All winning streaks are bound to end, and the Cowboys streak of four games won in a row ended as they were defeated in overtime by the Jaguars. It may have come as a surprise to many how the game finished, but Jacksonville is trending upward as they have won three out of their last four games. With the recent injury to the Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, it appears that the Jaguars are in a good position to make this year’s playoffs. The silver lining for Dallas is they lost in overtime to a team who might just sneak into postseason football. Either way, losing football games are never fun and given how Week 15’s game ended, it was brutal.
In the first half of this contest, Dallas seemed to be firing on all cylinders and they led 21-7 going into halftime. The Cowboys looked good for the majority of the third quarter as well as they led the Jaguars 27-10 with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter. The last 20:21 of regulation, the tides turned in a major way for Jacksonville. The Jaguars would score 21 unanswered points in short order to take a 31-27 lead. Dallas finally responded after the 21-point onslaught by scoring a touchdown of their own to take the lead 34-31. Jacksonville would answer and force overtime with the scored tied 34-34.
On the first Cowboys possession of overtime is where the game ended via an interception for a touchdown. Pick-six’s to lose a game is awful, but not all was bad for America’s Team this past week. Before moving forward to the Christmas Eve battle versus the Philadelphia Eagles, let’s do our stock up and stock down from the Jacksonville Jaguars game this past week.
Stock up: Dak Prescott, and his quality play versus the Jaguars
Throwing a pick-six to lose a game certainly isn’t a precursor to increasing your stock from week to week, but in the case of Dak Prescott it is. Taking a deeper dive into his performance, Prescott played very well. Sure, the box score will show that he threw two interceptions this past Sunday, but neither one was on him. The first interception came as a result of being hit while attempting to deliver the pass to tight end Dalton Schultz. As Dak was being hit, it caused the ball to sail and not get to its intended target. The second interception that resulted in the walk off pick-six was completely on wide receiver Noah Brown. Prescott threw the ball exactly where he needed to given how the defense was playing. Brown simply did not catch the pass which was essentially deflected in the air long enough for Jaguars cornerback Rayshawn Jenkins to haul it in and return it for the game winning touchdown.
Prescott is an elite quarterback in the NFL today. Dak has performed very well all season long, which is a tall task given the lack of pass catching depth on the roster. In Week 15 alone, he completed nearly 77% of his 30 pass attempts for 256 yards and three touchdowns. His performance alone was one of the main catalysts for Dallas even being in the situation they were in, which was having a chance to win the game.
Stock down: What happened to this elite defense?
For the majority of this season, the Cowboys defense was the main reason why they have a 10-4 record. When Dak Prescott was injured in Week 1 and didn’t return until Week 7, the team was without its franchise quarterback for a decent chunk of the season. Cooper Rush isn’t the same caliber of player as Prescott. The team simply needed to rally around him to keep the team in contention until Dak returned from injury. This isn’t a knock on Rush, but he is limited in the things that he can do. He is a game manager, whereas Dak Prescott is a game breaker. Both types of quarterback play can be very effective, if done right. In the five games that Prescott had missed, the Cowboys put Cooper Rush in right situation to succeed as he went 4-1 in those five contests.
How Dallas made it work was by having the defense play out of this world and to limit the opponents scoring output. By the defense playing so well, the Cowboys could play a more conservative game on offense which is perfect, given the type of player Cooper Rush is. Even after Prescott returned, and up until recently, the defense was still playing at an elite level. The last two games in particular were not the defense’s finest performance. They’ve had some moments of greatness in the two most recent contests, but not to the level they had prior. This is still a quality defense, but with the recent rash of injuries, the depth has been exposed.
The interior of the defensive line took a step back with the injury to run-stuffer Johnathan Hankins. In the most recent game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cowboys defense gave up nearly 200 yards on the ground on only 27 attempts. At an average of 7.1 yards per carry, the Jaguars simply ran all over the Dallas defense. Not to be outdone, the secondary, which has also seen its share of injuries, was under attack. Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence showed this past Sunday as to why he was drafted number one just a short time ago. He lit up this secondary to the tune of 318 yards and four touchdowns. Of those four touchdowns thrown by Lawrence, three of them were caught by wide receiver Zay Jones. Jones, who’s father Robert was a former first-rounder of the Cowboys, put on a show against his old man’s former team and added 109 yards to his three touchdowns on the day.
With both the interior of the defensive line and secondary not playing well due to injury, it has caused this unit to fall off compared to how elite they were earlier in the season. The Cowboys front office has made some moves recently to patch up these issues, but it remains to be seen what will come of these moves. Thankfully, Dallas has a few games left in 2022 to remedy these issues in hopes of a nice playoff run. Let’s just hope that the patch work done by the front office is good enough to get the job done in the postseason.