The Dallas Cowboys lost to the Miami Dolphins. So what. The Dolphins are a tough team and it’s hard to go out on the road and beat good teams, plus the Cowboys took them down to the wire. Additionally, the loss wasn’t a detriment to their division chances as they still need the Philadelphia Eagles to lose another game regardless. So, why does this loss still feel so bad?
One reason is that they had a real opportunity to win this game. With a fumble that erased a sure-fire touchdown and the defense not being able to preserve the lead at the end, the game was there for the taking, but the Cowboys were unable to close the deal.
And this isn’t the first time this season things like this have happened. The team plays well but then suffers self-inflicted wounds that derail their chances to win the game. We all remember what happened in Philadelphia in Week 9. They had the ball deep in Eagles territory late in the game with a golden opportunity to win the game and then the bottom fell out. Think about this, how many times have we seen the Cowboys offense have the ball 1st-and-goal deep into their opponent's territory only to come away with absolutely nothing? The answer: a ridiculously large amount of times. So much In fact that we’ll take a deep dive look at this exact issue in this week’s installment of After Further Review so stay tuned for that.
It’s disturbing to think about how many times this team shoots itself in the foot. And it’s not just repeatedly falling short of the goal line. They also struggle immensely with penalties. The Cowboys have committed 108 penalties on the year, second-most in the league, just recently eclipsed by the New York Jets. Some will say the Cowboys aren’t catching breaks in the penalty department, and there might be some truth to that, but we can’t look past how many unforced errors they are making. Between offsides and illegal formations, this team just doesn’t seem to know where they’re supposed to be at times. And continuously being tagged with personal foul penalties has become absurdly annoying.
When you look at the Buffalo game, there were multiple mistakes in that game which were huge. Between a questionable roughing the passer penalty to a roughing the punter penalty to a forced fumble that wasn’t challenged, the team just seems to get unlucky. But good teams make their own luck and bad teams are always left pondering what went wrong.
The distressing thing is that this type of stuff never ends with this football team. We all are waiting for the universe to balance itself and for the Cowboys to be on the right end of things, but the Cowboys continue to put themselves into precarious situations.
There is no excuse for the Cowboys to keep committing so many pre-snap penalties. There are also many times when the Cowboys over-complicate things. When the Eagles get down to the one-foot line, they QB-sneak it and waltz into the end zone. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. When the Cowboys are in the same situation, they hand it off to the fullback and fumble, or run-play action and take a sack. That’s not to say these plays can’t work, but why doesn’t Mike McCarthy just keep things simple?
Sometimes he takes unnecessary risks and makes it way more difficult than it needs to be. But then other times he's so overly cautious, it's painful to watch.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 25, 2023
I just don't get McCarthy's playcalling near the goal line. It's like he chooses the opposite of what should be called. pic.twitter.com/dzme9kZ0U6
And then there are other times when McCarthy becomes the most conservative coach in the league. We all remember the end of the first half of the Los Angeles Chargers game when they had enough time to take a couple of shots at the end zone from the 14-yard line, only to see them wind the clock down and settle for a field goal. The Cowboys ended up in a dogfight in that game where fortunately they pulled it off by three points. And there have been many times when McCarthy plays scared and doesn’t allow his team to take shots. This was again evident on Sunday against the Dolphins.
Winning isn't just a result, it's an attitude.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 25, 2023
Two different head coaches.
Two different playcallers.
Both backed up on their own three-yard line.
One doesn't want to lose. The other wants to win. pic.twitter.com/QUiwa61esk
The frustrating part of this is that this is a really good team that just plays really bad at times. They’ve had the top-scoring offense in the league, but they also can be an offense that struggles to move the ball and shrivels up. They’ve had one of the top defenses in the league at times, but then suddenly can’t stop the run to save their life. It’s hard remembering a Cowboys team that’s had such a wide range of performances within a season.
The Cowboys have the talent. They are good enough to go deep, but far too often they can’t get out of their own way. And this “woe is me” attitude that always leaves us disappointed in January is becoming exhausting. There is no shortage of confidence as McCarthy and his troops tell us all the time that they believe in this team, but again and again, we’re sitting here talking about how certain mistakes altered the game script beyond recovery and then repeatedly complaining about the officiating.
Instead of confidence, let’s get a little more determination. Can we see a team that has something to prove? How about a team that makes a more concerted effort to limit those senseless penalties? Or a team that takes each drive seriously and doesn’t have this cavalier attitude of “we’ll get them next time.”
The culture of this team is not where it needs to be for them to be successful. Winning is an attitude that this team doesn’t seem to possess. They need to hold themselves accountable, fix recurring mistakes, and play each drive like it’s their last. Because if they don’t, and this is the demeanor of this football team come playoff team, that last drive is closer than we think.