Losses are never fun. Losses with so many things that could have turned it into a win are particularly bad. That is the case for the Dallas Cowboys when we look into the stats from the Green Bay Packers game. There are some really disturbing things here. Be warned if you are squeamish.
When Dallas ran the ball
A lot of attention has been given to how the Cowboys struggled when the Packers ran the ball, and we’ll get into that later. But one thing seems clear when Dallas went to the ground game. It worked. Further, it should have been used even more.
It was almost overlooked that, aided by the snaps in overtime, Tony Pollard had 22 carries for 115 yards and a score. That was a strong 5.2 yards a carry. Clearly, the discussion during the bye about his ability to carry a heavy load was overblown. It mostly seemed to stem from a joking remark he made about being worn out against the Chicago Bears.
And had they just given him one or two more touches at the end of the lone Cowboys possession in overtime, it might have turned the game. Facing a third and three at the GB 35, Dallas passed the ball twice, unsuccessfully. That failure set Aaron Rodgers up to drive down the field easily for the winning field goal.
Pollard was not the only one showing something. Rookie Malik Davis may be carving out a real place for himself. On his five carries, he averaged 7.6 yards. He was another option the team could have used on that fatal drive. He might have been more effective given that the Packers might have been looking more to the pass with Pollard not in the backfield.
Most confusing about things, the Cowboys had Dak Prescott throw the ball 46 times. Given that he only completed 27, it seemed a clear indication they should have run even more.
One example of how they failed in play selection was the drive after Green Bay pulled to within a touchdown in the fourth quarter. They opened with an incomplete pass. Given how Prescott had been struggling a bit in this game, that was questionable. It may have been a point when trying to run and eat up clock while hopefully getting points was a better path.
The passing game showed the problem at receiver
CeeDee Lamb had an excellent game with 11 catches for 150 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He also had a play where his route running seemed to contribute directly to an interception. But he produced.
Dalton Schultz had 54 yards and a touchdown on six grabs (but was also partly involved in an interception). Michael Gallup caught four balls for 35. Everyone else was a non-factor.
That is a big problem. You can’t get much done through the air with one target the defense knows will get the most balls and a reliable tight end doing almost all the work. Unless Noah Brown gets back into the mix - he only had one catch for three yards - opponents know who they have to control to stymie the passing game.
That is why the team needs to do something. And by the team, I mean Stephen Jones. Odell Beckham may or may not be the answer, but he would at least be an attempt. Further, he could be a positive influence, despite his reputation. There is no doubt he has that dog in him. This receiver group could use a big dose of that.
Now, for the Cowboys’ defense...
They were gashed for 250 yards on the ground against the Bears. They had the bye week to fix things. They failed. The Packers got 203 yards from Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, with Jones doing the most damage with 138 yards and a TD. From here on, opponents are going to run at Dallas unless they find a way to stop them.
The problem seems to be just about everything. The line remains porous. Snap counts showed that recent addition Johnathan Hankins only played 39% of the defensive plays. That is puzzling since he seemed to boost the run defense before the bye.
One noticeable thing was Micah Parsons’ usage. According to Marcus Mosher, he only had nine pass rush attempts in the game. Likely as a way to try and stop the bleeding against the run, Parsons was mostly deployed in the off-ball role. And other teams seem to be finding ways to neutralize him by running right at him. The rest of the linebacker room is not getting the job done, either. Green Bay worked the edges very well, those edges weren’t being set by Dallas, and the pursuit was just not getting there. It continues to be a problem, and the comments by Dan Quinn on Monday hardly inspire confidence.
Cowboys DC Dan Quinn said he believes “100%” his defense has right players in place to stop run. “We have the right crew to do it.” He is “more than certain” they will get job done. pic.twitter.com/0hAoHO6bgu— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) November 14, 2022
When you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results...
The Packers leaned heavily on their running game in the first half. Rodgers only attempted six passes and had just 73 yards, although it included a touchdown. It still had them tied.
Then, like Michael Myers rising from the shadows, the second half saw Rodgers turn into the Cowboys killer we all feared he would. He converted a fourth and seven to tie the game, and found Allen Lazard to set up the game-winning field goal. After the strip sack by DeMarcus Lawrence, the pass rush only got one more sack and Rodgers was largely untouched. Trevon Diggs was neutralized by simply not throwing in his direction and the rest of the secondary failed too often.
It was a stunning failure by a defense the team leaned on so heavily early in the season. It puts a real chink in Quinn’s armor. Things must be corrected. Stat.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before - flags really hurt the Cowboys. They had nine infractions that stood against six for the Packers. And as we keep seeing, they frequently came at terrible times. Mike McCarthy was frustrated with the officials, but we are frustrated with his team. Even the special teams got into the act in this game. So far, the team doesn’t know how to fix it.
As mentioned at the beginning, there were so many times things could have gone Dallas’ way, but didn’t. The wasted possession starting at the GB 10 was the first. They would just pile up. The Cowboys still have a reasonably easy looking way to the playoffs, but it just got harder than it should be. The bad numbers just paint a picture of how it happened.