It is now official. The Dallas Cowboys have a problem, or rather, a bunch of problems as they dropped their game to the New York Jets 24-22. They were able to do almost nothing right, save for a couple of desperation drives. At halftime, Dallas was down 21-6, and had trailed 21-3 before Brett Maher made a 62 yard field goal.
The Cowboys came close to sending it to overtime, but they would not even have had a chance on their last drive of the game if there had not been three consecutive pass interference flags against the Jets (although one was declined). Then the Cowboys, who had plenty of issues with their own infractions throughout the game, would have two consecutive blocking penalties that would push them back to first and 27 to try and tie the game up. Then another flag gave them a first and ten at the 16. There were clear calls, some bad ones, but it is not really much fun to watch a game influenced so much by the officials. It all came to naught anyways, as the game effectively ended on the failed two point conversion as Gregg Williams just unloaded again with an all-out blitz that had bedeviled Dallas all day.
Had Maher been perfect on the day, the Cowboys could have won this game. But he missed a 40 yard attempt in the fourth quarter, and that missing three points was all it took.
There were a bevy of things that went wrong for the Cowboys. And it is not really possible to say that this is even real, but as Tony Romo observed, this looked like a head coach decision to lean heavily on the run and conservative play calls when Dallas had the ball. Once again, there were too many first down runs, with many of them right into the middle of a Jets defense that was sitting and waiting for it. Add in a heavy dose of blitzes, and the Cowboys offense was largely out of sync all game. Both the conservative bent of Dallas and the way Dak Prescott was constantly under pressure and taking hits (he had to be evaluated for a possible concussion in the first half) likely can be tied directly to both Tyron Smith and La’el Collins being unavailable. The Cowboys had a bad plan to deal with that.
Things just got worse when Amari Cooper went out and did not return due to what was reported as a hamstring issue. With Randall Cobb and Devin Smith already ruled out, that left the Cowboys with Michael Gallup, Tavon Austin, and Cedrick Wilson as their receiving corps. It did not go very well early, although Prescott began to find his guys better as the team mounted their comeback attempt in the second half.
The defense was just as big a problem as Sam Darnold repeatedly made long completions to keep drives going, plus the now familiar problem of getting gashed up the middle by the run game. The Jets came into the game having only scored two offensive touchdowns all season, but they put up three in the first half. And then when the Cowboys had pulled to within five points in the fourth quarter, Darnold just marched them down to the edge of the end zone for a 38 yard field goal to push the margin back to eight.
Don’t take anything away from Darnold, who had a tremendous outing and was an obvious lift to his team. But once again, the Cowboys just could not get home on the pass rush outside of two Robert Quinn sacks, and when Darnold had time, he looked very good indeed.
The Cowboys weren’t even able to take advantage of winning the turnover battle, due to a Jourdan Lewis pick that snuffed out yet another scoring threat from the Jets. He was only on the field because Byron Jones and Anthony Brown both were hurt. Yet he was probably the best defensive back all day.
There will be a lot of dissection coming, but this was just an all-around failure by the Cowboys. If the hot seat talk was surrounding Jason Garrett before this debacle, it should be closing in on him now. Bad execution played a role in the game, with numerous dropped passes and flags, but this team just did not look ready to play early in the game.
Either the Cowboys have a much poorer collection of talent than we were convinced ourselves they had, or the coaching staff is just not getting the job done. Or both.
The coaching problems were on both sides of the ball, too, so Garrett is not the only one who is under intense scrutiny. Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard have some serious questions to answer as to how a team that should have been outmatched, even with Darnold back, still racked up so many points and yards.
The Cowboys still have a chance to salvage things with the Philadelphia Eagles coming to town next week, having dropped their game to the Minnesota Vikings. Both Philly and Dallas are now 3-3. But if Dallas doesn’t come out and play far, far better, the season will be headed downhill in a big way.
And so might some coaching jobs.