There’s a common saying when it comes to fantasy football: You can’t necessarily win your league with your first two picks, but you can lose it. Obviously those first two choices are important.
It’s hardly apples to apples, but you can equate the logic to first and second down during actual football games. Here the equivalent of “winning your league” is converting on third down. While you technically can convert on first or second down, and theoretically you can still move backwards and do it on third down, if you don’t set yourself up properly you can seriously derail your chances of success. You get the picture.
The Cowboys continually set themselves up to lose third downs
Third down was not kind to the Dallas Cowboys during their Week 1 loss against the Panthers. They only converted two of the 11 that they faced (18%), but a lot of that has to do with what they set themselves up for. Consider the distances necessary to move the chains on every Cowboys third down in Carolina, plus how the drives ended:
- 3rd and 21 (delay of game) then 26, punt
- 3rd and 12, punt
- 3rd and 10, punt
- 3rd and 11, punt
- 3rd and 7, punt
- 3rd and 3, punt
- 3rd and 11, 16-yard gain to Cole Beasley to keep drive alive
- 3rd and 11, Brett Maher missed field goal
- 3rd and 7, Dak Prescott rushes for nine yards, ends in Ezekiel Elliott touchdown
- 3rd and 18 (delay of game) then 23, Dak to Zeke for 13 yards, ends in turnover on downs
- 3rd and 7 (Dak Prescott fumble), turnover
Looking at that, it’s disgusting. It’s gross. It hurts. I’m offended and I looked it up.
In the end, this all really highlights one particular person, the quarterback.
Dak Prescott massively butchered significant third downs in Carolina
On literally the first third down of the season the Cowboys had 21 yards to go and took a delay of game penalty. To be fair they were playing against a very good defense in the Carolina Panthers, but also in the spirit of fairness they found out that’s who they’d open their season against back on April 19th so they only had the offseason, training camp, and preseason to prepare for them.
It’s hard to understand how it happened, but a delay of game early in the first quarter is hardly the end of the world. This particular transgression was only a drop in the bucket of what would become filled with bad decisions by the end of the game.
The second, and more critical, delay of game came as the Cowboys were trying to lead a game-tying drive. On their own 44-yard line with 2:46 left in the game (all three timeouts at their back), after an incomplete pass to Deonte Thompson the Cowboys took a delay of game penalty. There is no excuse, absolutely none, for Dak Prescott taking a delay of game in this moment. It’s a flagrant thing to do.
Dak and the Cowboys got set with just under 10 seconds left on the play clock, yet they still took a delay of game penalty in what was then the season’s most critical third down moment. This is unacceptable.
What’s more is after the Cowboys failed on both third and fourth down their defense was able to give the offense one final chance. The Cowboys were only able to muster three yards on the first two downs and on what was then the next most important third down of the season the world saw Dak Prescott fumble the game away.
A franchise quarterback can’t derail the team on the game’s most important downs. That’s not even rule number one, it’s not even common sense. To have such inexplicable slip-ups, especially two as self-induced as delay of game, is a horrendous start to the season.