Well, that was unexpected.
The Dallas Cowboys looked like a team that shouldn’t have gotten off the plane for this football game Sunday afternoon.
The Bills made everything look easy on both sides of the ball against Dallas. Doing so resulted in a 31-10 rout.
This team on the road is not the same when they are playing at home, and depending on what happens in Miami next week, I may be on my last leg.
Let’s see what team shows up next week against the Dolphins.
Even in the game they lost on the road at Philly, at least they showed up.
What I just saw from them today, was a team that was full of themselves, and they deserve everything that is coming to them.
The Bills looked like a team that needed to win a game to keep their playoff hopes alive, while Dallas got news about an hour before kick off that they clinched a playoff spot and didn’t care about this game.
– The Cowboys currently have 195 total yards. (had 197 in Week 5 at SF)
– DAL had 182 total yards in Week 18, 2022 at WAS
— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) December 18, 2023
While there is more than enough blame to go around, it was not the finest showing from these three payers.
2. Dallas Cowboys to blame: Mike McCarthy was a disaster
The Mike McCarthy resurgence came crashing back down to earth on Sunday. Ever since McCarthy took over play-calling duties from Kellen Moore — who is now a member of the Los Angeles Chargers staff — Dallas has been excellent offensively. Prescott was considered the MVP frontrunner entering Sunday’s game. Then, disaster struck.
Tony Pollard averaged over four yards per carry but received just 11 of those, and recorded only two catches. McCarthy’s unwillingness to use Pollard consistently, especially in the red zone, has been a sore spot for fantasy football players all year long. In this case, it came back to haunt Dallas in an actual game.
Prescott looked downright bad and turned the ball over once as compared to no touchdowns. Dallas was down early, and as a result was forced to throw the ball far too often in a tough environment. Not all of that is on McCarthy, but his redemption arc has come to a halt for now.
Bullied & Buffaloed: Dallas Cowboys’ Worst Game of Year in Collapse at Bills; Top 10 Whitty Observations - Richie Whitt, Sports Illustrated
There are plenty of negative observations in this one.
4. DAK, DERAILED - Sorry, Cam Newton, he’s still not merely a “game manager.” But Sunday’s pathetic performance certainly harpooned Dak Prescott’s MVP candidacy. While the Niners’ Brock Purdy threw for another four touchdowns in an easy win, Prescott had by far his worst game of the season. With his “Texas Coast Offense” quick rhythm completely jostled by Buffalo’s constant pass rush, he went 21 of 34 for only 134 yards and an interception (with two more dropped picks). The Cowboys entered the game having scored 33+ points in six of seven, but against the Bills produced their fewest yards (92) through three quarters since 2010 and their lowest total since the blowout loss in San Francisco.
3. FINAL FLING - The game essentially ended on Dallas’ first drive of the second half. Down 21-3 and facing 3rd-and-1 at their 38-yard line, the Cowboys didn’t try to get the first down but instead went for a get-us-back-in-the-game-right-now home run. Run the ball there. If they don’t get it, run it again on fourth down to keep the ball, and hopefully build some momentum. Instead, McCarthy’s call felt greedy, if not panicky. Prescott dropped back looking for CeeDee Lamb, but was sacked for a 10-yard loss that forced a punt. Buffalo took possession and marched 15 plays for a field goal and a three-touchdown lead. Ball. Game.
If you want to relive this beatdown, here you go.
Buffalo’s third drive of the game again got some help from the Cowboys. With the Bills punting on fourth-and-8 at their own 26-yard line, Sam Williams broke through the line and leaped to try to block the punt. Instead, he missed and in turn ran into punter Sam Martin for a 15-yard penalty.
Given the free first down, the Bills dug the hole a little deeper. Buffalo finished up the first quarter with a 24-yard run by Cook before continuing its trek in the second frame all the way to the goal line, the drive taking 11 plays to go 86 yards. The score came when quarterback Josh Allen rolled to his right before hitting Cook in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass.
The Cowboys weren’t about to back down yet, however, and came out with some punishment of their own. Prescott threw a honey of a 16-yard pass to CeeDee Lamb along the left sideline to move the chains on third-and-4, which was then followed by some power running from Rico Dowdle and Tony Pollard. And while the drive stalled at the Buffalo 14-yard line, out came rookie Brandon Aubrey to split the uprights on a 32-yard field goal to get Dallas on the board.
But the Bills would come right back and add to their point total. And this time they got a little aid from the officials. Although Diggs hauled in a pass from Allen and dove for the first down, replays showed that Cowboys linebacker Markquese Bell clearly punched the ball free with safety Donovan Wilson recovering the fumble. But the refs missed it and Buffalo quickly got off its next play before Dallas could throw the challenge flag.
And for a third time, the Bills took advantage of the extra help, eventually finishing their 11-play drive in the end zone to up their lead to 21-3 at the half. Cook reeled off a 20-yard run to the Dallas 1-yard line with Allen then taking it himself off left guard for the touchdown.
At the break, Dallas had totaled only 89 yards of offense on 26 plays while Cook alone had earned 146 yards of scrimmage on 17 touches for Buffalo. Unsurprisingly, the Cowboys were facing their largest deficit at the half in three years.
Cowboys-Bills takeaways: Dallas’ playoff-clinching party spoiled by James Cook, Buffalo - Calvin Watkins, DMN
What is your takeaway from Sunday’s action?
Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins missed the game with a high-ankle sprain and safety Malik Hooker was inactive, also with an ankle injury. The replacements didn’t fare well. The Cowboys’ run defense, a struggle already coming in, was embarrassed by the Bills. Running back James Cook rushed for 179 yards and one score. The Cowboys allowed a season-high 266 yards rushing. With 11:52 left in the fourth quarter, Cook had 179 rushing yards and the Cowboys had just 97 yards of total offense. Mazi Smith, the rookie defensive tackle who was progressing according to coach Mike McCarthy, didn’t look the part with extensive snaps in his first NFL start. It was also a poor performance by the other interior linemen, Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gallimore and Chauncey Golston. The hybrid safeties employed by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn were also pushed around and missed run fits. It was a sad performance on many levels.
Injury to watch
The Cowboys suffered a major loss when starting right guard Zack Martin went down with a left quadriceps injury after he got hit by Buffalo’s Gregory Rousseau in the first quarter. T.J. Bass replaced him and he wasn’t a problem during this contest. During the game, safety Donovan Wilson and linebacker Damone Clark left in the first half after getting nicked up but returned. The loss of Martin is something to monitor because you want a healthy offensive line heading into this stretch of the season.
In more positive news.
The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of work to do in order to secure their sixth Lombardi trophy. Winners of five in a row as they enter their Week 15 contest withthe Buffalo Bills, the team is looking to prove their worth with a road win over another championship contender. It would be great if they could somehow hold onto the NFC East No. 1 spot over the next month, and even better if they could somehow take over the pole position in the conference.
But the first step in all of that is making the playoffs, and now they’ve officially done that. Thanks to the results from the games before their kickoff, Dallas has done so. The combination of the Atlanta Falcons losing to the Carolina Panthers, the Green Bay Packers losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit’s Saturday night win over Denver brings Dallas their third consecutive playoff berth.
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