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After further review: Play-calling and execution are hurting the Dallas Cowboys

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Let’s take a look at the tape to see where the blame should go for the Cowboys stumbles.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Jets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

It’s a tough time for fans of the Dallas Cowboys as the team has lost three straight games, including a very disappointing defeat at the hands of the New York Jets. It’s a night and day contrast in terms of the emotion felt after starting 3-0 to now. This Cowboys team has problems. They’re banged up, the players that are on the field aren’t playing well, and the coaching staff is exacerbating the situation with some questionable decisions. It’s a mess.

There is still a lot of football left, but before we put on our forward faces, let’s take a moment to reflect one last time on the disaster that was the Jets game. What problems can we identify? Are they fixable? Is there anything about what happened that offers up any reason to be optimistic going forward? Let’s check the tape, shall we?

In the chicken or the egg game that gets played every week, we take a close look at two reoccurring problems with this Cowboys football team - decision making and execution.

PLAYCALLING

Run themselves into the ground

One of the frustrating things about the Cowboys offensive game plan on Sunday was just how hell-bent they were on running the ball on first down. It would be one thing if they were having their way with the Jets’ defensive line, but they weren’t. The Cowboys averaged just 3.8 yards on the ground, but that didn’t stop them from running the ball 34 times.

In contrast, you can see the Jets attack through the air on a regular basis on first down. That’s surprising considering they are such a run-heavy team. The Jets knew the Cowboys were going to come out and try to stop the run so they countered with a passing attack. The Cowboys, on the other hand, stuck to their guns and kept running, and running, and running.

Laying up short

Another aggravating thing about the offense was how they weren’t even giving themselves a chance to be successful. It was almost as if they were playing scared and conceded the possession so they could live to fight another day. Too many times the offense settled for a short play, coming up considerably short of the first-down marker. What is the point of that?

This team needed to take chances up the field and stop being so conservative. I get that they’re coming off two previous games where they turned the ball over three times, but if they’re going to be that timid, why even suit up on Sunday? Whether this is a Dak Prescott issue or some type of handcuffs slapped on by the coaching staff, this approach just promotes losing football.

No sense of urgency

What’s more infuriating - the hole they dig themselves into early in games or the small little rock hammer they use to tunnel themselves out of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s exciting watching the team scratch and claw to get back in the game, but it’s not so exciting to see them run out of time.

Trailing 21-6 at halftime, the Cowboys drove down the field in all four of their second half possessions. Unfortunately, each of those possessions were long methodical drives that consisted of 10+ plays each. The offense just stayed the course and took it’s time. And as it turned out, time was something they ended up not having enough of.

The Cowboys aren’t getting the big chunk plays, but it’s not as if they can’t do it. We’ve seen them make up ground quicker than this, so it’s hard to watch this slow death they’re displaying on Sundays. If they lose, at least go down leaving it all out there. When they’re aggressive, good things happen. Just look at how they ended the first half after opting to go with a pass-happy approach this time around.

EXECUTION

It grows tiring to hear “execution” being mentioned as why the team falters, but there’s just no escaping it. The team isn’t an inept squad wondering aimlessly out on the field. They flash good plays every game. It’s just they are lacking consistency and keep getting in their own way. What is it exactly that they’re not doing right?

No pass rush

We were all expecting this Cowboys defensive line to feast on the porous Jets offensive line, but that never came to fruition.

Drop it like it’s hot

There is a real connection issue between Dak Prescott and his receivers as it’s becoming more and more of an epidemic when it comes to not catching passes. Dak will tell you that the ball could be placed in a better spot and the receivers will say they should’ve had it. Regardless, these drops hurt.

Miscues taking points off the board

A failed two-point conversion left the Cowboys shy of tying up the game, so it becomes a harder pill to swallow when you look at all the points the team left on the table. A horse-collar penalty against Maliek Collins turned a what would be field goal attempt into a touchdown for the Jets early in the game. An illegal pick play nullified a Jason Witten touchdown catch that turned seven points to just three. And let’s not forget Brett Maher’s missed 40-yard field goal. Just on those plays alone, that’s 11 points, and that doesn’t even include a failed fourth down attempt that thwarted an opportunity for even more points.

Players are making mistakes that are costing the team points. And these missing points turned out to be difference makers.