The Dallas Cowboys have had a couple of wild finishes over the past two weeks as the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars have proved to be tougher to handle than expected. The Cowboys dodged defeat against their in-state rivals last week after a great goal-line stand followed by a sensational game-winning drive.
After once again struggling in the second half, we thought the Cowboys' offense pulled off yet another game-winning drive, only this time that clutch defensive stop fell just out of their grasp. Why was it so difficult for the Cowboys? Let’s examine what we can learn after watching the All-22 game film.
Since the defense was mostly responsible for this fallout, let’s defer and look at them first.
After what we’ve been accustomed to seeing this year, it was shocking to watch the Cowboys' defense give up a 500-yard game, especially to a middling Jaguars offense. To be fair, the Jags' offense has been riding a little hot lately, putting up 28+ points in three of their last four games. They’ve won all three of those games.
Doug Pederson had the Cowboys' defense scrambling around as he used a lot of misdirection and punished the team’s uncontrolled tendencies of overrunning the play. This Cowboys’ defense has feasted in the backfield due to their tenacity, but it’s almost as if teams are starting to figure them out as they continue to take advantage of the team’s impulsive ways.
Opposing offense's game plan around the Cowboys impulse to take their shot for the big tackle-for-a-loss and the defense is getting suckered in more and more often. It's not fun to watch. Please fix this. pic.twitter.com/D1OM2FIU17— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 20, 2022
The Jaguars had a blocker on the edge ready to escort the Cowboys' defenders inside, causing them to just be out of their reach. The Cowboys were so close to making tackles for losses or even sacks, but bad angles and the super-slipperiness of the Jaguars' ball carriers made it extremely difficult.
The Cowboys are going to need a stronger team effort to secure the edges. Linebackers Anthony Barr and Damone Clark can’t afford to have any missteps in their path toward the ball and the defensive backs need to shed blockers and wrap up. They are also going to need a better effort from the cornerbacks as Trevon Diggs waits for the action to come to him and Kelvin Joseph seems to get washed out on every play.
Speaking of Joseph, outside of being completely fooled on that big touchdown play, he didn’t seem all that bad after re-watching the tape. The coaching staff obviously felt differently as he was benched in favor of Nahshon Wright at a crucial point in the game.
Just a few clips of Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright. Other than the grab/burnt toast play on the double move, I didn't see a lot of bad stuff in coverage from either. Wright was a little more cautious which isn't a bad thing. He needs to watch the contact down the field. pic.twitter.com/M3EPM2DKOB— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 20, 2022
While Joseph and Wright might make us nervous, at least we can take solace in the fact that rookie DaRon Bland continues to show up and make plays.
I absolutely love DaRon Bland.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 20, 2022
The length, the closing ability, the awareness to turn around and make a play on the ball at the last second. It's not sheer luck he's breaking up and picking off anything within reach. Pretty impressive for a rookie corner. pic.twitter.com/bccqSBoRNa
When the offense puts up 34 points, there shouldn’t be a lot to be upset about. As a whole, they were fine, but it’s the stale second-half performance that has us scratching our heads. And considering it was just enough off the gas to let the Jaguars come back, it was certainly noticed.
Four of the Cowboys' second-half drives netted them a collective total of three yards. Why wasn’t the Cowboys' offense able to be effective in the second half? Well, there are a few theories rolling around, involving the performance of Dak Prescott, the plays Kellen Moore was drawing up, and the receiver's ability to get open. After looking at the All-22 film, what can we deduce?
There is a lot of debate about the performance of Dak Prescott, the playcalling, and the receiver's ability to create separation, so I decided to add the 2.3-second shot clock on the All-22 film to see what it shows us. You can decide for yourself. pic.twitter.com/JJYfs1vvpX— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 20, 2022
It was strange seeing Prescott take off out of the pocket so much, which brought out even more questions. Was the offensive line a little shaky or was Dak just playing scared?
Dak Prescott didn't trust his protection and broke the pocket quite a bit in this game. What was up with that? Was the protection breaking down that fast? Or was there nothing downfield? Or did he just panic? Let's add the 2.3-second clock and decide for ourselves. pic.twitter.com/Ndh1VroNwq— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 20, 2022
Watching closely, there were times when the Cowboys’ tackles (both Tyler Smith and Jason Peters) were being driven into Dak’s path. Was there enough time for Dak to deliver good throws? Yes, but he could feel the pressure and it made him a little get out of dodge a little early. When Prescott was decisive, they were able to move the ball.
The offense had some nice play designs to get the ball out of Dak's hands quickly. I know it's not sexy, but I would've preferred more of this dink and dunk as long as the Jags defense was giving them so much space. pic.twitter.com/lCPOZqEiv3— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 20, 2022
Sometimes Prescott will let it rip, other times, he’ll live to fight another day. And sometimes, he’ll do both within the same play.
Dak Prescott gets plenty of heat but he also doesn't get enough credit for the "wow" stuff he does. Make sure you appreciate the little things. pic.twitter.com/C2xQiZCplg— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 20, 2022
The Jags' defense came to play, but the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore, used a lot from his toolbox. He was constantly moving guys around creating favorable matchups for his offense.
Overall, the Jaguars' coaches did a great job putting their defenders in good spots, but Kellen Moore deserves credit for finding mismatches and getting the defense to lean the wrong way. It gets a little busy at times, but there was still a lot to like about the playcalling. pic.twitter.com/fTw37EbnyD— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 20, 2022
Of course, it wasn’t all pretty for Moore. There were some headscratchers too.
Kellen did his team no favors with these play calls. It would be nice to see at least one option underneath rather than just running his receivers into coverage. This is especially helpful if you are trying to chew up some precious seconds off the clock. pic.twitter.com/YDhmi97qOQ— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 20, 2022