Sunday’s action in week ten for the National Football League began with the greatest quarterback of all time beating the Seahawks in Germany, as Tom Brady and the Bucs reclaimed first place in the NFC South with a win overseas. The late window on FOX was a chance for Mike McCarthy’s Dallas Cowboys to prove this year will be different in the NFC though, going up against another playoff mainstay in the Packers. It took an overtime field goal from Mason Crosby, but Aaron Rodgers and the Packers did what they’ve done to the Cowboys so many times in recent meetings.
Green Bay overcame a 28-14 fourth quarter deficit on touchdowns to Christian Watson, his second and third of the game, to force overtime and give Rodgers a chance to extend the game. It took a fourth down stop from the Packers defense on the first drive of the extra period, but Rodgers targeted rookie cornerback Daron Bland for the 36-yard backbreaking play to Alan Lazard that put the Packers in field goal range.
This setback for the Cowboys leaves them at 6-3 and third place in the NFC East, with serious doubts about where they belong among the league’s contenders. Here are a few familiar takeaways on penalties, poor run defense, and miscues in the secondary that ended the Cowboys two-game win streak.
- Coming off of the bye week, the Cowboys put an emphasis on their short passing game and high percentage throws for Dak Prescott. Their best example of this came on the first scoring drive, with CeeDee Lamb capping off a 17-play drive with a three-yard score. The longest play of the drive was also made by Lamb, a 21-yard catch on first down. If the Cowboys are going to trust the ball in the hands of Prescott and expect to sustain long drives, something that backfired with how quickly the Packers were able to score at times, they’ll need Ezekiel Elliott back in the lineup - as Tony Pollard took a career high 22 carries for 115 yards, but a long of just 14.
Both Pollard and Malik Davis ran well in this game, with Davis’ 16 yard run in overtime being erased by a Connor McGovern holding call. The Cowboys falling behind the chains here led to the crucial fourth-down incompletion to Pollard, as the Cowboys also had an offsides penalty on offense with Jalen Tolbert in overtime.
- Aaron Rodgers is no stranger to picking on the Cowboys secondary, and he exposed their lack of cornerback depth behind Trevon Diggs for every big play in this game. Anthony Brown was in single coverage on Watson’s first long touchdown, and Daron Bland gave up the overtime catch and run to Lazard that virtually ended the game. The bigger concern for Dan Quinn’s defense here may be the safety play in this game though. Donovan Wilson failed to make his normal impact either in coverage or run support, and Malik Hooker was targeted as the lone high safety multiple times.
The Cowboys best defensive looks this season have been with heavy box counts and aggressive pass rushes against obvious pass looks, which takes support from their own offense in building a lead. Even when the Cowboys did this in this game, facing the best QB they’ve seen since week one, it led to mismatches in the back end that were compounded by the Cowboys inability to stop Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon on the ground.
- Dak Prescott’s second straight interception in the first half looked eerily similar to the end of half pick he threw against the Bears, also targeting Lamb over the middle. Prescott and Lamb haven’t been on the same page for these throws, but the Cowboys WR1 did bounce back to finish with 11 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. After two straight weeks of a certain free agent receiver possibly joining the Cowboys, Lamb proved he can carry the load while the rest of the offense showed they could still use a game-breaker like Odell Beckham Jr.
Drawing coverage away from Lamb would only open up more big plays for him, instead of forcing Prescott into the tight window throws that have led to costly turnovers.
- If there is a positive to take away from how the Cowboys front seven played the run, it’s veteran linebacker Leighton Vander Esch playing through injury to match Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence with a team-high seven tackles. Vander Esch was able to set the edge on a number of plays and even lined up along the line of scrimmage to rush Rodgers on a few snaps. The Cowboys are still very much going through a transition at linebacker, with Damone Clark getting the nod in this game over Jabril Cox and Anthony Barr still injured, but it’s clear they’ll need the best version of Vander Esch in every game the rest of the way.