In a game that had plenty of curious coaching choices and a mix of brilliant and dreadful play from the Cowboys, the participants shed some light on what happened.
Of course, much of the talk was about the Cowboys insistence on running the ball when it was ineffective. Especially the two calls at the end which blew up the chance to take the lead late. Coach Jason Garrett opined:
“It’s important for us to continue to try to run the ball,” Garrett said. “In normal circumstances you would think, if we give it to Zeke a couple times on second and inside of two yards, that we’re going to make that first down. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen in this game.”
Normally you would think the Cowboys could convert the two yards needed for the first down, but in this game the Viking had crushed the Dallas run game.
“You basically could’ve put a sign on the start of the game that said ‘Zeke’s not going anywhere,’ and that was the story of the game,” [Jerry] Jones said.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said that was the plan.
“We had to do that. We had to make him be one dimensional,” said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.
Dak Prescott was not about to second-guess it, as a good leader should do, at least in public.
“I’m not going to question the play calling,” he said. “There were opportunities, we’ve just got to do better and execute those plays – simple as that. And every guy in that locker room would say that.”
“We get that first down, nobody in here is even talking about that they took the ball out of my hands,” he said. “So it comes down to execution. We’ve just got to execute those plays. As I said, those linemen would say that, the running back would say that – the whole team would say that. We’re not going to talk about what we could’ve done or should’ve done. We’ve just got to learn from it and do better next time.”
After those two plays, the Cowboys still had a chance on fourth down.
“As a quarterback, you can’t ask for more, right? Ball is in your hands, fourth down, chance to make a throw to win the game,” Prescott said.
Curiously, though, they threw a pass to their running back, instead of looking for their wide receivers who had decimated the Vikings. Jerry Jones bit his tongue when asked about it.
“I’m not going to get into that,” Jerry Jones said of the play call, “since it didn’t work.”
Better than Garrett’s explanation.
“Yeah, again, you want to attack different ways,” Garrett said. “It’s important for us to run the ball.
“Unfortunately we got to that fourth-down situation and didn’t convert.”
One bright spot in the game was the amazing game put in by Amari Cooper, especially his sideline catches which were astonishing. He explains:
“It’s just awareness,” he said. “You have to know where you are on the field. As far as the difficulty level, you just have to keep your feet down. A lot of times I’ve been in the situation before and my feet would come up and then they would not call it a completion. Try to keep the feet down.
“There probably is a specific technique, but to me it’s more of a feel thing. I feel where I am on the field. I obviously try not to get my feet out of bounds. I’m going to try to get my feet as close as I can to the sideline and just reach for the ball.”
Not to be lost in the carnage of the loss is the very poor play of the defense, particularly when it came to tackling.
“We’re going to look at it and be disappointed with how we played defensively,” Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee said. “I thought our offense did a great job and kept us in the game. We just have to find a way to get off the field, and we can’t let a team run like that.”
“It starts with a guy like me who didn’t tackle well,” Lee said. “We started slow and we need to be better as a group. And you’ve got to give them credit for how they played.”
The screen game was really effective for the Vikings.
“I thought we did a good job defending the run at the outset of the game,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “They got him the ball in the screen game and that’s what they do. It’s a big part of their offense all year long, and they did a good job giving him some space. You don’t want him out in space, because he can really hurt you.”
DeMarcus Lawrence played well, but he realizes the tackling is a huge problem.
Said defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence: “They tried to stretch us out sideline to sideline and make us run. He’s a quick back, I’ll give it to him. But it’s all about us rallying and tackling.”
One thing remains a constant for the Cowboys this season, the slow starts.
“We have to stop doing that,’’ quarterback Dak Prescott said of the team’s latest slow start.