The Dallas Cowboys have themselves a losing streak after coming up short in a 22-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. This game wasn’t the offensive shootout many expected, but it did have some big plays. Here are 10 thoughts on this South Beach setback.
1. THE 15-PLAY NOTHINGNESS
The game started off fantastic. The Cowboys won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball so they could get out of the blocks quickly. And it was a great idea as they put together a nice drive. They had nice play designs to get CeeDee Lamb the ball and utilized fullback Hunter Luepke in short-yardage situations. Unfortunately, they got down to the one-inch line and couldn’t punch it in after the ball was fumbled on the exchange from Dak Prescott to Luepke. And just like that a 15-play drive ended in nothing. Right out the gate, we had to live with that squandered opportunity that we just knew would come back and bite them.
2. ANSWER BACK
After the first possession failure, the Dolphins got out of their own end zone with a deep 47-yard strike to Jaylen Waddle on a 3rd-and-9 play. The Cowboys defense clamped down and held them to a field goal. The Cowboys offense responded with another good drive, but this one was much quicker, and this one resulted in points. Prescott hit Lamb on a slant and the star receiver willed himself 49 yards for the touchdown. Just like that the Cowboys had regained the lead.
3. RUN GAME RECOVERY
With Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane in the Dolphins' backfield, it looked like it was going to be a tough day for the Cowboys' run defense. Surprisingly, they held up rather well. Mostert finished with 46 yards on 11 carries while Achane had 24 yards on seven carries. As a team, the Dolphins only rushed for 3.5 yards per carry. That’s quite the improvement after giving up 7.2 yards per carry to James Cook last week.
4. BAD WAY TO END THE HALF
There were several times the Dolphins offense moved the ball, but finding the end zone was a different story. Miami had nine total drives, with six of them ending in scores, but all but one were field goals. The Cowboys' defense bent but didn’t break. However, they finally snapped late in the first half. Oddly enough, it was one of the Dolphins' quickest drives as they were in hurry-up with less than two minutes to go in the first half. The Dolphins just calmly drove 71 yards repeatedly grinding out around 10 yards a pop as the Cowboys gave up too much cushion, finally ending with a six-yard touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Mostert.
5. OFFENSE M-I-A
While the Cowboys offense looked great early on, things got much more difficult after the first quarter. Their next three drives went a total of 17 yards on 11 total plays. Two of those drives were three-and-outs. The offense struggled to get anything going and in a couple of instances, they appeared to be ultra-conservative as they were backed up deep in their own territory. Against a team that you knew was going to eventually start putting up some points, it was frustrating to see the offense go missing in action.
6. CHUMA NOBLOCKA
Tagovailoa had plenty of time to throw the ball but didn’t need it. Prescott needed time to throw but didn’t have it. When Dak was able to connect with his first option, they could move the ball, but anything he had to look elsewhere, he ended up running for his life. Prescott was sacked four times in this game and it would’ve been more had he not Houdini’d a couple of them. This marks the fourth straight game that Dak has gone down at least three times in the game. The protection looked confused at times and on one critical third-down play in the fourth quarter, Chuma Edoga didn’t even attempt to block his man. This made things difficult for Dak and the offense.
7. FINALLY, A GOOD DRIVE
Despite some middle-game stall-outs, the Cowboys' offense finally started scoring again, but it was only enough to exchange back-and-forth field goals. With time winding down, the Cowboys orchestrated a nice touchdown drive to re-take the lead. The offense worked some short passes to Lamb, KaVontae Turpin, Jake Ferguson, Michael Gallup, and Luke Schoonmaker. They ran a jet sweep with Turpin, and put together some nice runs. It got a little dicey when a 1st-and-goal from the Miami one-yard-line turned into a 2nd-and-8 after a Prescott sack, but they were able to punch it in when Dak connected with Brandin Cooks in the corner of the end zone.
8. ONE FINAL STOP
Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys finally re-took the lead, but would the defense be able to hold off this tough Dolphins offense and keep them out of field-goal range? The answer was no as Miami marched 64 yards on 12 plays to kick the game-winner. The Cowboys defense has been in this spot before and even when they’re not great during the game, they have come through. Entering this game, they’ve been in three one-score games and the defense has made stops to win the game or at least give the offense a chance to win the game in each one. But on this day, they didn’t have it in them to make the one final stop needed to win the game.
9. PENALTIES STILL HAUNT THEM
Sadly, the Cowboys lead the league in penalties and they were up to their old tricks again. Oh sure, you got your questionable roughing penalty that we seem to get every game, but there were also plenty of blatantly obvious mental mistakes by the Cowboys. Guys couldn’t line up where they were supposed to (again), false starts by tight ends (again), and more costly personal foul penalties on the defense (again). It’s frustrating to repeatedly lack the mental discipline to play this game without committing so many penalties.
10. SOMEWHAT MEANINGLESS GAME
It would have been nice to beat the Dolphins, but it’s not the end of the world. The Cowboys still need the Philadelphia Eagles to lose another game to have a shot at the division, and if they do, Dallas still has a chance to take down the NFC East. They will have to win their last two remaining games to do it, but it’s still possible. In that regard, this game wasn’t completely meaningless, but it’s not as damaging as one might think.