The 2017 season is finally over and the Dallas Cowboys went out with a
bang dud, an unimpressive 6-0 victory over the second-string Philadelphia Eagles. Here are 10 thoughts on the last game of the season.
1. No offense
Halfway through the season, these two teams were both in the top five in points scored. But with the Eagles without their star quarterback, Carson Wentz, and the Cowboys offense sputtering, this game turned into a snoozer. There would be no scoring in the first half.
Remember, the Cowboys get the ball to start the 2nd half, which means they get to punt first.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) December 31, 2017
In fact, the game would remain tied 0-0 after three quarters. The only score of the game came from the Cowboys when Dak Prescott hit Brice Butler for a 20-yard touchdown with just over 12 minutes left in the game.
2. Getting your Bell rung
There have been three games this season where Dak Prescott has been sacked at least four times. It should come as no surprise that all three of these games were games that the offense had to try to survive without Tyron Smith. And they didn’t. They lost all three of those games and the offense did next to nothing. Prescott would only be sacked once in this game, but that’s because backup left tackle Byron Bell decided to get a little grabby. He would get called for holding three times in the game, including once that nullified a 52-yard reception by Dez Bryant.
Bell would also get off the snap late on the Cowboys fourth down attempt in the first quarter that allowed Eagles’ defensive lineman Vin Curry to get a free shot at Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. The Cowboys had all sorts of troubles this year, but the loss of their All-Pro left tackle had a trickle-down effect. Without him, Dak struggled. Without Dak, the offense struggled. Without the offense, the entire team suffered.
Dak Prescott's Passer Rating With Tyron Smith in 2017: 98.1— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) January 1, 2018
Dak Prescott's Passer Rating Without Tyron Smith in 2017: 61.1 pic.twitter.com/iTcfVT47rA
3. Lee Factor
Whenever the Cowboys have their All Pro linebacker on the field, the run defense gets a huge boost. For the second straight game, the defense allowed less than 50 yards rushing to opposing running backs. While this game had no playoff implications, Sean Lee played like it did. Like many games this year, he was all over the place.
Don't run a delayed draw against Sean Lee. pic.twitter.com/kt9Q4idDtT— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) January 1, 2018
It should be interesting to see how the Cowboys handle their linebacker situation this offseason. How do they feel about what they’ll have in Jaylon Smith next year? Will they re-sign Anthony Hitchens? Or could they look to the draft to find some young fresh legs to help strengthen the position group? When healthy, the linebacker group has been a position of strength for Dallas, but staying healthy was a challenge this year. They may need to look to add some insurance to the depth chart.
4. Tank making bank
After a great 2017 season, DeMarcus Lawrence is going to be a rich man. Whether it’s Dallas that will be paying him the cash or not remains to be seen, but I cannot imagine a scenario where the front office lets this guy get away. And from the sounds of it, neither does he:
"I already know what my situation is. I really don't care about it because I already know how the Cowboys feel about me and they know how I feel about the organization," Lawrence said. "My agent is going to take care of everything.
Lawrence finished with 14.5 sacks this season, tying him for second in the league. The Cowboys haven’t had a pass rusher with this many sacks since another guy named DeMarcus was wreaking havoc for the defense. The most impressive thing about Lawrence this season was his consistency. Even during games where he didn’t get a sack, he was constantly disruptive. And that was the case again in Philadelphia.
5. The Philadelphia Kid
Cowboys rookie Chidobe Awuzie is building some good memories in the city of brotherly love. First, he get’s an epic draft selection announcement from Cowboys legend Drew Pearson. Then on Sunday, he got his first career interception. He’s been hot and cold down the stretch, which is what you would expect from a rookie cornerback. He finished the season with a strong game and hopefully it’s something he can build off of for next year.
Chidobe Awuzie continued a strong end to the season with a big performance in Philadelphia today! pic.twitter.com/bSRlNVlB0R— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 31, 2017
6. The lonesome kicker
Cowboys fans entered the 2017 season with all the confidence in the world in kicker, Dan Bailey. Fans will not enter the 2018 season with that same level of confidence. Bailey has struggled this year. Not only did he miss an unusual amount of field goals, he also missed the gimmes. And even more shocking, he missed extra points, which is something he had never done before coming into this season.
Fans are hoping that there was some lingering injury that attributed to all these terrible kicks and that a full offseason of rest will return him to the kicker we all love. It’s going to be a long wait to see if that is indeed the case.
7. Progress on defense
If there is anything positive to take from the 2017 season, it’s going to be the steps this team made on the defensive side of the ball down the stretch. The combination of pass rush, healthy linebackers, and solid play from their young secondary all culminated into a strong defensive unit by year’s end. In the last five games, the defense allowed 11 points per game. The pass defense has been outstanding as they’ve had two straight games were they gave up fewer than 150 passing yards. They didn’t have a single game last year where they accomplished that and you have to go back five years to find a season where they did it twice.
8. A fresh start for Zeke
One thing that will be nice in 2018 is that the Cowboys will not have an Ezekiel Elliott suspension hovering of their head. Despite a shortened season, Elliott had another strong year and proved he is such a productive running in this offense. If you pro-rated his numbers over a 16-game season, he would have finished with 1,597 yards.
Most rushing yards in first 25 NFL games:— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 31, 2017
Eric Dickerson: 2,771
Ezekiel Elliott: 2,614
Jim Brown: 2,550
Edgerrin James: 2,542
Adrian Peterson: 2,521
It’s going to be nice to get Zeke for a full season next year.
9. Picking 19th
With a win over the Eagles and finishing with a 9-7 record, the Cowboys will get the 19th pick in the NFL Draft.
Cowboys own the 19th pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. They were 0.006% in SOS away from picking 17th.— Dan Turner (@dtsturner) January 1, 2018
Many fans were hoping for a loss so they could improve their draft position, but alas - it was not meant to be.
Cowboys be like: Top-15 draft pick? pic.twitter.com/IboHfaU8Cb— jesus flores (@WFAAJFlo) December 31, 2017
10. Still going
When your team has won five Super Bowls and have the highest winning percentage of any team in NFL history, expectations are high. So going 9-7 after a 13-win season is disappointing. Such a contrast makes fans antsy and the call for change is something we’ve become accustomed to. Even though many aren’t pleased with the direction of this team, it should be noted that we’ve had it better than a lot of people realize.
Since taking over as the Dallas Cowboys head coach, Garrett has led the team to the best record in the NFC East.— Scarlet O (@ScarletO468) January 1, 2018
Losing seasons: DAL-1, PHI-3, NYG-4, WAS-4
The Cowboys will continue to strengthen the roster and correct the things that gave them problems. They’ve been really good at doing just that. The only question is - how good will they be next year? We got a lot of time to ponder that one.
Those are my thoughts on the game. How about you?