We all tend to overindulge on Thanksgiving, and we were treated to some extra football as well, as the Dallas Cowboys wound up losing their annual holiday game 36-33 to the Las Vegas Raiders in overtime.
During the crucial finale, the Cowboys won the toss but had to start from their own seven-yard line after some great coverage and a penalty on the kickoff. A poor pass forced a punt from their own 13, but a booming effort from Bryan Anger plus a block in the back pushed the Raiders back to their own 22. It was now sudden death, with the next team to score winning. Dallas had been struggling with giving up big plays all day, and they did so again, as Josh Jacobs burst up the middle for 21. Then on third down, Anthony Brown was flagged for his fourth defensive pass interference call, giving Las Vegas the ball in easy field goal range. It would take four attempts at the kick, with one Raiders and two Cowboys penalties before the kick counted, but in the end it went through. It was a game where the Cowboys really looked like the lesser team most of the time. They rallied at the end, but it just was not enough.
Before the game even started, the Cowboys got bad news as CeeDee Lamb did not pass the final step of the concussion protocol. That meant they would be without Lamb and Amari Cooper this game, which had to continue hampering the offense.
Dallas felt flat as they received the opening kickoff, going three and out. All three plays went to Ezekiel Elliott, two runs and a pass. Leading into the game, the Cowboys were openly talking about leaning more on Elliott and the running game. They did exactly what they said, and Las Vegas was ready for it. Then the Dallas defense looked pretty inept, as Derek Carr found DeSean Jackson for a 56-yard touchdown. Jourdan Lewis went for the interception but was just short, and the team paid for the mistake.
The Cowboys needed an answer, and they found it in a 75-yard march capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to Sean McKeon, the latter’s first of his NFL career. However, Greg Zuerlein missed the extra point.
From that point, Dallas looked somewhat flat for most of the remainder of the first half. It may have been a reaction to seeing the best play of the game overturned by the referees. On a Carr pass to Darren Waller, Jayron Kearse knocked the ball loose after what was first ruled a completion. Keanu Neal made a remarkable play to grab the ball as it bounced over the sideline and flipped it back to Kearse for what should have been a takeaway at about the Las Vegas 35-yard line. But it was then ruled an incompletion after review. They gave up another touchdown on a drive that saw Anthony Brown flagged twice for pass interference, the second one in the end zone to set up a one-yard touchdown. The Cowboys had trouble finding an offensive rhythm, including another of the frustrating drops, this one by Dalton Schultz. Las Vegas would tack on another field goal, and Mike McCarthy would make a questionable decision to have Greg Zuerlein attempt a 59-yard field goal. It glanced off the upright, and things seemed to be going out of control for Dallas.
But they stopped the Raiders on their next drive and got the ball back at their own 14. Two plays later Prescott found Cedrick Wilson for a 51-yard completion that got them to the Las Vegas 33. They would ride Wilson and Tony Pollard down to the one-yard line, where Elliott would break the plane before he was ever touched. It would cut the deficit to 17-13, a much more manageable score.
The Cowboys saw Tyron Smith return for this game, but apparently that was not enough to convince the staff that the offensive line was settled. Throughout the game, they were apparently rotating personnel. Terence Steele was the surprise starter at RT, but La’el Collins was also used. Meanwhile, both Connor Williams and Connor McGovern saw action at LG.
The injury situation evened out somewhat as both Darren Waller and Carl Nassib of the Raiders would leave the game in the first half and not return. But the Cowboys did not find a way to take advantage. After an exchange of punts to open the second half, the Raiders would just need six plays to go 75 yards and push the score to 24-13.
And then Dallas got a huge play to get right back into things, this one from the special teams. Pollard would take the kickoff right on his own goal line and streak up the left sideline for a touchdown. A penalty on the extra point gave McCarthy the option of going for a two-point conversion from the one-yard line, a move that worked for him two games prior. But this one failed, due to great play by the defense, and left the Cowboys trailing 24-19.
Brown continued to have a rough day in the secondary, as he kept yet another Las Vegas drive alive with pass interference. It would culminate in a 46-yard field goal to stretch their lead to 27-19.
This was a game that seemed to go on forever, as that score came with almost three and a half minutes left in the third quarter. Part of that is the annual halftime show to promote the Salvation Army Red Kettle drive, but it still just felt like it wound on and on.
The Cowboys did not have much consistency on either offense or defense. They had multiple three and outs when they had the ball, and Carr and the Raiders seemed to be able to find a big play almost whenever he needed one. Part of those big plays were because of bad tackling and penalties. In the latter category, they had nine flags for over 100 yards before the start of the fourth. It just was not a very strong performance through three quarters by Dallas.
It set up a fourth quarter with Las Vegas still holding an eight-point lead and the ball at the start. The Cowboys would hold and get the rock back at their own 11, and have a promising drive all the way to the Las Vegas seven, highlighted by a 41-yard dime thrown by Prescott to Michael Gallup. But that ugly yellow laundry would show up again, wiping out a Dalton Schultz touchdown. The Cowboys would settle for a Zuerlein field goal on fourth and seven, cutting it to a 27-22 margin.
It was not for long, however. On the ensuing drive, Carr had all time in the pocket and found Hunter Renfrow for 54 yards, on a first and 20, no less. They would only cash in for their own field goal, but it was right back to an eight-point lead.
The Raiders would get their first sack of the game to force a three and out punt, with only 7:10 left on the clock. With the help of yet another penalty on Las Vegas (both teams had been flagged at least ten times by this point), Dallas held and got the ball back at their own 31. With only 3:41 on the clock, it was a touchdown or lose situation for Prescott and the offense. He would again make a pinpoint throw to Gallup for 32 yards, and follow it up with a 32-yard TD down the seam to Dalton Schultz. They had to go for two, and Schultz came through again. The game was tied with 2:54 to go. Carr would complete a 30-yard pass to Jackson right out of the gate to get them near field goal range. They would get a field goal to set up a last drive for Dallas to tie or win with 1:52 left in regulation.
Dak Prescott would lead a drive in which he completed his third pinpoint play of the day to Michael Galllup and find Cedrick Wilson to get into field goal range. Zuerlein would knock the 45-yarder through, and we would be off to overtime.
That is when Dallas lost the game as detailed above. The Cowboys have lost three of four so things are getting dicey.