It’s never enjoyable to subject yourself to re-watching a game where the Dallas Cowboys got a shellacking for a stretch of the game that, for all intent and purposes, sealed their fate. Oh sure, the Cowboys put some scoring drives together in the fourth quarter, but as the saying goes - it was too little too late.
Looking through the tape doesn’t offer much more of a different perspective as all the bad things we saw on Sunday were still bad the second time around. It would be great to offer up some reasons to be hopeful about the defense, but you won’t find much of that here. And despite the Cowboys scoring five touchdowns on the day, a lot of that was in garbage time and they had their own share of mistakes when they were right in the thick of things. If the offense would’ve gotten it in gear sooner, then maybe they would’ve been able to pull it off when the defense finally started to make a few stops.
It doesn’t bring out many warm feelings, but here are some additional observations after further review.
When did Jaylon Smith become bad at football?
307 yards. When you say it out loud, it’s almost unfathomable, but that is how many rushing yards this Cowboys defense gave up to the Browns on Sunday. Now, there are a lot of guilty parties involved, but one of the most disappointing things to watch these days is the play of Jaylon Smith.
Too many times Smith gets washed away as he struggles to shed blockers. More times than not, he just directly engages with the blocking, allowing himself zero shot at the actual ball carrier. He’s just easy to block. Smith’s movement is clumsy as if his ability to change direction is being hampered. He just looks like a player who doesn’t trust his knees.
Joe Thomas continues to play okay
While Smith has been struggling, Joe Thomas continues to be a solid piece to the linebacker group. Thomas gets taken out of plays as well, but he seems to do a better job at finding the right path to the ball carrier. He moves well as he deflected a pass early in the game. He shoots the gap to make a tackle in the backfield. And his perfectly timed tackled turned into a nice pick had it not been for a bad call by the officials. Thomas isn’t fantastic, but right now he’s the top performing linebacker on the field for whatever that’s worth.
The corners were giving up too much space
It was so frustrating to surrender third-down conversions by virtue of soft coverage by the secondary. Trevon Diggs was guilty of this multiple times (and he wasn’t the only one). Granted, Jarvis Landry is a really good route-runner, but the rookie never gave himself a chance to make a play. Every time the Browns went to the out route toward the sideline, they had a clean shot to catch the pass and keep the chains moving. The Cowboys have to reduce the amount of separation they’re given up and must do a better job closing on the play.
Dak Prescott became very predictable up the middle
The Cowboys offense benefited from a more relaxed defense thanks to playing from such a large deficit, but that doesn’t take away from some really good passing from Dak Prescott. There were times he made some great throws toward the sideline, and he continuously worked his receivers over the middle. The utilization of both Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown would be something fun to talk about under different circumstances.
While tape showed a lot of nice things in the Cowboys passing game, one thing that didn’t look so great was how predictable Prescott became throwing over the middle of the field. He looked as if he was telegraphing some throws as his eyes locked onto his targets and the Browns defense saw it coming as they just sat down and waited. It was great when Dak threaded the needle to Amari Cooper for the touchdown.
But then the Browns gradually started picking up on it, and several times they jumped it and almost came away with a pick.
And eventually, his time luck ran out.
At least they got better at two-point conversions
Why does it seem like when the Cowboys need a two-point conversion at a critical point in the game, they come up short. Yet, when they’re down by 27 points, they can somehow convert all three of their attempts? Credit Kellen Moore for some quality play-calling, especially on that last one with the reverse to Cooper, but also Prescott did a great job recognizing where he should go with the play. It’s unfortunate all that goodness was all for naught, but hopefully they’ll be better equipped in those situations going forward.
It’s a shame Greg Zuerlein’s squib kick late in the game didn’t roll a little bit slower or the ball didn’t take a slightly better bounce because this play almost turned out to be disaster for the Browns. Imagine if that ball never quite made it into the end zone?