit for getting beat up in the first half and coming back swinging. Sure, this is not a great defense and they couldn't take advantage of a suspect offensive line that the Giants have. However, they did do some decent things and made some stops in this game.
Eli Manning made a poor decision and it helped Brandon Carr get his first turnover in two seasons. Morris Claiborne was their best cornerback yesterday and after he got past a dumb decision early in the game, he did really well against the Giant's receivers.
Tyrone Crawford has got to make some plays instead of letting himself get handled by the Giants offensive line. If this defense is going to be successful, the guys that I refer to as their "pieces" have to step up. They have to have Tyrone Crawford, Orlando Scandrick, and Sean Lee lead them. They got good efforts out of Terrell McClain and Byron Jones, but they need others to step up and show they belong in the NFL.
It was great to see that they got a turnover and got some pressure at key points, now they must build on that and get better. They can't let guys run it down their throats in the fourth quarter and they can't play so conservatively. It's killing them on both sides of the ball.
The Silver Lining: This isn't the team that they were last season, there will be no hanging their heads. They simply let this one get away and that needs to be corrected. They are in a hole in this division and now it's gut-check time. Coaches have to step in and allow this offense to get into gear.
The Verdict: Cowboys led in time of possession, 36:43 to 23:17. They led in yards, 328 to 316. They led in third down conversions, 58% to 50%. They won the turnover battle. They sacked their quarterback and they didn't allow sacks on their own. You know why they lost?
The Giants were 100% in the red zone and the Cowboys were 33%. That's where it all begins and ends.