What a terrible way to end the weekend. For the second straight week, the Dallas Cowboys would take an 8+ point lead into halftime and squander it. This time it would come at the hands of their NFC nemesis, the Green Bay Packers. The offense again would put up 30+ points, but again - the defense just couldn’t make stops. After the Cowboys offense put together a 17-play, 79-yard touchdown drive to jump ahead 31-28 with 1:13, all they needed was the defense to make a stop. But our worst fears came true as Aaron Rodgers would lead his team 75 yards for the game winning score in just 62 seconds. The Cowboys defense struggled all day and the only way to keep the Packers from scoring was to keep them off the field. The Cowboys offense made a valiant effort keeping them off the field as they held the ball over 10 minutes more than Green Bay, but it still wasn’t enough. Which brings me to my first topic for this weeks 10 observations...
1. Did the Cowboys score too early?
It would be great if you could just pin-point the exact time in which you would like to score. If Dallas could do that, they would. Nobody wanted to see Rodgers trot back on the field against the Cowboys defense with the game on the line. Many will suggest the Cowboys should have ran the ball more on that final drive to burn more clock. Specifically, the end zone pass to Dez Bryant was one that Troy Aikman made a point of expressing his disapproval.
Sure, taking more time off the clock is ideal, but the Cowboys cannot take it for granted they were going to score. They just got finished with a close-call fourth down so every play counts. They have to capitalize on any opportunity that presents itself. The offense burned almost nine minutes on that final drive. Scoring when they did was not a mistake. This is a team sport and unfortunately the guys on the other side of the ball was free fallin’ most of the day.
2. Zeke kept fighting
Entering the fourth quarter, Ezekiel Elliott had 16 carries for only 31 yards for an average of 1.9 yards per carry. But in the fourth quarter, Zeke would kick it into gear, rushing 13 times for 85 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. And for a moment, it looked like he was stopped short on a big fourth down play, but Elliott’s awareness to extend his arm kept the drive alive.
Zeke with the STRETCH on fourth and inches— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) October 8, 2017
First down Cowboys pic.twitter.com/YJyeAKQhsG
Opposing defenses have done a great job stopping Elliott this season and the Cowboys have some things to figure out with their running game, but you have to credit Elliott for his persistence. He kept fighting and it gave his team a chance to win the game. Defenses kept coming at him and he kept pushing forward. You can stand him up at the gates of hell, but he won't back down.
3. The secondary is struggling
Anthony Brown waited until he finished Purdue. He went to Dallas and got a tattoo. He has a veteran out there with a tattoo, too. But the receivers are wide open.
Oh my, where do I begin. It’s a disaster out there. There was a time where fans were excited about the likes of Anthony Brown, Orlando Scandrick, Jourdan Lewis, and Chidobe Awuzie taking over the secondary. A lot of that excitement has disappeared. Everyone has been terrible at different points in the game.
It feels like night and day between Brown’s rookie season where he was a very reliable corner to now, where’s hes a liability. Scandrick had some plays where he looked like a Pro Bowler, but then others where he looked like Nolan Carroll. Consistency is also an issue for Lewis who will make a nice play, but then struggle other times. He was a little grabby with Jordy Nelson that got called for a penalty and of course he gave up the game-winning touchdown to Davante Adams.
And then there’s the fact that Awuzie can’t stay on the field.
Cowboys DB Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) is out for the game. #GBvsDAL— ✭Cowboys News✭ (@DemBoyz_News) October 8, 2017
The Cowboys are asking a lot of their young corners this season, but they are getting results that you’d expect from young corners. It’s not good.
To add insult to injury, the former Cowboys defensive backs Morris Claiborne and Barry Church had interceptions today. Church returned his pick for a touchdown.
4. Prescott made some amazing plays
Dak Prescott threw three touchdowns and rushed for another one, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. There were times that the Cowboys young quarterback put the team on his shoulders and carried them. He would make some great escapes that would lead to some big plays. He would also make some strong throws when the defense is hanging all over him.
