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Cowboys road woes continue as offensive line is dominated in the trenches

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The Cowboys offense once again is tragic.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys went on the road and the offense looked nothing like the unit that hung 40 points on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Washington dominated the Cowboys offensive line, and it wasn’t even from an overload of blitzes. The Cowboys offensive line committed three holding penalties and an illegal chop block ending drives and putting the team behind the chains. Dak Prescott didn’t help matters when he fumbled the ball twice, once after picking up a first down on a fourth down attempt, and then the killer turnover when he lost track of where he was and turned into the endzone and was strip-sacked for a Washington touchdown.

The Cowboys offensive line is struggling on the road, and in this game they gave the team no real chance. Ezekiel Elliott ended the first half with 13 rushing yards on 10 attempts. When you have a running back of the quality of Zeke, that is certainly a failure of the offensive line to open lanes. It didn’t get much better in the second half as Zeke ended the game with 34 yards on 15 carries.

It was symbiotic failure between the offensive line and Prescott. You have to shift the majority of the blame on the offensive line. The failure to establish a run game made the offense truly one-dimensional. Dak Prescott is not the kind of quarterback who functions well in a one-dimensional offense. We have seen he can’t really put a team on his shoulders in the passing game. The result was an offense that staggered its way to 17 points. It didn’t help that the team gave up four sacks on the day along with numerous other pressures.

Dallas has spent so much on their offensive line. It’s the backbone of what they do, and it’s not working. At least it’s not working on a consistent basis. It’s not just the interior where Travis Frederick is missing. It’s true that the holding call on Connor Williams was a huge play in the game as it wiped out a first down catch and led to Prescott fumbling in the end zone on the very next play. But you have to talk about the play of the tackles. Tyron Smith is struggling with speed rushes. He is no longer in the conversation as the best left tackle in the game. La’el Collins continues to play well in stretches, then makes big mistakes, too. The only truly dependable piece along the line right now is Zack Martin.

We shouldn’t let the rest of the team off the hook. There were some plays the receivers could have made but didn’t. The tight ends are also part of the run-blocking scheme and there were too many times they were pushed back. You can also point to the coaches as they seemed to be out of ideas as to how to jump-start things. Then you have Dak, who would have had a decent game if he didn’t turn the ball over twice, once in a position where you absolutely can’t get loose with the football.

Even special teams pitched in with some poor play. Chris Jones had a poor day punting the ball, and then there was the field goal sequence. First, Jason Garrett should have been aggressive at the end and tried to get better field position for the kick, or even taken a shot at the end zone. Instead, they ran the ball and ended up with what should have been a 47-yard attempt. Then the Cowboys were called for moving the ball by the long snapper that resulted in another five-yard penalty. Now it’s a 52-yard kick and Brett Maher finally failed us again after going on a long run of excellence. If that ball is kicked from 50 yards or under, it probably goes through.

In the end, though, the Cowboys lost this game in the trenches. While Adrian Peterson was able to find some running room and balance the Washington offense, the Cowboys were unable to do the same. Elliott had nowhere to run all day, and the Cowboys were unable to totally overcome that. Prescott looked fine as a passer for the most part, but his two turnovers were killers, along with the team’s penalties, especially from the offensive line.

They head into the bye week on a down note, and until the offensive line can figure out it’s problems on the road, this is an 8-8 team at best.