The Andy Dalton Era started with definitive thud. The Dallas Cowboys were only really competitive in the first quarter, and that was thanks to an Arizona Cardinals offense that was out of sync. Once that passed, and the turnovers for the Cowboys began, it was a thumping that made the Cowboys look worse than they have at any point this season. In the end, they were crushed by the Cardinals, 38-10.
If it could go wrong for the Cowboys on Monday night, it did. The Cowboys defense actually managed to hold on for a brief time at the start of the game, but that was just an illusion. Two Ezekiel Elliott fumbles put the Cowboys in a hole. If that sounds familiar it should, the Cowboys are one of the worst teams in the NFL when it comes to ball security. Mike McCarthy talks about it every week in press conferences, but nothing seems to change.
The Cowboys had a third turnover on an interception, but it was in no way their fault. The referees had an absolutely inexcusable miss when Dre Kirkpatrick tackled CeeDee Lamb during his route and the refs made a no-call. At that point, the Cowboys defense totally caved and the Cardinals ran the ball down their throats for a touchdown. That was basically the end.
Later in the game the Cowboys were driving for a cosmetic score, but they couldn’t even manage that correctly. Dalton threw another interception, this one entirely his fault. They finally managed to get a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Dalton was at a disadvantage, though. Zack Martin went out of the game with a concussion in the first half, leaving behind a mere shell of an offensive line. Dalton spent a lot of time avoiding the rush or taking hits, although he was guilty of holding the ball too long on many occasions.
The Cowboys were also let down by others. The Cowboys stood a chance of getting back in the game before halftime, but Michael Gallup was unable to pull in a pass for a touchdown that he catches ninety-nine times out of one hundred. Ezekiel Elliott, who was supposed to be the offensive bell cow with Dak Prescott out, let the team down big time with his fumbles.
The Cowboys looked dispirited by the end of the game. It was as if the avalanche of bad things finally overwhelmed them. With Dak, they at least would score. Fans could at least count on that. Tonight, they didn’t have Prescott to bail out a flawed team. Without Dak, they looked like a team that should be thinking about the draft.
Instead, they reside in the NFC East. For everything bad that happened on Monday night, and it was bad, they somehow wake up on Tuesday in first place in the NFC East. As much as they don’t deserve any thoughts of the playoffs, it is still right there in front of them. Even if they did make the playoffs, how much damage could they really do? Except to their draft position.
It’s a little early to give up on the season totally. With ten games left to play, it’s possible this team could look a lot better by the end of the year. It’s hard to think that now, but crazier things have happened in the NFL.
For now, the Cowboys have to continue on. They have to try and turn things around, as impossible as it seems at this moment. Monday night was hard to watch. The only thing to do is look forward. It’s sports, you have to play out the schedule.