The Dallas Cowboys finished off their 2022 regular season by losing a stinker to the Washington Commanders by a score of 26-6. The good news is that it meant absolutely nothing in the playoff seedings as both Philadelphia and San Francisco won their games on Sunday. A Cowboys victory would have helped them none.
The bad news, however, is that the Cowboys played a terrible football game and that is not how they would have liked to close out the regular season. There wasn’t a lot to be happy about in this one, but there are plenty of things to discuss. Here are 10 thoughts on the Cowboys' disappointing finale against the Commanders.
1. An atrocious start
This game started off horribly. After getting one first down on their opening drive, Cowboys punt Bryan Anger mishandled the snap, causing him to be tackled at his own 20-yard line. The Commanders wasted no time capitalizing as rookie quarterback Sam Howell found Terry McLaurin for a 16-yard touchdown two plays later. It was Howell’s first NFL pass.
2. The sloppiness continues
On the Cowboys' second possession, they went three-and-out after a T.Y. Hilton drop and Dak Prescott sack. The defense held, forcing a three-and-out themselves, but unfortunately, the Cowboys gave the ball right back when Pro Bowl punter KaVonta Turpin muffed the punt giving the Commanders the ball at the Cowboys 15-yard line.
3. Not-so-special teams
Dallas had some early game miscues on special teams, but Washington wasn’t a whole lot better. Kicker Joey Slye missed two field goals and even shanked an extra point. The shanks were contagious as Cowboys' ever-so-reliable kicker Brett Maher even missed an extra point, his first missed PAT of the season. Washington’s punt returner, Dax Milne, also had a muff of his own but was fortunate enough to jump on it right away allowing the Commanders to keep the ball.
4. A glimmer of hope
Despite starting the game trailing 13-0, the Cowboys appeared as if they might be flipping on a switch as they put together a nice 14-play, 77-yard drive at the end of the first half. In a drive that featured a time-consuming quarterback sneak and a false start that wasn’t enforced, the Cowboys strung together some nice plays and capped it off with a CeeDee Lamb touchdown catch. At the time it felt like a second-half comeback might be in the works for the Cowboys, but little did we know that was the high point in the game for us.
5. Dak just never got going
It’s been a tumultuous season for Dak Prescott. Overall on the year, he’s played well, but he’s had stints this season where he has been off-target with his wide receivers. On Sunday, Prescott had one of the worst games of his career. He was throwing the ball high at times and he was throwing the ball behind his receivers at other times. Even when he was given a mulligan after almost throwing a pick-six on a scramble drill, he turned around and threw a pick-six on the very next play. Prescott finished the game completing 14 of 37 passes for 128 yards. His 37.8% completion percentage in this game was the absolute worst of his 97 career games.
6. The no-show offense
The Cowboys' offense in general was dreadful in this game. Not only was Prescott not feeling it, but they couldn’t run the ball either. As a team, the Cowboys rushed the ball 27 times for 64 yards at a rate of just 2.4 yards per carry. The team was constantly in bad down-and-distance situations and just couldn’t convert. On the day, they finished with a total of 10 three-and-outs, which ties them with Minnesota for the most three-and-outs in a single game this season. It was as if Kellen Moore ripped out all the good plays from Sunday’s game plan and decided to save them for the postseason because nothing we saw on Sunday was remotely pleasurable.
7. Depth at cornerback remains a concern
After veteran Anthony Brown was lost to injury, the Cowboys have toyed with a handful of different players on the outside. Kelvin Joseph got the first crack at it but was benched before his first start ended. Nahshon Wright was next and looked okay last week, even coming away with an interception. On Sunday, the team experimented with veteran Trayvon Mullen and it didn’t go so well. Mullen was beaten deep on one play and was flagged for pass interference on another when he never turned around and looked for the ball. He could have been flagged for a second DPI penalty when he was a little handsy near the goalline. Rest assured, Tom Brady will be attacking the weak spot in the secondary, and seeing what we have seen over the last month, this could be a little worrisome.
8. Was anyone scoreboard-watching?
We understand that entering this game, the Cowboys had a small chance of improving their playoff positioning and that meant they were going to bring the fight to Washington. However, with San Francisco winning convincingly over Arizona there would be no first-round bye for Dallas, meaning they’re playing a football game next week. Additionally, the Eagles were up big on a Giants team that was playing their reserves. With all of their small windows closing in, why were the Cowboys riding this thing out to the end? This brings us to...
9. No rest for the weary
Even without what was happening with Philly and San Fran, it became apparent early in the fourth quarter that the Cowboys were not going to win this game. So, why didn’t head coach Mike McCarthy pull his starters sooner? The Cowboys have been forced to survive without Prescott in each of the last three seasons. Why keep playing him and putting their most important offensive player at risk? And speaking of important players, Micah Parsons looked gassed midway through the second quarter. Would it kill them to give the guy a little time to recharge before the playoffs roll around?
10. A new NFC division winner... again
It’s so weird the NFC East just can’t seem to have a repeat division winner. Even when the Cowboys put together back-to-back good seasons, one of their rivals (usually Philadelphia) just has a slightly better record and keeps the non-repeat streak alive.