We’ll start with Sturm’s Decoding Linehan. It’s required reading. Here’s just one of many problems facing the Cowboys.
The run game continued to produce well enough -- lots of positive yardage and staying ahead of the chains -- but just like with Alfred Morris and Rod Smith, we saw no big runs with the return of Elliott. This is a massive departure from 2016, and it could lead to a number of explanations. But regardless of the reasons, Elliott has really seen his home runs drop through the floor, even if the overall production is still strong. In 2016, he had 42 runs of 11-plus yards on 332 carries (one every 7.9 carries). In 2017, Elliott has just 14 runs of 11-plus yards on 215 attempts (one every 15.4 carries). In explosive runs (runs of 20-plus yards), he had 14 in 2016 (one every 23.7 carries) and four this year (one every 53.8 carries).
Is Jason Garrett on the hot seat? Apparently not.
Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones appeared on 105.3 The Fan, the CBS Sports Radio affiliate in Dallas, and said it would not be in Dallas' "best interest" to make a coaching change this offseason.
"I certainly know a lot about Jason Garrett. Because of that, I can quickly and candidly say his job is not an issue here, at all," Jones said on Tuesday. "It's not in the best interest of the Cowboys to be considering a coaching change."
Earl Thomas went into Cowboys locker room to talk with Dez. Earl to Garrett: “If y’all have the chance, come get me.” pic.twitter.com/RiGkHB1JsX— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 25, 2017
Earl Thomas to the Cowboys? This would be a bold move that could help transform the defense. He’ll be 29 next season, but he’s not a free agent until 2019 unless Seattle cuts him to save cap space.
Pete Carroll nixed this idea pretty quickly.
"I sat with Earl afterwards and he was like, 'What do you mean?' He didn't think he did anything wrong at all. He didn't know," Carroll said. "He was just having fun and he was really excited about the game. He was a little bit [wanting to] rub it in a little bit and have a good time with it, and then he just said something into the future. When you read it, it comes across bad. But if he had another chance, he wouldn't say that again.
This is a problem.
AT&T Stadium not only ranks as the NFL’s best, but since the $1.2 billion facility in Arlington opened in 2009, the Cowboys have drawn more fans than any other team. They sold 741,775 tickets this season, or 92,722 per game.
But it hasn’t translated on the field as the Cowboys have struggled to create a home-field advantage.
The Cowboys went only 3-5 at home this season and have a 37-35 all-time regular-season record in AT&T Stadium. They are 41-30 on the road in that span, including 5-2 this season.
RJ asks some good questions. Here’s his last one.
Will Anthony Hitchens get the Barry Church treatment?
One important free agent on the Cowboys is linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Hitch has been incredible at different times this season, especially considering he almost missed it all entirely.
Dallas let their entire secondary, for real, walk in free agency last season, and to be honest they supplemented things quite well throughout the draft process. The future is certainly bright with the kids in the back of the defense.
As true as that is, there is no denying that the Cowboys missed some that they let go last year, Barry Church is an example. While the Cowboys somewhat scraped by (although they’re missing the playoffs), it’s hard to argue they could have been better off had they kept a player or two.
Anthony Hitchens cannot get Barry Church’d. He’s a great linebacker on a team who’s best one is unfortunately injury prone and who’s next-best one struggled in his first season coming back from an inordinate medical circumstance.
Let’s see what how our sister site broke down the errrant pick-six play that turned the game for Seattle.
Not knowing the scheme or the Cowboys’ specific rules, there is an argument to be made for Prescott to be reading this from Beasley as his first read, Witten as his second who does actually get open, and Elliott as the third read as opposed to the method that he did originally. If Dak knew this was zone coverage before the snap perhaps he would have done that. Instead, he probably assumed it was Cover 1 Man, the Seahawks most common coverage, which is what caused him to read the play this way. If Seattle was in this coverage, Dak would have had Dez Bryant versus Shaquill Griffin in a one-on-one match-up and this would have been his preferred placement for the pass.
Durant was signed as insurance, but he didn’t provide any during the season. He was just part of the failed free agency plan for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys have released veteran linebacker Justin Durant.
Durant, 32, signed a one-year deal with Dallas just before training camp for the second year in a row. He appeared in seven games (three starts) this season as a reserve linebacker, recording 14 tackles (three for loss).
A groin injury sidelined Durant for two games in October, and he sat out the Cowboys’ recent three-game winning streak due to a concussion. He was a healthy inactive this past Sunday against Seattle.
Here are the Cowboys’ opponents. Of course the NFC South is coming off a high year, but so was the AFC West going into this year. The two extra games are at Seattle, and home to Detroit.
The NFL scheduling formula scheduling formula calls for Dallas to match up with the NFC South and the AFC South next year. So…
The Cowboys’ 2018 home games: New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Detroit.
The road games: New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Houston and Seattle.
The defense did its job in this game. It was turnovers that killed Dallas (and a rare miss from Dan Bailey that would have given Dallas a chance to win on its last possession).
When’s the last time the Cowboys lost a game holding an opponent under 200 total yards? The 2010 season, three weeks before Jason Garrett became interim head coach. That year, the Vikings beat the Cowboys 24-21 despite gaining only 188 total yards.
This past Sunday, the defense did an incredible job of preventing Seattle’s Russell Wilson from wrecking the game with his arm and his feet. Wilson threw for only 93 yards and rushed for 29 yards. The entire offense gained only 136 yards, a season-low total allowed by the Cowboys.
In fact, a Dallas defense hadn’t allowed fewer yards in a game since 2005, when the Eagles gained only 129 in a 33-10 loss to the Cowboys.
The passing game was pretty bad. Loop back to the top for Sturm’s column to get more details.
PASS OFFENSE: F Dak Prescott and the passing game has been broken all season and his play and production against the Seahawks proved typical. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 182 yards and two interceptions, including an interception return for a touchdown. He was also sacked four times. He got no help outside from receiver Dez Bryant, who fumbled after a catch and had two crucial drops, including a tipped pass that led to an interception.
The answer to this question is “maybe.” He’ll have another offseason, but the Cowboys coaches are also going to have to make some adjustments.
DM: Prescott had one of the best seasons by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. It was unrealistic to believe that statistically he would build on that success in Year Two. That being said, his struggles were surprising. Would he have dropped off the way he did if Elliott has been available all season? Probably not. But there are still throws Prescott must be able to make whether Elliott is on the field or not, and his accuracy on those throws were spotty at best. Critics point to his lack of chemistry with Dez Bryant, but why has Cole Beasley, his security blanket from last season, disappeared from the offense? This season doesn't call Prescott's future into question, but it does make the organization take a hard look at what he can and can't do and see what players should be around him going forward.
I expect Tyron Smith to miss the game, for sure.
Jerry Jones said the Philadelphia game would be a mix of playing the regular starters and giving younger players some valuable snaps.
"This is a good opportunity for us to get some work in this week, but we'll do both," Jones said. "We should just see how the game goes, but we've got younger guys ... we have a need for them. We need to better understand their skills. But we'll just see how it goes. But I would say the word is both."
This is likely going to come true in 2019. For now, Dez’s contract binds him to the Cowboys for another season.
Dez Bryant, to me, he's got to go. I'm just so tired of that. I don't think for a moment that he's being this 'good guy' on that sideline. I get sick and tired of watching that pouty attitude on the sideline.
I've been saying this for a couple of years that he's not the player that a lot of people seem to think he is. I mean, think about the case they had Sunday where he's over there just complaining and screaming at everybody, and Dak Prescott's trying to calm him down and different people - and then they finally throw him the ball and he fumbles. I still think it was the play of the game, by far, it was the play of the game.