With just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Dallas Cowboys held a 27-10 lead over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and seemed to be in firm control of the contest. That was until the Jaguars woke up and scored 21 points unanswered to make the score Jacksonville 31 and Dallas 27 with 10:03 left in the fourth quarter. After trailing for the first time all game, the Cowboys would put together a quality drive that totaled 75 yards on 13 plays to take back the lead 34-31 with just over three minutes remaining in regulation.
All appeared well when Dallas safety Jayron Kearse forced a fumble while Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence was in scramble mode. That fumble was recovered by who else, Micah Parsons, with 1:38 left in the game. What a tremendous sequence for the Cowboys defense to close out the game, until the offense followed it up with an awful sequence. That sequence was so awful, that the Jaguars defense forced a three and out with one timeout to spare. Dallas could’ve exhausted all of Jacksonville’s timeouts by simply running the ball three times, but chose on third down to throw a very low percentage pass downfield to Noah Brown that fell incomplete.
With just over a minute remaining, Trevor Lawrence got his shot at redemption after the previous drive ended in him fumbling the ball. On the fifth play of what would be the final drive in regulation, Evan Engram caught a pass for five yards and initially was ruled that he was tackled in the field of play which resulted in the Jaguars using their final timeout. A review ensued which acted as an unofficial timeout that resulted in the reversal of the original call that Engram was tackled in bounds. Jacksonville during the review not only would receive their final timeout back, but essentially got another unofficial timeout as well. Quite the tough break for the Cowboys with those series of events.
From there, Lawrence would complete a pass to Zay Jones to get into field goal range with just five ticks remaining. Jaguars kicker Riley Patterson would be called upon to make a 48-yard field goal as time expired to send the game to overtime. Overtime is where the wheels would fall off for the Cowboys. Dak Prescott threw a pass that was intended for Noah Brown which would end up in the hands of Jacksonville safety Rayshawn Jenkins. Jenkins would then take back the interception for a pick-six which would end the game. A walk-off pick-six thrown by the franchise quarterback is a tough way to lose the game. Given how things played out, this week’s grades will be an interesting one.
Opposite of CeeDee Lamb, the receiving weapons are lacking and it showed
The final play of Week 15 obviously was not what Dak Prescott and company had in mind. Prescott, unfortunately, had two costly interceptions which both would result in two touchdowns for the Jaguars. The first interception occurred when Prescott was hit from behind which affected the throw that was intended for tight end Dalton Schultz. The second interception was on a pass that wide receiver Noah Brown simply didn’t catch, and as a result of the deflection stayed in the air long enough for the defender to come down with the pick.
Prescott is not the reason for this loss, as he played a quality game overall. With the lack of a true WR2, Prescott managed to complete nearly 77% of his passes for a total of 256 yards. He had three touchdowns during the game as well. With the Cowboys front office clearly making a point to improve the wide receiver room, hopefully the moves being made will result in shoring up the deficiencies among this group. Noah Brown brings a lot to the team, but he simply is not a number two wide out in the NFL.
The normally reliant ground game underwhelmed on Sunday as the dynamic duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combined for 133 yards, but it took 35 total carries to get to that mark. The longest run of the game was from Pollard as he gained 21 yards. Aside from that, it was mostly tough sledding in the run game. The offense did show more balance as they ran the ball a total of 41 times versus only throwing it 30 times. Those type of numbers typically result in a better chance at winning games, but unfortunately some unlucky breaks and good play by the Jaguars resulted in the downfall of the Cowboys in Week 15.
Injuries along the interior of the defensive line and secondary reared its ugly head
Dallas did improve in one area in Week 15 versus the prior week, and that was by recording one sack of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence. That sack total should be much higher than that, but Lawrence was able escape on multiple occasions. With the mobility of Lawrence on full display, he was able to make plays both with his feet and, more importantly, with his arm. Lawrence exposed the porous Cowboys secondary to the tune of 318 yards and four touchdowns. Aside from Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland, the secondary is in need of some help in a hurry.
The pass defense was not the only area that was exposed in Week 15 as the run defense looked very shaky as well. The Jaguars ground attack rushed for 192 yards on 27 carries. With an average yards per carry of over seven, Jacksonville exploited this weakness very well on Sunday. For a defense that for the majority of the year looked to be among the elite in the league, it currently stands on shaky ground and is trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time. Injuries have certainly played a role, but the backup’s have simply not performed well enough to hold the fort down. The organization has also been working to improve both areas of weakness as they have brought in a few players via free agency. What will come of those acquisitions is a major question mark as the end of the season nears. Hopefully, the front office has found some players this late in the year to come in and steady the ship enough to make a deep playoff run. If these weaknesses aren’t addressed adequately and in short order, then a repeat of last year could be in the cards.
The kicking and punting have been steady but the return game, not so much
The special teams unit overall has been the most consistent facet of the 2022 Dallas Cowboys. Kicker Brett Maher is still playing at a high level and in this most recent game made all four extra points, and also made two field goals as well with one of those being from 53 yards out. The play of Maher has been an unexpected blessing for the Cowboys.
Punter Bryan Anger is also playing at a quality level. This week alone, Anger had four boots for a total of 185 yards which came to an average of 46.3. Half of his punts resulted in the Jaguars starting inside their 20-yard line. Anger has once again had another quality season and more times then not, he can be counted on to do his job well.
The electric ability of KaVontae Turpin is obvious, but the problem with Turpin these days is his over aggressiveness to return balls that maybe he shouldn’t. Turpin is trying to make plays on every chance he gets, but sometimes taking a kneel down or fair catch is the better play. Hopefully special teams coordinator John “Bones” Fassel can work his magic and reel Turpin in a little bit while also not deterring him from returning the ball at all. There has to be a fine line where it’s okay to be aggressive, but also being judicious about it. If anyone can figure out the best approach to getting the most out of Turpin, then it is Fassel. This unit as a whole has played very well all season, and surely will be counted on in the postseason to continue their quality play when it is needed most.