The Cowboys have the worst record in the worst division in the NFL and played an extremely frustrating game five days after it was originally supposed to happen. At a certain point it is obviously difficult for them to compete as they continue to be depleted by injuries, but the division’s lack of a true threat has some holding out hope.
Both New York and Washington won in Week 13 which makes the NFC East championship look all the more improbable for Dallas. There were some solid things to take away from this game, but there were of course some not-so-great things, too.
Here are our winners and losers. Let’s begin.
Winner: Michael Gallup
It had been a long time since we saw Michael Gallup get into the endzone, in fact it had been 10 weeks.
Gallup last scored in Week 3 against the Seattle Seahawks and has - like everyone else - been impacted by the loss of Dak Prescott. That drought came to an end on Tuesday night.
We all know that Michael Gallup is a special player. Kudos to him for finding a way to get it done here.
Winner: Tony Pollard
The beginning of the season was tough for Tony Pollard as far as kickoff returns were concerned, but he found a way to really make a mark here and even gave the Cowboys solid enough field position that they were able to get a touchdown out of it.
There is no question that Pollard is the most explosive back on the Cowboys at the moment. Finding ways to get him the ball has always been something many wanted to see, but the issues on special teams seemingly halted them a few months ago. Glad to see that has worked itself out.
Winner: Jourdan Lewis
The Dallas Cowboys defense is a problem. We all know that. I’m not trying to say that he turned in an All-Pro performance, but Jourdan Lewis was solid against the Ravens.
There are going to be some very interesting decisions made when it comes to the Cowboys secondary in free agency. Lewis is one of the players that they’ll have to look at giving a new deal to. Perhaps he’ll continue to play well across the rest of the season.
Winner: The offensive line
Dallas entered this game battered and beaten along the offensive line and to make matters even worse they were missing their All-Pro in Zack Martin.
The last time that the Cowboys operated without Martin was a disaster up front. They got pummeled by the Washington Football Team, but they held up pretty well mostly at the league’s other stadium in the state of Maryland.
This is a great sign and potentially something to build off of. We have seen the line destroyed almost weekly so to see them hold their footing not only shows that they are improving but that coaching is making an impact there as well.
Winner: Noah Brown
The Cowboys have a trio of great wide receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb, and they have even gotten solid play out of Cedrick Wilson at times this season. Tuesday night belonged to Noah Brown.
It’s nice to see Brown get some play with the Cowboys after a fight to this point in his career. At least we have that.
Loser: The National Football League
There will be a lot of effort in the coming days to explain the situation with Dez Bryant before this game, but what an incredibly bad look for the NFL. Forget the fact that Dez was set to face his former team for the first time. Obviously that would have been fun, but it isn’t important here.
It makes absolutely no sense that Dez could have tested positive for Covid-19 and not been around anyone else enough to merit also pulling them from the contest. This was one of the lower points that the league has had through these unprecedented challenges. It really felt like them pressing on no matter what they had to do in order to get the game off.
Loser: NFL officiating
We’re not ignoring the Cowboys and their many woes here, but sometimes things need to be said. We have all had issues with the way games have been referee’d so far this season and it feels like we all agree that this game was a bad performance by those blowing whistles and throwing flags.
The end of the first half could have ended differently for the Cowboys if the officials called penalties properly. Sometimes those things happen. Sometimes they don’t. Apparently.
Loser: Xavier Woods
The Cowboys have a very troubling issue at the safety position. This sentence has been true for a long time now, unfortunately.
I’ll maintain that Woods’ comments about “not giving 100% all of the time” had a different intent than the way they were received (it was not a wise comment overall), but they look particularly bad in moments that he plays poorly which unfortunately is a lot.
Woods was dreadful against the Ravens. In the second half there was a point where he had an angle on Lamar Jackson - it is admittedly not easy to stop him - and just sort of lackadaisically approached him and allowed a first down. That’s the issue here.
Loser: Greg Zuerlein
If you miss three field goals you are going to wind up on the loser list. That is not a hard thing to understand, but it should be noted that the environment hardly makes it easy for kickers in Baltimore.
Justin Tucker has said a few times that M&T Bank Stadium is the hardest place to kick in the league ever since they put in the new scoreboard.— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) December 9, 2020
It changed the wind patterns and now it swirls more instead of being a static directional wind. Makes it tough on kickers.
There were a lot of takes flying around Twitter about the Cowboys missing Dan Bailey, never mind the fact that he had an awful Week 13 himself, but there is no doubt that Zuerlein was bad on Tuesday. If you are going to be the kicker that the special teams coordinator commits to (another position of frustration) you have to deliver. Plain and simple.
Loser: Mike McCarthy
The Dallas Cowboys had more than twice the amount of time than the Baltimore Ravens did to prepare for this game. That does not mean that they should automatically win, the Ravens are a better team after all, but look at what Washington did against Pittsburgh with a similar sort of advantage.
Mike McCarthy has continued to stick by Mike Nolan which looked like a rather poor decision on Tuesday night. The team’s defense is an embarrassment in just about every capacity and the buck ultimately stops with the head coach.
Speaking of, some blame for Zuerlein’s struggles (his third miss specifically) should be attributed to McCarthy. The head coach chose to kick a field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter while down by 14 points. Even if the kick had been successful the Cowboys would have made a two-possession game... a two-possession game.
What’s more is that McCarthy trotted Zuerlein out after the knowledge of M&T Bank’s issues for kickers AND Zuerlein’s previous two misses on the night. This is just one tiny example of where the head coach fell short, he was a big problem for the team in the Charm City.