Any time there is a loss, it’s not a lot of fun to talk about but it is often the best way to get past it. The Cowboys got their backsides whipped on Sunday and gave life to a Falcons’ team in the NFC wildcard race. At 5-4, with the NFC-leading Eagles coming to town, there is rightfully urgency for the Cowboys to right the ship.
The Cowboys were 3-0 following their bye week but ran into the struggling Falcons without perhaps the team’s best player, Tyron Smith. We all learned rather quickly that the All-Pro left tackle is mightily important:
Sorry Dak, Adrian Clayborn sets Falcons record with 6 sacks in a game. pic.twitter.com/mAhCB6w2lJ— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 13, 2017
Adrian Clayborn took Chaz Green to the woodshed and earned six of Atlanta’s eight sacks in this game. No offense to Clayborn but he’s not a premier pass rusher in this league and never has been, the Cowboys might have made him earn a Pro Bowl nod in one game. Dak Prescott came into this contest being sacked the sixth-fewest times at 10 sacks in eight games, giving up eight in one is unacceptable.
Adrian Clayborn is a decent player, solid no. 2 edge, preferably a versatile #3 who can play inside and out.— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) November 13, 2017
If you give up six sacks to this man, you are not rosterable. Not at tackle anyway.
Tyron Smith’s been dealing with back tightness for the better part of two seasons, it was a groin injury that kept him out of this one. The Cowboys learned that Smith is all too vital to their success. They also learned that they currently do not have an adequate insurance policy if he misses time.
I already have three children. I've lived a full life. Give Tyron Smith my groin. I'll be okay.— Patrik Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) November 12, 2017
Chaz Green has played well in absence of Tyron Smith last season but he was an absolute disaster in this game. When the coaches gave him help, which was seldom, he was still getting beat. Folks are jumping all over the coaching staff for their inability to make adjustments. They brought Byron Bell in later and he gave up two sacks of his own. Dak was sacked three times in the first half alone, something that hasn’t happened all year. This coaching staff did him no favors and they’re lucky he didn’t get carted off the field.
That last sack isn’t on Chaz Green. It’s on whoever left him in the game. Fool me once shame on you,fool me twice shame on me, shame me 87 times, you deserve what you get.— Jeff Sullivan (@SullyBaldHead) November 12, 2017
Garrett & Linehan have each refused to acknowledge the Chaz Green crisis at LT. Zero adjustments. Zero help. Shameful coaching negligence. Cowboys have not had a chance to see if they could overcome the loss of Sean Lee because they can’t overcome Chaz Green getting playing time— Ben Rogers (@BenRogers) November 12, 2017
The Cowboys’ offense had no chance in this game due to how poorly they protected the quarterback. They were 1-2 in the red zone and converted 5 of 11 third downs. Whether it was penalties or sacks, the offense was missing in action.
The #Cowboys had six different drives where they had a 1st and 10 inside the ATL 39-yard line.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) November 13, 2017
Those six drives resulted in just seven points.
Cowboys: 8 of 8 actual drives were DESTROYED by sacks— Ben Rogers (@BenRogers) November 13, 2017
*1-Punt: Clayborn sack
2-TD/Got ball on ATL 21
*3-Punt: Clayborn sack
*4-Punt: Poe Sack
*5-Fumble: Clayborn sack
*6-Missed FG: Clayborn sack
*7-Punt: Clayborn sack
*8-Downs: Reed sack
*9-Fumble: Clayborn sack
10-Run out clock pic.twitter.com/lEy90kPAa1
That wasn’t all though as the Cowboys also had to play the majority of this game without Sean Lee. He re-aggravated his hamstring injury in the defense’s third series of the game. They actually held up well until more exposure for Jaylon Smith only spelled bad ending for the Cowboys.
Cowboys defense played better than most realize. Matt Ryan threw for less than 220 yards for the first time since Week 15 of 2013. Also had nine tackles for loss, a turnover & held running game to less than four yards per carry.— Jeff Sullivan (@SullyBaldHead) November 13, 2017
Cowboys opponents have scored on 19 of 23 possessions when Sean Lee wasn’t on the field. That’s truly shocking how crippled the defense is without him.— Mattson (@Mattson201712) November 13, 2017
The Cowboys defense just isn’t the same and it’s incredible how much one player means to the unit. Without Sean Lee, the Cowboys defense is in serious trouble and it’s not looking great for him being available this week:
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said "it might be some time" before LB Sean Lee can practice again, certainly won't practice early in week after re-aggravating his hamstring injury Sunday at Atlanta.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) November 13, 2017
There are some that are more optimistic than others but remember that the Cowboys tend to be very cautious:
Mickey Spagnola says he was told Sean Lee's hamstring injury isn't as bad as the last time he injured it, in which he was out for 4 weeks #DallasCowboys— Troy Hughes™ (@TommySledge) November 13, 2017
Either way if the Cowboys’ defense is going to be without Sean Lee then they must find another solution at middle linebacker. Jaylon Smith is not the answer right now and it’s been far to easy for teams to pick up chunk yardage.
Yesterday was another reminder, Jaylon Smith shouldn't be on an NFL football field at this point.— Jeff Cavanaugh (@JC1053) November 13, 2017
Without Lee, the entire middle of the defense is open for business. The Cowboys will need to start looking at linebackers for next season too:
Regardless of where Jaylon Smith’s career is trending — and I still think it’s way too early to close that book, FWIW — this season is underscoring LB as a pretty big need for the Cowboys in 2018.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) November 13, 2017
Much like the week two debacle in Denver, this was just a game that was bad all around. After the rookie Xavier Woods picked off Matt Ryan and Dak Prescott took it in for the score, the rest of this game was just a clunker. All Pro absences really do make the heart grow fonder:
The Cowboys were missing multiple stars on Sunday, and it showed on the stat sheet. pic.twitter.com/gqF0lg9orI— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 13, 2017
What this means for the Cowboys is that they are 5-4, tied with three other teams in the NFC wildcard picture. However, they currently sit outside the wildcard with three teams (Packers, Lions, Falcons) owning the tiebreaker over them.