We are down to the final four teams in the NFL and unfortunately the Dallas Cowboys are not one of them.
The first weekend of football void of America’s Team was at least interesting and full of drama. Watching all four games there were a lot of us who felt like Dallas would have honestly struggled to contend, especially with the likes of Buffalo and Kansas City.
We discussed the Divisional Round and where the Cowboys stand entering the second week of the offseason on the latest episode of 1st and 10 on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure you subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
Ultimately, it does feel like each of the final four teams would beat the Cowboys in a game of significance, and while that is not fun to admit or say out loud, if we can come to terms with it then we can hopefully figure out how to narrow the gap. That’s what this time of year is all about.
So what can the Cowboys learn from the teams who made it to Conference Championship Sunday? Here are four of them.
Superstars show up this time of year, something that didn’t happen with the Cowboys
If you watched any part of the Divisional Round then you saw a lot of big-time names do big-time things.
When it comes to the playoffs, a team has to get great performances from their superstars if they want to move on, that’s what makes superstars superstars. Ja’Marr Chase was pivotal for the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday and Deebo Samuel continued to be all-world for the San Francisco 49ers later in the evening. Sunday saw Cooper Kupp with the huge gain to set up the game-winning kick for the Los Angeles Rams while Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill continued to defy all of the odds for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Obviously quarterbacks have to play well, but superstars on the team that are supposed to be difference-makers simply have to be. Dallas did not get any performance of note from the likes of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, or Ezekiel Elliott in their own playoff game. Those have to be the players making the difference and proving to be enough. It is essential.
A lot can be done in a short amount of time if you are talented enough
Down by three points with just 13 seconds left the season looked over for the Kansas City Chiefs. Somehow, some way, the Chiefs did it again and drove 44 yards and actually only took up 10 seconds of game clock in the process. Again, amazing.
Being totally fair, it is worth mentioning that Kansas City had two timeouts to work with and “only” needed a field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime. Still, though, there were plenty of Cowboys fans wondering how the Chiefs could do so much more in 13 ticks than what Dallas could with one more than that near the end of the game against San Francisco.
You can call it unfair or say that this is hindsight or maybe even just chalk it up to Dallas not being Kansas City, but at the end of the day the Chiefs moved 44 yards with relative ease and did it both efficiently and in a manner that preserved time for them to tie the game. The way that the Cowboys handled their final possession was nothing like this, especially in that their superstars did not rise on the all-important possession the way that Kelce and Hill did for Kansas City as already mentioned.
Going out and acquiring veteran help can give you solid depth
The Los Angeles Rams have been looked at as a team constantly willing to go all-in in the name of sacrificing draft capital. This is not a new development.
But this season was no different for the Rams as they traded for Von Miller before the deadline and signed Odell Beckham Jr. when he was made available. They are always looking for ways to improve their team and unafraid of taking on contracts, loss of draft capital, or whatever else.
Miller and Beckham have both been important contributors to L.A.’s cause and they find themselves in the title game. The idea that players can be brought in through methods like this mid-season seems a little bit lost on the Cowboys (although they did trade for Michael Bennett at the midpoint two years ago) and they would do well to adopt a philosophy similar to this.
Running it all back is rarely enough
This sort of goes hand in hand with our previous point, but it is amazing how this particular lesson is one that teams don’t know by now. You cannot just bring everybody back and expect things to be different because you want them to be.
Look at the Green Bay Packers for example. While they have looked under rocks in free agency in recent years in ways that they historically haven’t, they still ultimately brought back the same nucleus of players for another season and were hopeful that they could somehow get past the NFC Championship Game where their season had ended two years in a row prior to Saturday night.
But even a team as talented as the Packers cannot do that. You constantly have to improve and always have to treat things as starting over from square one. Every season demands that you climb the mountain all over again which is why many are concerned that Dallas may be content with just giving things the same go because they were sort of close in 2021.
Looking at the four title teams they have all made notable changes to their offense or defense in the last year. The Rams acquired Miller and Beckham as mentioned, but they also traded for Matthew Stafford a year ago. San Francisco traded all the way into the top three of the draft and while they aren’t exactly riding Trey Lance’s success to this point, their success shows that being willing to dance doesn’t carry a risk that can’t be overcome.
Speaking of risk, there were many who felt that the Cincinnati Bengals made a mistake in taking Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell, but Chase has completely changed the potency of their offense and unlocked it as a whole. Kansas City has Patrick Mahomes, so running it back with him isn’t exactly a bad idea, but they toyed with their defense and even midway through the year brought in Melvin Ingram who has been so important to them.
You have to be willing to change and adapt. If you stay the same then odds are your results will as well.