Things did not go as planned for the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17. The defense with a seemingly bottomless hunger for turnovers found itself starved, while the offense regressed like it has for much of the second half of the season. After the game, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, Randy Gregory, and CeeDee Lamb each cast blame toward the officials. Mike McCarthy also expressed his frustrations.
Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence said they were facing two teams in Sunday’s 25-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals: “I know it’s a possibility that we see both of these teams (Arizona and the officials) in the playoffs.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 3, 2022
(Video: @dallascowboys) pic.twitter.com/FUmN4Ac4YD
There’s no question the officiating crew missed numerous calls, many of which hurt the Cowboys, Including a would-be fumble the crew declined to review and Dallas was unable to challenge thanks to having already burned its final timeout. None of that, however, changes the numerous self-inflicted wounds the Cowboys committed throughout the game that ultimately cost them.
Micah Parsons: “We just have to be better…Things we have to clean up. We beat ourselves.” pic.twitter.com/AbBBbxr7nw— Brianna Dix (@DixBrianna) January 3, 2022
The offense, one week after dropping 42 points in the first half, took 28 and a half minutes to get on the board. When at last they did, it came at the cost of their talented wideout Michael Gallup, who tore his ACL and ended his season making another sensational grab in the endzone. On no less than three occasions, big third-down conversions were wiped off the board by a holding penalty and, with infractions coming from every lineman not named Zack Martin. Dak had four passes batted back in his face at the line of scrimmage. CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper, who should have had a field day against the Cardinal secondary, totaled just six catches for 69 yards. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard saw just 12 carries for a combined 25 yards.
The defense, the unquestioned strength of this team the past few weeks, faltered to a degree. It wasn’t just the failure to generate needed turnovers, it was the failure to get off the field on third-down, something it has done better than any other team in the league throughout the season. Entering the day, the Dallas defense was allowing opponents to convert just 31.2 percent of their third-down attempts. The Cardinals, however, converted seven of their first 11 attempts and roughly 50 percent on the day.
You aren’t going to win many games playing that poorly, so the idea of blaming the loss on the refs seems a little misguided. Dallas players and coaches have commented on the officials before following a game, and we observed the team may be playing with fire through such comments. Whether or not you believe that has come to pass in games like Las Vegas or Sunday against the Cardinals, the fact remains that the core leadership would be better served by sending a different message to the rest of the locker room.
From the moment he was drafted, Micah Parsons has surprised and impressed through his leadership, work ethic, and mindset. That’s continued to be the case even now. He has been everything this team needed on the field and in the locker room.
Micah Parsons: “That fumble, at the end of the day it is what it is. It shouldn’t have to come down to one play to decide the game. It’s determined on the whole fourth quarter, not one play.”— Brianna Dix (@DixBrianna) January 3, 2022
Whether or not Dallas can get its head straight and bounce back after Sunday’s game remains to be seen, but between Parsons’s play and growing voice as a leader on this team, his message of getting back to work should go a long way.
On potentially facing Arizona again in the playoffs, Micah Parsons: “I don’t care who I play, I’ll line up against anybody.”— Brianna Dix (@DixBrianna) January 3, 2022