What a difference a few days makes for everyone's feelings about the Dallas Cowboys’ chances at making a playoff run. The tragic death of strength and conditioning coordinator Markus Paul weighed heavily on the hearts and minds of the Cowboys players when they took the field. He was a man that each player had a relationship with and spent a lot of time with. So it’s just horrible timing that they took on a team fighting for a divisional lead while they were grieving for a friend. With that being said, there was still a football game played so it’s time to grade the Cowboys showing against the Washington Football Team (WFT).
This is a generous overall grade as this team was in an imaginable situation. They just lost a close friend and co-worker, they were playing on a Thanksgiving where they wouldn’t be able to see all of their family and friends like they have in the past, and the injury bug once again reared it’s ugly head. That would be a tall task for any team to overcome on a short week. Going up against a divisional rival with first place on the line was most likely not the top thing on their minds even if they don’t want to admit it.
Hopefully the extra time off with their next game being pushed back will give this team time to heal emotionally and physically.
Here we are once again questioning the play-calling of head coach Mike McCarthy on another fake punt this time on fourth and 10 from their own 24-yard line. We likely are doing this a lot more because the last coaching staff wouldn’t even take the risk and would punt the football away. So while there is appreciation for McCarthy’s aggressiveness and trust in his special teams coach and players, one must realize that opposing teams have been coached to expect these things from John Fassel’s units. You also have the decision to go for it on fourth and one on their own 34-yard line and instead of running the ball or using a quarterback sneak. McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore decided to throw the football which fell incomplete and led to Washington taking the lead and never giving it up.
Just more poor choices from a team that is supposed to be using analytics for the best outcomes.
When you lose both of your starting tackles in the span of a few minutes, then you know it’s not going to be a good day for your quarterback. This was the case for quarterback Andy Dalton who was under pressure against this aggressive WFT front four. But that doesn’t save him from his rough performance this week going 25 of 35 for 215 yards after such a great showing last week. This week knowing that he had less time in the pocket Dalton seemed to hold on to the football to long taking three sacks and later throwing a interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Running Back: F
When both of your running backs combine for 44 yards rushing on 14 carries and 17 yards receiving with three catches, you aren’t getting the job done. Yes, we know that Washington’s defensive line is very good but against the run they are middle of the pack at 14th in yards allowed this season. Elliott and Pollard should have been able to put up better numbers than they actually did. And if that wasn’t enough, Elliott once again put the ball on the turf and it was recovered by the opposing team.
Anyone else ready to see more Pollard at least until Elliott can figure out why he can’t hold on to the ball all of a sudden?
Wide Receiver: C
If we want to talk about the star of this offensive unit in the game then look no further than Amari Cooper who caught six passes for 112 yards on the day and a touchdown. While he was carrying the load, his fellow receivers weren’t able to get as much separation; Michael Gallup caught six passes for 41 yards and CeeDee Lamb caught five passes for 21 yards. Lamb also dropped a sure touchdown which might have been the turning point in the game.
Tight End: C
After catching the game-winning touchdown last week, Dalton Schultz was a non-factor in the game this week. Catching five passes for 24 yards on the day, Schultz faced good coverage and the Washington pass rush was a factor in the poor performance of the passing game. Hopefully Schultz can get back on track next week.
Offensive Line: Incomplete
This offensive line has had enough injuries thrown at them this season. The football gods continue to punish this team with more injuries to Cam Erving (knee) and Zack Martin (calf), both going down with injuries early in the game and not returning. Once they were gone. the Washington defensive ends had a good day against their backups forcing Dalton out of the pocket or to rush passes.
With the injuries to this group it might be time to start thinking about the future draft picks.
Defensive Line: C
On passing downs the Cowboys pass rushers were getting the job done with a sack from DeMarcus Lawrence and a multi-sack day from Randy Gregory, along with six quarterback hits, but when it came to stopping the run the defensive tackles and defensive ends just couldn’t hold up surrendering 182 yards on the ground. It’s nice to see the pass rush coming around but they really need to look at drafting a big body to anchor that defensive line.
When your safeties have more tackles then your linebackers that is a problem, especially when the team you were facing was more successful running the ball than passing. Other than Jaylon Smith’s interception that he almost returned for a touchdown, it wasn’t a particularly good day for these two. Sean Lee did play a bit and did get a quarterback hit but again nothing else more.
You have to give these guys credit as they were put in tough positions just like the rest of the defense with short fields and their backs against the wall. But unlike the other levels of the defense, the secondary held their own against this Washington passing attack giving, up only one touchdown. They did o have trouble keeping receiver Terry McLaurin in check but most teams in the NFL have had that same problem since he came into the league.
Heavy hearts, injuries, and poor play-calling by themselves are each tough things to overcome when playing in a game, but when you’re dealing with them all at once it’s almost an impossible thing to overcome. Let’s hope they can take this time to get better inside and out and our prayers go out to the family of Markus Paul.