Nothing spoils Turkey Day more than watching the Dallas Cowboys’ season slip away. While our bellies were filled with deliciousness, the Cowboys did very little to fill their playoff chances with hope after they suffered a disappointing 41-16 loss to Washington. While it was close at first, the wheels came off in the second half as the Cowboys just couldn’t get anything going. Here are ten thoughts on this less-than-festive Thanksgiving Day game.
1. Offensive line can’t catch a break
The Cowboys entered this game feeling pretty good about the state of their offensive line. The move of Zack Martin to right tackle appeared to be the winning ticket as the finally found an arrangement that worked. Unfortunately, that feeling was short-lived as the offensive line suffered huge blows right out of the gate. On the Cowboys first drive of the game, Cameron Erving exited the game on an Andy Dalton scramble. Then, four plays later, Zack Martin got hurt. Before their first drive had ended, the Cowboys had lost both of their tackles for the game.
It was back to Brandon Knight at left tackle and Terrence Steele at right tackle, and that is just not a good situation for this Washington pass rush. The Cowboys were sacked four times, making it a total of 10 sacks this season against their D.C. divisional foes. The Cowboys have done a great job with their bench stepping up and filling in, but at some point it just becomes too much.
2. Second chances
After the offense was held to a field goal on their opening drive, it looked as if the Cowboys defense was going to return the favor when they made a stop on 3rd-and-4 at the Dallas 30-yard line. Unfortunately, a defensive holding penalty on Rashaad Robinson gave Washington a new set of downs. The defense again made a stop on the very next third down play, but that was negated by an illegal contact penalty on Jourdan Lewis. Washington made them pay four plays later as Antonio Gibson ran the ball in for a five-yard touchdown.
3. Third chances
It was infuriating to watch the Cowboys defense make stops on the first two downs, only to repeatedly give up third-down conversions. On the day, Washington was 7-13 on third down. Even when the Cowboys would make great plays to get Washington behind in down and distance, they’d still give up chunk yards that allowed them to keep the chains moving. It’s hard to keep yourself in the game when you can’t get off the field.
4. Run-a-ton-io Gibson
The rookie running back must love going against the Cowboys as the two best games of his short career have come against Dallas. In Week 7, Gibson ran the ball 20 times for 128 yards and a score. On Thursday, Gibson eclipsed the 100-yard mark again, putting up 118 yards on them. And he found the end zone three times!
The Cowboys defense had shown improvement against the run in recent games, but they were just all out of sorts against Washington. As a team, Washington averaged over five yards a carry churning out 182 yards. Their offensive line did a great job sealing the edge and creating holes for their running backs. The Cowboys defense was completely out of position several times, allowing big holes that resulted in two 20+ rushing touchdowns by Gibson.
5. Ignoring McLaurin
It’s flabbergasting how Washington had only one real wide receiver threat, and the Cowboys defense still had no answer for him. Alex Smith completed nine passes to his wide receivers, and seven of them went to Terry McLaurin as the second-year WR finished with 92 yards. None of the other Washington wideouts posed a threat, but time and time again the Dallas secondary just couldn’t find ways to stop McLaurin. It was truly pitiful.
6. The touchdown saving tackle
When McClaurin ran down Jaylon Smith from behind, it didn’t seem like such a big deal at the moment as the Cowboys offense still had the ball first-and-goal on the five-yard line. Little did we all know that it would end up costing the Cowboys.
The Cowboys offense proceeded to lose yards on two straight plays, and then CeeDee Lamb couldn’t hold on to a third-down pass in the end zone. It was rather fitting the moment something great appeared to happen for Dallas that they’d turn around and find a way to squander it.
7. Taking chances
Regardless of what you think of Mike McCarthy’s propensity to take chances, it’s hard not to be upset with how many times this team keeps shooting themselves in the foot with some questionable play-calling. The decision to go for it on fourth and inches or even to attempt a fake punt in their own territory was fine. They clearly needed extra downs to move the ball. The problem; however, was with the plays they called. It’s a little perplexing why they think throwing into tight coverage is their go-to play when they only need less than a yard.
It also can’t be much of a shock to see John Fassel pull off fakes, and it was pretty evident that Washington saw that play coming a mile away. If the Cowboys are going to keep pulling off these types of risky plays, they should try to be a little more creative .
8. State of confusion
Not only did the Cowboys defense not play well, but they looked lost on many occasions. Washington did a great job changing things up, and the Cowboys were running around with their heads cut off. Players were out of position, guys were left uncovered, and they couldn’t make up their mind who was supposed to be on the field as Randy Gregory had to dive off the field to avoid a penalty.
It was disappointing to see this type of disarray as it looked like this team was making progress in this area.
9. The wheels came off
The Cowboys still had a shot at the start of the third quarter as they only trailed 20-16 and had the ball. After their fake punt flopped, Washington responded immediately as they scored on their first offensive play when Gibson ran it in from 23 yards out. The Cowboys only went nine yards on their next possession, punting the ball away only to have Washington put together at backbreaking 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive. And for good measure, Dalton decided the thrown the ball into the arms of a leaping Montez Sweat, who ran it back 15 yards for a touchdown. In the blink of an eye, Washington had reeled off three unanswered touchdowns to complete yet another rout of the Cowboys.
10. Back to the draft
A win on Thursday would have us talking about how the Cowboys can take down the NFC East and host a playoff game. That didn’t happen, so now this defeat sends us in the other direction. Not only do they hold the worst record in the East, but now they are 1-3 in the division and been swept by Washington. It’s not impossible, but they have put themselves in a huge hole.
It’s likely that our attention starts shifting back towards draft position as we look for the best possible situation to improve this football team. It would be great if the Cowboys weren’t this bad, but Thursday brought with it a darkening reality we were hoping to not have to see.