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After further review: Another bad game from Dak Prescott, timid play-calling, and mental lapses

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Let’s take a look at the tape, shall we?

Buffalo Bills v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Thanksgiving leftovers can be quite tasty as we’ll spend the entire weekend enjoying the goodness of all that delicious home cooking courtesy of our family. Of course, the same is not true when it comes to ingesting a second plate of what our Cowboys family cooked up for us on Thursday.

But as there is with any week of action, there are lessons to be learned. Let’s grab the last slice of that lemon meringue pie and help get this bad taste out of our mouths as we try to learn from the Cowboys 26-15 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Another bad game from Dak

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago when Dak Prescott’s name had finally surfaced in the conversation as a candidate for league MVP. Well, all that talk has calmed down because Lamar Jackson has been playing out of this world recently, but also - Dak hasn’t.

Statistically, the New England game last Sunday was his worst outing of the season, but if you look at the tape - Thursday’s game might’ve been even worse. Prescott wasn’t reading the defense very well and too often he was throwing into coverage. While he only had one interception in the game, it could’ve been worse as the Bills’ defensive backs read where he was going with the ball and closed out quickly.

And the interception that counted was absolutely terrible as it had no chance of being completed. Tony Pollard hadn’t even come out of his block and was in no position to catch the ball. Prescott just panicked and made a really bad decision with the football.

Dak is also having a problem putting the ball where it needs to go when swinging it to the outside for Ezekiel Elliott. It’s all fine and dandy when Zeke snags it with one hand and scampers into the end zone, but it’s not so great when he isn’t able to come up with it. Dak’s throwing it too low, and Elliott had trouble handling it one time to where he had to swat the ball out of bounds to prevent a possible interception. And on the fourth-down pass to Elliott, Zeke’s still going to have to make a guy miss to get into the end zone, but if Dak is going to look his way there, he has to at least give his teammate a fighting chance.

The great thing about Prescott is that he never stays in a rut. Just like the franchise quarterback before him, Dak has a short memory and even within the same game he will follow up bad play with some pretty outstanding moments. Against Buffalo, he made a few great throws, but it was his mistakes that impacted the game the most.

Conservative play-calling

As we mentioned in the ten thoughts piece on Thursday, head coach Jason Garrett completely mishandled the way he managed the clock on their last drive of the first half. They waited too long to start using their timeouts and ultimately ended up letting one go to waste as they didn’t use them all up before halftime. The extra time would’ve really been helpful.

To add to this frustration was all the dink-and-dunk the offense was doing on that final drive. Never once did they try to take a shot down field. It was as if Brett Maher was a much better kicker from 35 yards than he is from 48 yards. We all know that’s not true. The sequence at the end of the first half was very aggravating. Come on, team - at least try!

The conservative nature of the offense showed up a lot in the game. When the Cowboys got into a third and long situation, they just conceded the possession and tried to get into a more manageable fourth-down punting situation, which offers them no value whatsoever.

In contrast, the Bills offense never gave up. On several occasions the Bills got behind the chains, but multiple times they took shots up the field and managed to pull it off. The Josh Allen to Cole Beasley connection was responsible for a few of them.

Lack of concentration

This Cowboys team is not one that gives up on plays from a physical standpoint as they always keep fighting. But sometimes they can be found twiddling their thumbs from losing their focus. This team doesn’t handle the unexpected very well. There aren’t many times in the season where you can say the other team ran some type of misdirection and the Cowboys defense sniffed it out. Over and over again, they have proven to be vulnerable to any type of trick play. Part of this comes from the team’s penchant to over pursue plays as they are salivating at the mouth to get into the backfield. It’s great when they get home, but it’s not so great when they bite on a fake that leaves them in bad shape. This was on full display on the double-reverse play where Bills receiver John Brown threw a touchdown pass to running back Devin Singletary. There wasn’t a Cowboys defender anywhere in the vicinity.

And it’s not just these trick plays that bite the Cowboys as every team in the league is susceptible to that type of stuff. The moments that are more frustrating comes from broken plays. Something starts out bad for the opposition, but due to the Cowboys defense becoming confused by the unexpected, they lose concentration and fail to finish the play. On the Josh Allen sneak, you can see that Jaylon Smith had a perfect opportunity to end that play, but just froze in the moment.

The Cowboys entire season can be described as missed opportunities. Never was it more evident than on the play below. Sean Lee has this play diagnosed perfectly and had Singletary dead in the water for a loss, but he somehow managed to slip out of his grasp. Michael Bennett and Darian Thompson also had shots at him, but they both collapsed inside, allowing the Bills running back to have space to the outside. Even Chidobe Awuzie had a clean shot to tackle him for a loss, but loses his footing.

It’s just a typical Cowboys play these days - it’s almost fantastic, but then it’s not.

Let’s end on a positive

There were some good things for sure. Brett Maher keeps missing kicks, but that’s kind of been his thing all season, despite the positive spin coach Garrett tries to put on it. But outside of that, the special teams played pretty good. There was nothing catastrophic, and they even pinned the Bills offense back deep inside their own five-yard line on what was great patience by Ventell Bryant. And speaking of Bryant, he got one snap on offense and made it count as he caught his first career touchdown pass. It’s still puzzling why Devin Smith and Cedrick Wilson are nowhere to be found, but the team likes what Bryant gives them on special teams.

And let’s not forget we had a Trysten Hill sighting. While rookie defensive tackle only played in 13 snaps, he did a great job sniffing out this screen pass.

Favorite play of the game

While this play didn’t result in any points or even a turnover, it was so refreshing to see Byron Jones get his head turned around when defending this pass. It allowed him to not only make a play to knock the ball away, but he was able to deflect it towards Xavier Woods. The end result was just an incompletion, but at least he gave his teammate a chance and that’s the type of behavior that will help their chances to create turnovers.