The Dallas Cowboys just didn’t have it in them on Thursday. It was one of those games that was hard to sit through. They started badly and spent most of the game trying to play catch-up. Frustrating moment after frustrating moment, the Cowboys just couldn’t get into a rhythm and in the end, the team has now lost two straight and are losers of three of their last four games.
This run of losses is hurting the team’s playoff positioning as they try to line themselves up for a nice postseason run. The number one seed looks nearly impossible now as they have fallen two full games behind the top-seeded Arizona Cardinals. Not only that, but the Cowboys' recent struggles could be pushing them into that dreaded four seed, creating the worst possible first-round matchup against what is likely to be the NFC West runner-up. Of course, that’s assuming the Cowboys still take down the NFC East, which isn’t the guarantee it looked like a few weeks ago as they now only have a two-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles.
There were a lot of things in this one that was unpleasing to the eye as the team didn’t give us much to be thankful for. For example...
The penalties were disgusting
We’re not going to spend a lot of time talking about the nonsensical flag-fest we were subjected to in this game because the referees have already gotten more attention than they deserve. Plus, it was awful for both sides as there were a total of 28 combined penalties for 276 yards! It’s hard to wrap your mind around something like that.
Lol this was roughing the passer! Never been a dirty guy! But can someone teach me how I could have played this better?! https://t.co/MmgZBJQLLx— Micah Parsons (@MicahhParsons11) November 26, 2021
What we can say is that the Cowboys failed to adapt to how the game was being called and as a result, they repeatedly fell victim to these bad officiating decisions. In the mix of many of these fraudulent calls, there are definitely going to be some learning moments for this Cowboys’ team.
The corners were terrible
The extra chances the Raiders offense got thanks to all the defensive penalties certainly hurt, but it was compounded by the poor play of the Cowboys' cornerbacks. Anthony Brown was flagged for four pass interference penalties, but I’m not even sure he was the poorest performer of the group. Trevon Diggs couldn’t stay with his man and often times was handsy throughout the receiver's route. Jourdan Lewis was being burned by anyone he was covering.
And then there was Brown. While none of his penalties were blatant, there was always just enough contact to rationalize why a flag was called. Brown’s inability to get his body turned around just flames the fire of a flag-happy referee, and that’s on him.
Tackling was bad
It’s so frustrating to watch this defense almost make a play for a loss only to have the runner escape for a big gain. The Cowboys' defense fell victim to several missed tackles or just getting themselves turned around where they couldn’t change direction fast enough to grab the ball carrier. This defense is struggling making tackles in space and is failing to swarm to the ball and prevent these extra gains.
Dak is missing his boys
There were times when Dak Prescott made some outstanding downfield passes with defenders draped all over his receivers. There were also times where he threw the ball at the feet of wide-open targets. Overall, it was a mixed bag, but through it all, Prescott looked perplexed on what he wanted to do with the ball. Oftentimes, receivers weren’t getting enough separation. Prescott threw way too many short underneath passes that did very little to help move the chains.
Not having Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb is hurting this offense and from what we’ve seen, Prescott hasn’t been able to make it work with what he’s got. It’s hard to be too critical of Dak considering other things going on around him, but at the same time, he’s not doing the elite things elite quarterbacks do at the moment.
They can’t get the ground game going
After five-straight games rushing for at least 120 yards, the Cowboys haven’t reached that mark in any of their last five games. Four of these instances haven’t eclipsed 82 yards, including their 64-yard effort against the Raiders. After killing it through the first part of the season, Ezekiel Elliott’s production is progressively getting worse. His last six games have included rushing totals of 69, 50, 51, 41, 32, and now 25 yards. Of course, it doesn’t help that the team changes their offensive line arrangement as often as they change their underwear.
With no ability to run the ball, defenses are going to take away the downfield passing attack and rely on their tackling to get the Cowboys' offense off the field. Call it a scheme, call it a blueprint, but whatever it is, it’s working for opposing teams. And until the Cowboys are effective in keeping them honest, it’s going to continue to be a problem for this offense.