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Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos: 1 winner and 9 losers from the most deflating game of the season

The Cowboys were not good this week.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday was a humbling day for the Dallas Cowboys as they were shut out by the Denver Broncos through any time that mattered in the game. 16 points in garbage time made the wound feel less deep, but it all hurts just the same.

There was always the worry that the bottom could come out on the wonderful ride that the Cowboys were on over the first two months of the season. We are talking about a team that has traditionally found a way to disappoint for the last quarter century and we are all emotionally scarred from that.

We discussed everything that happened for the Cowboys against Denver during our official Dallas Cowboys Postgame Show on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our podcast network so you don’t miss any of our shows. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.

The fear with Sunday’s dreadful performance is that it was the beginning of something much more painful for the Cowboys, that this was the first pull of the loose thread. There is very little from the Broncos loss to feel good about which is why we have 90% losers in our weekly discussion here.

Sometimes good teams don’t show up and get beaten badly by poor squads. Maybe that’s what happened to the Cowboys against Denver on Sunday, but that isn’t going to erase the doubt swirling around people’s minds.

Winner: Micah Parsons

It was unfortunate to see Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II get injured in this game because so much of fate changed for the Cowboys when Denver took him one pick ahead of Dallas during the 2021 NFL Draft. Denver’s decision left the Cowboys to take Micah Parsons (after a trade back) and he absolutely shined against the team who initiated our current reality. Parsons logged 10 tackles, three for loss, and was just about the only player on the team who showed up on Sunday.

Loser: Overall Energy

There is no denying that the Cowboys came out flat on Sunday. That might be offensive to the word flat. It seems like the Cowboys thought that they could sleepwalk to victory on Sunday and that disposition came back to bite them in the end. Call it football cliché, but the Cowboys just didn’t want it as much as the Broncos did and that showed in every way.

Loser: Trevon Diggs

We all knew that the interceptions were going to come to an end, but we didn’t know that everything was going to be bad in the process. Trevon Diggs got called for a brutal penalty near the goal line against Denver and got beat for a huge touchdown.

While it includes his interception-less time and that has no bearing on it, Diggs hasn’t been great in each of the team’s last two games. He isn’t necessarily an all-or-nothing player, but he needs to find a far more stable level of play for the Cowboys to really rely on him.

Loser: Amari Cooper

Dak Prescott was not good on Sunday (we’ll get there), but he was hardly done any favors. Amari Cooper represents really all of the pass-catchers here because there were a number of easy passes dropped that kept Dallas further behind the eight ball.

To be fair to Cooper his first drop of the season was the costly one, but he is held to the highest standard as the team’s top wide receiver. CeeDee Lamb has had a case of some drops this season and Tony Pollard wanted in on this unfortunate party for whatever reason.

Loser: Run Defense

The Broncos ran for almost 200 yards against the Cowboys (190 to be specific). That is awful and more than twice what Dallas was surrendering per game this season entering the contest (88.3). Denver had almost double their weekly average on the ground against the Cowboys and had it however they wanted. What’s frustrating is that it’s not like the Cowboys got gashed by one of the league’s top backs, they simply were outclassed by this entire team in every way.

Loser: The Breaks of the Game

Nobody is trying to blame anyone but the Cowboys here, but sometimes football can really kick you when you’re down. The rule is what the rule is and it was enforced properly, but it was painful to watch the Cowboys block a punt and not retain the ball with a short field to go score and make this more of a game than it wound up being. Sometimes that’s the way things go, and the Cowboys have to be better at fighting through it.

Loser: Dak Prescott

This was one of the worst games of Dak Prescott’s career. By far.

We have often felt that Prescott is capable of willing the Cowboys to victory or some sort of success, but on Sunday that well was empty. Prescott was off and all over the place, trying to hit home runs instead of taking what was right in front of him (which admittedly wasn’t much).

The game and blame starts and ends with Prescott. It was his first game since the Cowboys visited New England, but it was not worth remembering at all.

Loser: Results from Aggression

Dallas has been an aggressive team since Mike McCarthy took over and generally speaking the results of that have been kind of them. We saw the Cowboys fire up the aggressive engine early in this game as they went for it on a couple of fourth and shorts. While those decisions were correct, the execution was off, and the Cowboys just couldn’t pick up any momentum on offense.

Loser: Third-Down Defense

You aren’t going to win many games if you don’t get off of the field on third down. Denver was 8 of 15 on the money down and picked up a number of long ones that kept multiple drives alive.

This lines up with the idea that Dallas just wasn’t there to play on Sunday. They acted like a team that thought they could execute in critical moments simply because they wanted to. It doesn’t work that way.

Loser: Mike McCarthy

This Sunday’s loss ultimately falls at his feet. How did he not have his team ready to play? How were they so flat? Showing up and playing on fumes after big wins was a trademark of the previous coaching regime and last week’s win made us all believe we were well beyond that.

What’s more is that either out of pride, or whatever other inexplicable reason, McCarthy and Co. kept their starters in this game well after it was already decided. Keep in mind that this is the same coaching staff who did not play Dak Prescott last week (rightly so) so as to protect him from himself and prioritize the rest of the season. How does having Dak out there, taking hits, in garbage time line up with that philosophy?

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