Well, what we were hoping didn’t happen, happened. The Dallas Cowboys did nothing to discount the narrative that they can’t beat good teams as the team has now lost two straight games against division winners from the NFC. This certainly takes the wind out of the sail of their first three wins as all of those were against opponents with a losing record. Doubt has now crept in as we re-evaluate just how good this Cowboys team is.
There was a lot of craziness in this game, some good, some bad. Here are ten thoughts on this difficult loss to the Green Bay Packers.
1. The midfield curse
Last week, the Cowboys offense was hit with a series of unfortunate events whenever they crossed midfield and were on the verge of getting something going. Fumbles by Jason Witten and Ezekiel Elliott thwarted potential scoring opportunities for the Cowboys.
The midfield curse was back in full swing against the Packers as the Cowboys reached the 50-yard line in all five of their first-half possessions, yet came away with nothing. The Cowboys trailed 17-0 at halftime, which turned to 24-0 early in the third quarter. The team dug themselves a huge hole and failing to convert some of those first half drives into points came back to bite them.
2. You don’t win games when you keep turning the ball over
The Cowboys lost the turnover battle 3-to-0. That’s all you need to know to explain why the team came away with a loss. That’s just a huge hurdle to get over. Dak Prescott threw three interceptions for only the second time in his career, and last time it happened, it resulted in a 28-point loss to Philadelphia in 2017. That’s the results you usually get with that type of turnover differential.
It’s actually remarkable that the Cowboys managed to claw their way back into the game after giving away the ball so many times.
3. Dak was a little bit off
Don’t let the career high 463 yards passing fool you - Dak wasn’t sharp in this one. Sure, maybe it’s not completely fair to pin each of those three interceptions on him as one of them went off his receivers hands and another one came as a result when the route of his receiver was severely disrupted from a ridiculously large amount of contact. Even still, there were a lot of questionable decisions by Prescott on this day. There were a handful of other passes that very easily could’ve been picked, and he even had an interception nullified by a Packers penalty.
When you dig yourself a hole like that, you’re going to get inflated yardage totals and that’s what this game was - a giant game of catch up. Prescott did make some great throws, but those turnovers definitely hurt. Entering the season, Dak never had more than two straight games with an interception. He’s now had four-straight games with a pick. I love the new “Air Dak,” but he has to do a better job protecting the ball.
4. The dynamic receiving duo
If you’re looking for something to be happy about in this game, look no further than this team’s outstanding wide receiving tandem. Amari Cooper was fantastic. He had a ball go off his hands that resulted in an interception on the team’s first drive, but everything after that was nothing short of awesome. Cooper finished with 11 catches for a career high 226 yards and a touchdown. He’s had a total of four games in his career with 180+ yards receiving, and three of them now have been with the Cowboys.
Cooper wasn’t the only Cowboys receiver who looked amazing on Sunday. Michael Gallup picked up where he left off before his missed the last two games with a knee injury. He added seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Gallup is having a great second-season and already has two 100-yard games this year.
5. No answer for Aaron Jones
Everyone knew that stopping a guy named Aaron was an absolute must if they were going to beat the Packers, but we didn’t know it was going to be Aaron Jones. The Packers running back had himself quite a day, rushing for 107 yards and finding the end zone four times! He also added another 75 yards as a receiver.
Jones was running downhill for most of the game and was really hard to bring down. He did a great job bouncing to the outside when the middle was congested. It was a great performance by the Packers young running back.
6. Redball was red hot
In a completely uncharacteristic move by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, the head coach showed his frustration with an official by throwing the challenge flag into the ground. The referee didn’t take too kindly to the gesture and flagged Garrett for unsportsmanlike penalty.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett penalized for abusive language on flag throw.— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) October 7, 2019
“Obviously I didn’t handle the situation as well as I should have,” Garrett said. “Apparently he didn’t like how I threw the flag.”pic.twitter.com/t1CPPOGdL6
Ultimately, the official made the wrong call and the Cowboys won the challenge, but the penalty still took a little bit of yards away from a big gain. Garrett would be the first to tell you that he needs to keep his cool there, but hey - football can get emotional, even for an “emotionless” guy like Garrett.
7. Defense gave them a chance down the stretch
The Cowboys had a shot to come back in this game thanks to great defensive stops down the stretch. On the Packers last four possessions of the game, they gained less than 10 yards each time, resulting in three punts. It would’ve been four had it not been for the short field the Packers got after Prescott’s third pick of the game. How the officials missed Kevin King clobbering Michael Gallup on that play is beyond me, but that interception proved to be costly as it tacked on another score to mountain the Cowboys had to climb.
Needless to say, the defense did everything they could to give the Cowboys a shot, but ultimately it was too little too late.
8. Another fallen tackle
The Cowboys were already without their All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith as he was out with an ankle injury, but things got worse when right tackle La’el Collins exited the game in the third quarter. This forced the Cowboys to turn to undrafted free agent Brandon Knight to fill his spot.
Jerry Jones says he hasn’t talked to the medical staff, but he talked to La’el Collins after the game and La’el thought his knee would be OK.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) October 7, 2019
Sounds like something we need to get further clarification on. But early optimism.
9. Kicker woes
Many fans were worried about this during training camp, but it seems more evident now that the Cowboys have an issue at kicker. Brett Maher doesn’t get a lot of chances to kick field goals thanks to the Cowboys being good in the red zone, but he’s not capitalizing on the few chances he’s getting. Entering the game, he’s 3-for-4 with his only miss being from outside 50 yards, which isn’t terrible. Against the Packers, he was 1-for-3. One of them was a 50+, but the other was what should’ve been a chip-shot 33-yarder that went wide right.
While the Cowboys would’ve still been heavy long shots to come back in that that game had Maher made it, kickers just can’t miss those types of kicks.
10. They’re in for a battle
As good as things felt after the first three games, things don’t feel all that great now. The Cowboys are now tied with the Philadelphia Eagles with a 3-2 record, and these two will square off in a couple weeks in a huge Sunday Night game. And considering they now have lost out on any tiebreaker advantage with the Saints and Packers, they are muddying up their playoff chances if there is a cluster of teams fighting for one of the last spots.
It’s still early, but it’s clear now this team still has a lot of work to do if they are going to make a run this season. The Philly game in a couple weeks is going to be huge.