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Cowboys blow big lead to the Jaguars, lose 40-34 in OT and fail to clinch playoff spot

The Dallas Cowboys had every opportunity to win the game, but handed the Jaguars a victory in overtime.

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Unio / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Dallas Cowboys laid an egg with a 40-34 overtime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, blowing a chance to lock up a playoff spot. It went to overtime because they squandered a 17-point lead in the process and saw some more dreaded injuries. Dallas looked great at times but struggled at others. It was the second game in a row that was in question until the very end.

The Jaguars won the toss to start overtime, and their offense was on a roll. But the defense would stiffen with the help of a false start and force a punt. Dak Prescott would find Tony Pollard for 21 yards. Then disaster struck three plays later as Prescott threw a pick six off deflected pass out of the hands of Noah Brown that he should have caught for the first down, and the game was over.

The Cowboys elected to receive after winning the toss. As anticipated, Tyron Smith started at right tackle. He looked good to begin, but despite a 19-yard pass from Prescott to CeeDee Lamb that got them into Jaguars territory, the drive stalled outside of field goal range and had to punt. The Jaguars drove out to their own 43, but then the first big break of the game went to Dallas as Travis Etienne couldn’t get the handle on a handoff and the ball came loose. Donovan Wilson was there to pounce on the ball and the Cowboys were in business at the Jacksonville 41.

Last week, the running game was not as efficient as we have become used to, but it was clicking on this possession. Pollard had four consecutive carries to get the ball to the 18-yard line, and then Ezekiel Elliott came in to finish the drive with an eight-yard carry and a ten yard TD run. While Tyron was the big story of the week, it was a good block from Tyler Smith that sprung Elliott for the TD.

The Cowboys forced a three and out after the kickoff, with a seven-yard sack by Micah Parsons and a pass broken up by DaRon Bland.

On the ensuing punt, a foolish personal foul by Sam Williams pushed Dallas back to their own 14. But it was no problem as the Cowboys would move efficiently down the field, this time mixing the pass and the run. A pass interference drawn by Lamb would get them into Jaguars territory again, a shovel pass to Noah Brown showed that they were OK with T.Y. Hilton being inactive while he gets fully ready, and a beautiful touchdown pass to Peyton Hendershot staked Dallas to a 14-0 lead with just a tick over 13 minutes left in the second quarter. The touchdown was thrown with Tyron Smith providing protection as Prescott rolled to his right as the veteran showed he was handling the switch from LT to RT with no noticeable difficulty.

Jacksonville got their offense working with some chunk plays as Doug Pederson found plays to gash Dan Quinn’s defense. It would only take them nine plays to march down the field and score on a nine-yard Trevor Lawrence pass to Zay Jones. The drive exploited some things that the Cowboys’ defense has struggled with. Misdirection and the speed of the Jaguars made it look far too easy for them.

A good return from the end zone by KaVontae Turpin set Dallas up at their own 34. Three plays, a pass and two runs all to Elliott, got them across midfield. Jason Peters was in to spell Tyron Smith, and he allowed a sack, but a 14-yard pass to Brown kept the drive alive. Prescott would use his legs to get all the way to the one yard line, It would take two plays, but Prescott would find Brown wide open for the score on the first play after the two minute warning.

The Jaguars would go three and out again, although a drop by Christian Kirk, possibly due to Bland getting his hand on the ball, may have been the only thing that prevented a touchdown. The Cowboys had the ball at their own 23 and 1:31 to work with before half, but were unable to sustain things as Pollard would get dropped for a big loss on third and one.

Last week, it was a turnover by Turpin that would spark the Houston Texans and make the game so close. This week, the fumble by Etienne would give Dallas a boost, and they turned that into a 21-7 lead at halftime. In the first half, playing clean (they only had two penalties) would be a big factor in building the lead.

However, it wasn’t all good news. Leighton Vander Esch left the game early with a reported neck injury, something that has plagued him before. He has been having arguably the best season of his career, and if he is still out next week it could be a real issue.

Jacksonville had the ball coming out of halftime, and would start hot. A 30-yard completion to Kirk would get them into Dallas territory. The defense would stiffen in the red zone, getting pressure on Lawrence to force them to settle for a 33 yard field goal to cut the Cowboys’ lead to 11.

A close call when Prescott almost got picked was rendered inconsequential by a 39-yard catch and run by Lamb, and he caught the next throw for 22. But they were unable to get it in and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Brett Maher to push the margin back to 14.

On the first play of the next Jaguars drive, another injury reared its ugly head, this time to Dorance Armstrong. He appeared to hyper-extend his knee and would go to the locker room. It took a bit of the luster off of Bland getting the fourth interception of his rookie year, giving the offense the ball at the Jacksonville 42. And yet another player would leave the field, this time Peters, forcing Tyron Smith back on the field again, but Peters would return on the next offensive series. The possession stalled, but Maher was good from 57, making it 27-10 with 5:21 left in the third quarter.

But Jacksonville would come right back, with Lawrence finding Tay Jones for a 59-yard touchdown to Zay Jones, who beat Kelvin Joseph for the score. The lead was back to 10 points and the game was far from over. Prescott would be sacked and then he would throw his tenth interception of the season as he was hit, an uncomfortable reminder of last week. That would give the Jags the ball on the Dallas 39, and it took them only one play to get to the nine-yard line as they used some misdirection again. Three plays later they would score a touchdown, this one by Marvin Jones, and suddenly the game was down to a three-point margin. The interception allowed Jacksonville to score twice in the span of two and a half minutes.

Dallas needed to get some points and were facing a long field after Turpin was only able to get the kick return out to the 19. They couldn’t get a first down and had to punt the ball back to a team that was starting to find some confidence. They immediately gashed the Cowboys with a 15-yard run up the middle. A 27-yard pass to Kirk got them quickly into field goal range. But they didn’t settle for that as Zay Jones would haul in his third TD of the game and Dallas was now trailing 31-27 with just over ten minutes left in the game.

They needed some offense, and a 25 yard catch by Lamb, who would have well over 100 yards on the day, that was mostly after the catch was a good start. Then they leaned on the run and a couple of third and one QB sneaks to get to the 29. They would get a badly needed touchdown on third and six when Prescott rolled out of pressure to find Brown in the end zone.

They had a three-point lead, but the Jaguars had 3:02 left. It would come down to the defense stopping a Jacksonville offense that had sliced through them with ease on the three previous possessions.

And then, when Lawrence was making a great play scrambling out of a near sack, he coughed the ball up and Parsons got the recovery. There was still 1:28 and the Jaguars had all three timeouts, however, and their defense was fired up as well. The Cowboys were unable to convert, with a questionable decision to go deep on third down, and Jacksonville got the ball back on their own 29 with 1:01 to play and one time out left. Donovan Wilson almost ended it, but a pass just slipped between his arms to get the Jaguars into field goal range. Riley Patterson knocked it through, and the game was into overtime.

That is where the Cowboys ended up losing on the interception return. It will be a long flight home for the Cowboys as they had a game that was in their hands, only to lose it to a very game Jacksonville team.

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