Oh goodness. In a game that most fans were expecting to be the easiest on the schedule so far, the Dallas Cowboys got smacked around in the worst way. There was a point in the game where the Cleveland Browns scored 34 unanswered points to put the Cowboys in a 41-14 hole. When it was all said and done, the Cowboys lost the game by 11 points, which already matches their largest margin of defeat last season. There was a lot to shake our heads about, and here are ten thoughts on this disappointing loss on Sunday.
1. Pollard should not be running back kicks
How many times are we going to be subjected to Tony Pollard running back kicks? It was tolerable the first few mishaps as the team clearly wanted to be the aggressor and give him a chance to make a big play. But over and over and over again, Pollard keeps messing up. This is just not something he’s good at, and we haven’t had any moments where he almost broke one that would make all this pain and suffering somewhat bearable. Can the Cowboys just take a touch back like the other teams do? It’s tiring to watch this team continuously start drives from their own 15-yard line.
2. The turnovers are becoming comical
It’s not clear the exact moment that hysteria kicked in as we watched this team turn a potential shootout into one of those games they put themselves in a tremendous hole and spend the remainder of the game trying to come out of it. The Cowboys offense continued to give the ball away in their own territory. The Browns, who are the best in the league at turning turnovers into points, remained that way after tacking on more touchdowns following giveaways by the ‘Boys. Between a Dak Prescott sack/fumble and an Ezekiel Elliott fumble, the Cowboys gave the ball away on two consecutive offensive plays, and each time the Browns turned them into touchdowns.
3. The D bites....on everything
The Cowboys defense is so predictably aggressive in their pursuit that team’s are having a hay day scheming any type of misdirection play. The Browns wasted no time challenging the discipline of the Cowboys defense on their first score of the game when Jarvis Landry took an end around and launched a 37-yard pass to Odell Beckham Jr. Multiple times in the game, the Browns caught the Cowboys defense over-pursuing and left out to dry. Even the back breaking 50-yard touchdown run by OBJ was on a reverse that had too many defenders out of position to make a play.
4. Defense is horrendously bad
We can talk about how the offense does them no favors, but in all seriousness - does it even matter? Whether it’s on a short field or a long field, opposing offenses are just rolling over the Cowboys defense. This is the third time this year the defense has given up 400+ yards (they gave up over 500 against the Browns), and the third straight they’ve surrendered 38+ points, with the team allowing a whopping 49 points on Sunday.
Against the run, the Cowboys were helpless. Even when it looked like they had multiple defenders in the Cleveland backfield, they’d somehow escape and turn it into a big gain. They allowed a total of 307 yards on the ground. That’s absurd. Just think how much it would’ve been had Nick Chubb not gotten hurt. And the pass defense is even worse. Entering the game, the Cowboys defense is giving up a touchdown every 12 pass attempts, which is worst than any team in the NFL in over 50 years. On Sunday, they were right on cue giving up a touchdown pass on every 10.3 pass attempts. That is just dreadful.
5. Dak’s lack of pocket awareness
In the stat book, Prescott lit it up once again. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 450 yards in three consecutive games. Last week, Dak set a career high with passing attempts (57) as well as yards (472), but it didn’t stand for long as he managed to surpass that with a new career high (58 attempts for 502 yards). Of course, high passing yards hasn’t translated to wins as the Cowboys are 0-3 in Prescott’s three highest yardage totals of his career.
As well as Prescott played, his internal clock is not working as he continues to hang on to the ball just a tad bit long. On the Cowboys first series, he took a sack he had no business taking. Just throw it away. And these costly sack/fumbles come when Prescott double-pumps and just hangs on to the ball too long. Don’t get me wrong, the protection at right tackle was bad and it resulted in the benching of Terence Steele, but it’s on Prescott to be aware of the state of his offensive line and be more conscientious when the pocket collapses.
6. Joe Thomas was robbed
There weren’t many great plays on defense, so how bad is it that when the Cowboys make one, it doesn’t count. He sniffed out a pass to the running back and timed it so well that the impact jostled the ball away. In fact, it was Thomas that actually came away with the ball. But it didn’t matter because the referees threw a flag for hitting a defenseless receiver. Had the officials not botched that up, it could have turned out to be a huge play in the game.
7. Jaylon makes me angry
It just feels like it’s happening more and more often, but what gives with these Jaylon Smith personal foul penalties all of a sudden? The Cowboys defense had the Browns behind the chains after Cleveland got called for a holding penalty that made it 1st-and-20. The Browns offense got bailed out on the next play when Smith was flagged for a face mask penalty. That kind of stuff is inexcusable.
8. But he had the right idea on that blocked extra point
Not that it would’ve counted anyways as C.J. Goodwin was clearly offsides, but Smith was right to try to turn that blocked extra point into something. After the OBJ score, it really cinched the game because it made it a two-score game again. However, that nine-point lead could’ve been reduced to seven if the Cowboys somehow returned it for a score. That would’ve completely changed the game. The announcers gave Smith some flack for trying to pick up the ball, but really that was just because of the end result. Leave it to Dallas to block an extra point only to have it end up with a two-point conversion for the Browns. Regardless of the outcome, it was the right move by Smith.
9. Why no challenge?
Did Ezekiel Elliott not get into the end zone early in the fourth quarter? It sure seemed pretty clear to me. Maybe the deficit was still too large to care at that point, but it seemed like the Cowboys coaching staff missed an opportunity throw the challenge flag and get the play overturned. It took the Cowboys three more plays to find the end zone, which chewed up some time they could’ve used later.
10. The division buffer means nothing
It’s easy to pawn off the Cowboys early season struggles onto the all the new changes with coaching staff as they work out the kinks. And playing in the NFC East provides them the luxury of a cushion. It’s not going to take a stellar record to take down the division and earn a playoff spot.
However, the bad thing about all this losing the Cowboys are doing is that they’re just playing bad football. Bad football teams play bad football. And if they are going to play like this, it doesn’t really matter if they emerge from this division or not. The Cowboys are just not a good football team. Will that change? We hope that it does, but after one quarter of the 2020 NFL season, things are not looking so good.