For the second week in a row, the Cowboys were facing what many considered to be a real team after beating up on three of the NFL’s worst in Weeks 1 through 3. And for the second week in a row, the Cowboys ended up with a loss. Even though Dallas had an overall tremendous second half performance that almost resulted in a miraculous comeback, this game was lost in the first half. As such, all five of these game-shaping plays come from that dismal first half, where everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.
Amari Cooper’s drop turned interception
After the Packers went three and out to start the game, Kellen Moore’s offense took the field trying to bounce back from last week’s slump. Three plays in and it looked like the offense from the first three games was back, with two straight play-action passes to start the drive. Then this happened.
Amari Cooper is an elite route runner whose hands don't match. The drops are becoming an issue. This might have been 6 without the drop. pic.twitter.com/MdTXFnHiVi— Dalton “First Down Play-Action” Miller (@DaltonBMiller) October 6, 2019
The play was beautifully drawn up. Dak didn’t deliver a perfect pass, but it was certainly catchable. Cooper’s excellent route running got him wide open. If he makes the catch, he’s fighting for a touchdown, or at least it’s still a huge momentum gain that sets the offense up at the Green Bay 17 or so. Instead, the ball bounced off Cooper’s hands and into the defender’s for an easy pick.
Amari Cooper trips on the turf, costs chance at points
After the Packers scored their touchdown on the heel of the interception, Dak and the offense tried its best to respond and take back the momentum they once had. After a penalty backed them up, the Cowboys were facing a second and 15 at their own 17-yard line.
Dak fired the ball down the sideline to Cooper, who had his man beat. Cooper hauled it in this time but got tripped up on his own and fell down. If he could have kept his footing, it’s probably a touchdown (not unlike the one he had later in the game). Instead, it was a still-impressive 46-yard pickup that nonetheless was a missed opportunity at points. The drive stalled out after that and Dallas punted.
Questionable Tavon Austin holding call kills drive
Once again trying to respond to a Packers touchdown, the Cowboys had to do something or their 14-point deficit could get really ugly. Another big pass to Cooper (who had an exceptional game save the two plays listed above) and a Tavon Austin trick play got Dallas in Packer territory.
On first down from the Green Bay 34, Ezekiel Elliott took the handoff on a zone run and burst through for a 17-yard gain that put the ball in the red zone. But Austin got flagged for holding, instead making it a first and 17 at the Green Bay 41. On the replay, it looked as if Austin was being held by the defender if anything, a sentiment echoed by Mike Pereira, the Fox Sports officiating expert. Either way, the loss of a huge gain killed momentum for the offense, and Dak threw an egregious pick two plays later.
Brett Maher misses from the only distance he’s been reliable at
After limiting the Packers to just a field goal courtesy of a defense that finally woke up, the Cowboys were down 17-0 with the chance to score before halftime and get the ball back to start the third quarter. They moved the ball down the field, but once again the drive fizzled out.
On comes Brett Maher, who only missed one field goal from beyond 50 yards last season, to try a 54-yard field goal. Naturally, he missed it to the right and Dallas remained scoreless. Not only was it another momentum killer, but late in the fourth quarter when Dallas was driving and down 10, one could only wonder how the situation might be handled differently had those three points been put on the board by Maher.
Calling timeouts before halftime to... run the ball?
After the missed field goal, Green Bay went three and out and Jason Garrett called a timeout to force them to punt the ball with time still on the clock. The Cowboys got the ball at their own 10-yard line with 13 seconds remaining in the half. Not much time, but at least enough to take a shot as the team crept on desperation mode.
The first play was a run for Zeke which went for seven yards. Another timeout, presumably to be followed by a deep shot. Nope, another run, this time for 14 yards. Garrett again called a timeout, now with three seconds left. Only then did they attempt a pass, which fell incomplete. It was a strange sequence of plays that seemingly capitulated all of the problems this team had faced in the first half, and it put them in such a deep hole that even a heroic effort from most everyone in the second half didn’t matter in the end.