It started out with so much promise. Then the wheels came off, as mistakes, some questionable decisions, and looking at times completely unprepared doomed the Dallas Cowboys, who appear totally incapable of beating a wining football team.
That describes the 26-15 loss to the Buffalo Bills, but is also is a completely accurate description of the entire 2019 season. The annual Thanksgiving Day game could have been the start to a strong run that would at least have helped create a plausible reason to discuss a new contract for Jason Garrett. But instead it just highlighted all the same issues we have seen all year.
The one exception was that this was no slow start, as the Cowboys drove 75 yards, with a bit of help from the officials, to score on a seven yard touchdown catch by Jason Witten. But that was the high water mark for Dallas. The Bills would score 26 consecutive points. The playoffs are still not out of the question for the Cowboys, but the way they blew this game leaves absolutely no hope that they will be anything other than a momentary speed bump for a legitimate playoff team.
The team seemed to just erode before our eyes. Dak Prescott was under constant pressure, usually from blitzes dialed up by Leslie Frazier. They caused two first half turnovers by him. The first came after the Bills had tied things up in the second quarter when Cole Beasley hauled a pass in from Josh Allen for a 25 yard score where he was not only wide open, but untouched into the end zone. The next possession, Prescott had a blown screen play where he was trying to throw the ball to the ground, but instead put it in reach of Star Lotulelei, who managed to haul it in and set the Bills up at the Dallas 29.
The defense rose to the occasion, and when Stephen Hauschka pushed a 50 yard field goal attempt wide right, they actually gave the ball back to the offense with 11 yards better field position than where the interception happened.
But that possession came to an abrupt halt when Ed Oliver knocked the ball out of Prescott’s hand, and Trent Murphy recovered it at the Cowboys’ 39 yard line. Oliver got to Prescott by beating Xavier Su’a-Filo, who had just come in for an injured Connor Williams. This time, they wasted little time getting a touchdown on a trick play, with a double reverse setting up wide receiver John Brown to hit Devin Singletary. It was a back breaker, despite the missed extra point, and it followed a play where the Cowboys almost got off the field again without giving up a score. The Bills had a fourth and one at the Dallas 30, and Allen fumbled the snap. But he picked it up, and ran out of a tackle to somehow get the first down to keep the drive alive.
Special teams mistakes returned, as Brett Maher missed two field goals, one that was tipped at the line by Lotulelei, and the other just pushed wide right. The defense could not stop Allen when they needed to, Beasley had over 100 yards and his touchdown in his return, and Devin Singletary gave them just enough on the ground to keep them off balance.
And after that first drive, the Cowboys’ offense could never quite get in sync again. There were passes that were just out of bounds, such as a near touchdown to Michael Gallup where he couldn’t get that second foot down. Ezekiel Elliott had a rare long run of 30 yards, but most of his carries were for short gains as the run generally did not help things. Amari Cooper was back in form with 85 yards on 8 catches, but he landed hard in the fourth quarter and had to leave the game. If it costs him some time, getting hurt when the team was trailing by 19 points with only 7:15 left is very fitting for how the entire year has gone.
The Cowboys made a daring call on fourth and inches from their own 20 yard line on the first play of the second quarter, and converted. But fourth downs were far less kind the rest of the way, as they failed to score from the Bills’ six when Prescott was either very off or Ezekiel Elliott was not expecting the pass. That came with just seconds left in the third quarter, and the failure killed their last slim hopes of coming back. Then with 5:55 left in the game, and no real chance remaining, Prescott was sacked on fourth and four from the Buffalo 22.
During the game, Frank Gore became the third leading rusher in NFL history. Congratulations to him for his longevity and productivity.
The Cowboys would get a meaningless touchdown to Ventell Bryant, with a two point conversion to Witten, to shave the lead to eleven. But it came with only 4:05 left in the game, and was just garbage time points in a game where garbage could be used to describe much more.
Questions about Jason Garrett’s future were plentiful after the loss to the New England Patriots. After this loss, it looks far more like a matter of when, not if, he will be told it is time to start floating some resumes. The team looked for a quarter like they were ready to make a move, but it was not sustained. The Bills clearly were the better team, and that is not what we were led to believe at the start of this season.
There is a lingering question of just how good this Dallas roster really is, but you can’t fire the roster. You can fire, or in this case not re-hire, the head coach. Something has to be done to try to make something of the talent this team does have, and that is now down to a change at the head coaching position, along with whatever other staff changes it brings.
It all started so well. And went so bad.