At one point on Sunday afternoon the Dallas Cowboys led by 17 points. Their 11th win of the season seemed secure and we were all fantasizing about the Chicago Bears holding on against the Philadelphia Eagles in hopes of setting up a true battle on Christmas Eve.
But then all hell broke loose. The Cowboys went three and out twice in the fourth quarter, including with an opportunity to ice things near the very end of regulation. The defense that everybody is now questioning pitched a three and out to start overtime, and an unfortunate Noah Brown tip led to the long week that we are just now starting.
We broke down the state of things with the Cowboys following the Jacksonville loss on the latest episode of 1st and 10 on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
Given Sunday’s results (including the Eagles holding on against Chicago) we are not looking forward to an NFC East matchup that could potentially swing things on Saturday. Now we are looking at a Cowboys team that has already clinched a playoff spot but has done so with a close eye on the NFC South given that they will very likely visit the division’s winner in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs.
Before we can get anywhere near that, though, we have to tie a bow on what happened in Duval County. Contrary to popular belief, the Cowboys did not play the worst football game of all time and there was actually a ton of good that came from them. Unfortunately, the fact that they lost makes that a bitter pill to swallow.
Stock Up: Ezekiel Elliott
The Cowboys have not been running the ball as effectively as they were earlier in the season but that is certainly not for lack of effort on the players’ part. Ezekiel Elliott is playing his best December football in a long time.
These are the kinds of statistics that ring hollow after a loss but Zeke has now scored a touchdown in seven straight games. He is going to be a critical piece of what the Cowboys are able to accomplish in the postseason assuming things don’t combust entirely before then.
Stock Up: Micah Parsons
Micah Parsons entered the Jaguars game with a few quieter days in the box score in the rearview mirror but he changed that rather quickly with a sack early on. The takedown of Trevor Lawrence gave Parsons 13 sacks on the season, tying his career-high (a very short career that has been tremendous).
Parsons also had the fumble recovery late in the game that we all thought was going to secure the bag as the kids like to say. While he did not get a second sack (this was his first game this season with only one) he did constantly pressure Trevor Lawrence. The arrow is pointing up as usual with him.
Stock Up: DaRon Bland
We are going to get to more of the cornerback position in a bit, but it is very difficult to not be over-the-moon excited about DaRon Bland right now. Had the Cowboys won he would have had an argument for the team’s game ball.
While the Cowboys are struggling outside (more on that in a bit as mentioned) DaRon Bland has really helped the team survive the loss of Jourdan Lewis. All credit to him.
Stock Up: CeeDee Lamb
It was lost in the fold of everything but CeeDee Lamb surpassed 1,000 yards on the season in Jacksonville and was as reliable as he could possibly be. Among players with at least three targets in the game he was the only one who caught every single one (he was a perfect 7 for 7).
This game was very similar to the Green Bay Packers loss especially in that the Cowboys surrendered a big-time lead late. And just like that game, Lamb had a heroic performance that was ultimately in vain. Consider that he had 126 yards receiving and that every other pass-catcher combined had 130.
Stock Up: Tyron Smith
Also lost in Sunday’s madness was the fact that Tyron Smith played right tackle for the Dallas Cowboys! In the year 2022! And he did it very well!
The Jaguars loss stings a lot but it served as proof of concept for this offensive line combination that the Cowboys are trying to work with heading into the playoffs. That is objectively exciting.
Volatile Stock: Dak Prescott
Thanks to how this game ended we had to invent a new category here called volatile stock. The idea is it is a player who is, and was, all over the place both in terms of performance and reception.
Dak Prescott had one of the best games of his season in some ways. Look at this.
But the second half happened as well and he deserves criticism for that. His first interception was tough to take and he touched the ball with a chance to ice the game (similar to how he could have led a comeback drive late in regulation at Green Bay as well) and ultimately led a drive that lasted three plays. There was good and bad, but the discourse has been all over the place.
The Cowboys lost and did so on an interception that was returned for a touchdown, but it was hardly Dak Prescott’s fault.
Sometimes the narrative doesn't fit the film. pic.twitter.com/9w0UGNJwzR— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) December 19, 2022
Multiple things can be true. In this case it can be true that Dak was very good for much of the game but certainly had some moments that he would like back, and some that he’d like back that were not at all his fault.
Volatile Stock: Noah Brown
This new category has a second name this week and it is Noah Brown. He was so wonderful for so much of Sunday’s game.
For much of Sunday we were collectively wondering if Brown was going to completely fight off T.Y. Hilton for snaps and just how much Odell Beckham Jr. could offer that was more than him. Those moments were real and Brown deserved all of the credit that we gave to him. Again, that is one true thing.
Unfortunately, it is also true that Brown was the primary reason for the pick six in that he let the ball bounce off of his hands. You simply cannot do that. He took ownership for it after the game, for what it’s worth.
Don’t let it be volatile.
Stock Down: Anthony Barr
Anthony Barr has been a welcome addition to the Cowboys this season but he got picked on a ton by the Jaguars and the Cowboys suffered as a result of it.
Truth be told it doesn’t seem like any of us truly realized how much Leighton Vander Esch meant to the stability of the defense overall (more on that soon). Hopefully Barr bounces back.
Stock Down: Kelvin Joseph
What is there to say? He is the worst starter on the team at this point. Even if we limit it to just football here, he has been an objectively awful second-round draft pick by the organization.
The Cowboys are forced to rely more on Joseph outside thanks to Anthony Brown being out for the season and it is the most obvious weakness within their team (not that they do not have any others right now). He is going to cost them greatly unless something changes, and he was benched near the very end of the game so maybe something will. He is a liability at this point.
Stock Down: Previous opinions about Leighton Vander Esch and Anthony Brown
This feels like recycling the last two points, but Leighton Vander Esch and Anthony Brown have taken a lot of criticism over the years and it is very obvious that they are both very missed by the defense as a whole. The group has stars like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs but football remains a team game and you are only as strong as your weakest link.
With Barr and Joseph having to fill their roles the Cowboys are a weaker group. Unfortunately opposing offenses know that and are not letting up from attacking them.