Most impressively, the way he led the Cowboys final drive was a thing of beauty. He would make great decision after great decision to keep the chains moving. It’s tough that the Cowboys lost this game, but it feels good to have such a great young quarterback on the team. He’s a good boy, loves his mama. He loves Jesus and America, too.
5. Aaron Rodgers is a really, really good football player
Yeah, we get it! We didn’t just discover football. We know Rodgers is great. We don’t need to listen to Jason Garrett saying that he’s a really really really really really good football player to understand that.
But I’m tired of not having an answer for him. Really good football players are stopped at times in today’s society so we know it can happen. The Cowboys just don’t have it in them to make the stops. Until then, Rodgers is going to keep runnin’ down a dream that never would come to me, working on a mystery, going wherever it leads. He’s running down our dream!
6. You don’t have to live like a referee
Excuse me if I’m a little petty on this one, but there was some terrible officiating in this game. And it’s not just stuff that wasn’t favorable for the Cowboys. The Packers were hosed too. The call in the end zone when the Packers defender, Blake Martinez, got called for hitting a defenseless player was crazy. Maybe Dez Bryant laying on the ground a bit gave the official the impression it was worse than it was, but that was just a blown call. Packers fans were well within their rights to be livid.
But then the Cowboys were on the wrong end of it when Benson Mayowa got called for a unsportsmanlike penalty after DeMarcus Lawrence (sack streak continues by the way) had Rodgers in the grasp. The Cowboys would’ve had Green Bay backed up at the three-yard line with a second and 20 coming. Instead, the Packers would get a new set of downs and drive down for a touchdown. In a game where the Cowboys only were able to get the Packers to punt twice, these types of plays are big.
7. Welcome back, David Irving
After serving a four-game suspension, Irving is back on the field wreaking havoc. It will get lost in all the sadness of this defeat, but he had two sacks in his season debut and he’s going to be a force for this defense. It is great to have him back.
David Irving's first step on that third down was ridiculous. Sack in his season debut. #cowboyswire— Rob Phillips (@robphillips3) October 8, 2017
The Cowboys would sack Rodgers four times on the day which is pretty good, but unfortunately none of them came when it counted the most. For some reason, the Cowboys defensive line just can make the plays when they need them.
8. Who’s this other Aaron guy?
We all expected Aaron Rodgers to be a problem, but where did Aaron Jones come from? They Cowboys haven’t typically had issues stopping the run against the Packers in recent years, but they struggled against the rookie. Jones would rush the ball 19 times for 125 yards for 6.6 yards per carry. You don’t know how it feels to be helpless against the run until the tables are turned and it happens to your team. I must say, I don’t like it.
But it was his last run that stung the most. The Packers ran a draw play where Jones got loose for 15 yards. It put Green Bay in field goal range to where they could concentrate on going for the win with a touchdown.
This is the third running back to rush for over 100 yards against Dallas and in each instance, the Cowboys have lost the game. Last year, they didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher the entire season. The defense got Anthony Hitchens back for this game, but he struggled. He would have six tackles, but also had a costly facemask penalty.
Something has to get fixed with the Cowboys run defense. The return of Sean Lee will be a welcome sight.
9. Rich Bisaccia has to get his guys in order
For some reason, the Cowboys cannot get the right amount of players on the field for special teams. First, they are short a player on a Packers field goal attempt. It caused them to call a second-half timeout. In a season that is likely to feature a lot of games coming down to the wire, burning these timeouts are costly.
Then, they had 12 men in the huddle when the Packers were about to punt. Fortunately, it was 4th and 6 so the penalty didn’t give Green Bay a first down and they still had to punt, but these things are just inexcusable.
10. Another costly drop for Terrance Williams
For the second straight week, Terrance Williams has missed a catch that has proved to be costly. Last week, a ball hit him right in the numbers on a two-point conversion play that the Cowboys desperately needed. This week, he couldn’t hang on to a pass that bounced off him and into the arms of Packers defensive back, Damarious Randall, who would return the ball 21 yards for a touchdown. Was the sun in his eyes? Maybe. But for a guy who has a history of catching the ball with his chest, this doesn’t come as a shock to some fans.
Those are my quick observations. What stood out to you in this game?