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Five plays that shaped the Cowboys’ listless loss to the Football Team

This one was over quick for the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Football Team Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

We’re still waiting for sources to confirm this, but early reports are that a game did in fact occur between the Washington Football Team and the Dallas Cowboys. Apparently the final score was a 25-3 win for Washington, and things got even worse for Dallas. The game was pretty much over by the end of the first quarter, and these five plays were a big reason why.

Zeke’s run gets stuffed, setting up for a safety

After letting the Washington offense do whatever they wanted for the entirety of the opening drive of the game, the Cowboys defense miraculously stuffed Kyle Allen’s sneak on fourth and goal on the goal line.

Unlike the Seahawks game, Dallas managed not to get tackled in the endzone on the next play; they just waited a bit longer to give up the safety. They even picked up a first down and moved up to their own 14-yard line, but after an incomplete pass on first down they ran the ball to Ezekiel Elliott. He got stopped almost immediately, bringing up a third and eight.

Teams generally want to avoid third and long anyway, but especially when you’re trotting out four backup offensive linemen against one of the NFL’s best pass rushes. Recognizing this mismatch, Washington brought a safety blitz just because. Dalton Schultz failed to pick it up, and Andy Dalton was predictably strip sacked. Schultz recovered the ball, which at least prevented a touchdown from being scored, but it resulted in a safety. Not surprisingly, Washington marched back down the field for a touchdown after the post-safety punt, jumping out to a 9-0 lead.

Cowboys get too cute on fourth and short, turn it over

After a field goal cut it to a 9-3 lead and made things a one-score game, the Dallas defense seemed to settle in a bit with a three-and-out. The Cowboys offense returned the favor by putting together a drive that moved the chains. They got the ball just across midfield, but came up just short on third down with one yard to go.

Mike McCarthy made the correct call and went for it, but instead of sneaking Dalton up the middle or even running Zeke, they tried to throw it. Predictably, the pass rush created havoc immediately and Dalton ultimately had to throw up a prayer that fell incomplete. As a result, the Cowboys’ first promising drive was over with no points to show for it. Two plays later, Trevon Diggs got burnt to a crisp for a touchdown, making it a two-score game that never got closer.

All of CeeDee Lamb’s drops

This one is a cheat since it’s not one specific play but CeeDee Lamb picked a really bad time to look like a rookie. He’s been setting the league on fire so far, and has emerged as one of the best slot receivers already while making some crazy catches.

But on Sunday, Lamb was targeted five times and couldn’t make a single catch. There was one in the endzone that can’t really be pinned on him, since the defender got their fingers on the ball before Lamb could touch it, but the rookie also had a bunch of outright drops, especially on plays that would have moved the chains.

Once it became clear Lamb wasn’t an option, and the inability to use Gallup on deeper routes because of the state of the offensive line, the Cowboys offense became extremely anemic, as only Amari Cooper and Dalton Schultz had more than one reception the whole game. Lamb could’ve really altered things if he had just caught the ball on some of his targets.

Dalton’s interception before halftime takes the air out of the team

Speaking of that Lamb “drop” in the endzone, which shouldn’t really count as a drop, it came right before halftime when Dallas had moved the ball effectively. Dalton was getting in a rhythm, as was Kellen Moore, and the offense found themselves in the red zone for the first (and only) time all day.

Down 22-3, Dallas had a shot at getting right back in it. A touchdown before halftime and a touchdown to start the third quarter would make it a five-point game before Washington could even get the ball back. Dalton tried to drop it into Lamb’s hands but the ball was narrowly tipped away, bringing up a second down from the 12-yard line.

On the next play, Dalton threw a slant to Elliott. It was a poor pass, throwing it behind Zeke, and the running back ended up knocking the ball into the air after it bounced off his hands. Linebacker Cole Holcomb then made the easy pick, and thus extinguished any shot of the Cowboys actually getting back in the game.

Jon Bostic tries to murder Dalton, sinks Cowboys to new lows

Injuries and a complete lack of effort are going to be the prevailing stories about the 2020 Cowboys, and they added another notch to both of those categories on Sunday. The Cowboys had already thrown in the towel in the second half, but a few players were still trying. Andy Dalton was one of them.

Backed up to their own three-yard line on third and ten, Dalton scrambled up the middle to try and move the chains. With several defenders approaching, he slid short of the first down marker. Then linebacker Jon Bostic tried to take his head clean off, taking the Cowboys’ quarterback out of the game.

Bostic was ejected, and will hopefully be handed a suspension first thing Monday morning, but Dalton also left the game. He nearly needed the cart, but managed to walk off on his own power. Ben DiNucci came in to finish the game, and played as you’d expect, but this was a soul-crushing moment for a team that has little soul left. McCarthy even called out the team after the game for their lack of emotion after seeing their quarterback delivered a blow like that:

Injuries and a complete lack of effort. It’s been apparent for a while, but no one play perfectly encapsulated both problems like this one did. And while it didn’t impact the game itself, it sent a very loud message: the season is over in Dallas. Stick a fork in ‘em, they’re done.