It was so very shocking because it was so very unexpected. Going into the game against the Denver Broncos, the Dallas Cowboys looked to have the advantage in almost every aspect. But games aren’t played in the stat sheets, and the six-game win streak came to a crashing halt. The 30-16 win by Denver was reminiscent of the depths of 2020. And it was much worse than the final tally looked, as the score was 30-0 with only 6:32 remaining in the game before Dak Prescott got two late touchdown throws to backup WR Malik Turner that were the epitome of garbage time.
It is not hard to say what went wrong in this game, because you can pick nearly everything. Further, the different issues just combined and amplified one another. But we have to start somewhere, so let’s start with the player who drives this offense.
Dak Prescott was just not good from the start. Prior to the flurry of passes on those two meaningless late drives, he was an appalling eight completions on 23 attempts. The Cowboys only had 64 yards passing in the first half. Again, before that late garbage time work, they only converted one of nine third downs, and failed on all four of their fourth-down attempts. That is about as futile as you can get, reminiscent of the way their own defense shut down the Minnesota Vikings just the week before. Not only were they not sustaining drives to get points on the board, they were forcing the defense to spend a ton of time on the field. At the end of the third quarter, the Broncos had held the ball for 32:15 to only 12:45 for Dallas.
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.
Coming into the game, the coaching staff elected to move Terence Steele over to left tackle while reinstalling La’el Collins at right. It did not go well at all, as Steele was constantly being pushed back and beaten, even with Von Miller no longer wearing orange. Prescott would only be sacked twice, but he was constantly having to evade pressure. Only his great athleticism allowed him to avoid more sacks. And when he was on the move, he was not making the kinds of throws the team has come to depend on. It did not help that both Tony Pollard and Amari Cooper, who just have not mishandled passes all season, each had drive-killing drops in the game. With the Cowboys falling behind quickly, the running game was less valuable, but it was not doing much even when it was called on. Further, there were some puzzling play calls on third and fourth down, when Dallas frequently went to the pass in short yardage. Some of that may have been the decisions Prescott was making as he went long on several when all he needed was a couple of yards to extend the drives.
It did seem that the offense was pressing too hard at times. The defense may have been doing the same, or was just outplayed, as Denver ran at will much of the game, amassing 190 yards, led by Javonte Williams who had 111. Melvin Gordon added 80 and a touchdown. Both of them seemed nearly impossible to bring down at times, carrying two and three defenders for extra yards. The worst example of this was when Williams was in the hands of Justin Hamilton, who tried to throw him to the ground. Instead, Williams spun and kept his feet, getting 30 yards on the carry on the way to a field goal.
While the Cowboys did get four sacks of Teddy Bridgewater, too often they failed to get to him, including the beautiful 44-yard touchdown he threw to Tim Patrick in the second quarter that opened up a 13-0 lead and really started things going downhill for Dallas. Patrick would go on to have big game with 85 yards on just four catches, and every one outside the touchdown kept drives alive.
Trevon Diggs had a bad game as well, getting flagged twice. He did have one pass breakup late, but overall it was his worst performance of the season. But he was hardly alone, as the offensive line for Denver just kept opening big holes for the backs. That is particularly disturbing given that the Broncos were without three of their starters by the end of the game.
There were few bright spots in the game, but Micah Parsons continued his drive to be defensive rookie of the year. He had two and a half sacks, an additional tackle for a loss, ten overall tackles, and three QB hits. The special teams had two outstanding plays, but both were wasted. First, Tony Pollard returned the opening kickoff 54 yards to give the Cowboys excellent field position at the Denver 47. A the first failed fourth-down conversion would make that irrelevant. Then at the beginning of the second half, Malik Turner would block the punt deep in the Broncos’ end of the field. But in a ruling that left us pounding our collective heads on the wall, Nashon Wright tried to grab the ball but failed, and since it was just past the line of scrimmage, that allowed Jonas Griffin to regain possession for Denver at their own 19 with a fresh set of downs. It would lead to another field goal for them, stretching the lead to 19-0.
It seemed as if anything could go wrong, it did at some point in this game. This one is going to be a tough one for the staff and players alike as they try and prevent a losing streak from starting. Some of us were looking at the Cowboys as one of the elite teams in the league, but this poked a serious hole in that idea. They could still prove to be very good, but clearly there are flaws that can be exploited.
Maybe it was something in the air this week, as the Atlanta Falcons upset the New Orleans Saints, the New York Giants beat the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Jacksonville Jaguars edged the Buffalo Bills. None of that changes the fact that the Cowboys took the worst beating of the day. Their task now is to put this one in the rearview mirror and get things right against those Falcons this week. Hopefully this will be a wakeup call, and not the beginning of an unraveling.