Earlier in the week we mentioned that the Dallas Cowboys have been one of the better regular season teams over the last 20 years, but at the same time have been a bottom-five team in terms of playoff win percentage. It’s such a troubling ordeal to experience success during the season only to struggle come the postseason, but that describes this Cowboys team in a nutshell.
Over the last two decades, we have witnessed the Cowboys losing in the playoffs nine times, and in each instance, it has always occurred before having an opportunity to play in a conference championship game. For those who love pain, here is a rundown of those losses:
- 2022 - Lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 19-12
- 2021 - Lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 23-17
- 2018 - Lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 30-22
- 2016 - Lost to the Green Bay Packers, 34-31
- 2014 - Lost to the Green Bay Packers, 26-21
- 2009 - Lost to the Minnesota Vikings, 34-3
- 2007 - Lost to the New York Giants, 21-17
- 2006 - Lost to the Seattle Seahawks, 21-20
- 2003 - Lost to the Carolina Panthers, 29-10
Of all those losses, seven of them were decided by one score or less, including the last five. This Cowboys team has had a knack for the dramatic, subjecting their fans to many heartbreaking losses over the years. While losing stings, you can also make a solid case that this team has been close to making a legit Super Bowl run many different times during this span. Of course, close doesn’t cut it, but it does indicate that this team was pretty darn good at times and that counts for something.
On the latest episode of The Star Seminar, rabblerousr and I took a look back at all these defeats and tried to determine which of those squads had the best chance to win a title had they not lost that game. Make sure to check it out!
In each of those games, there was their own set of circumstances that contributed to those losses. We remember things like the Tony Romo muffed snap in Seattle or the Dez “no catch” in Lambeau as game-changing moments, but what truly were the scapegoats in those instances?
One thing that tends to show up more times than not is the Cowboys being overpowered in the trenches. We remember things like the Rams' rushing attack steamrolling the Cowboys' run defense to the tune of 273 rushing yards. We may also remember the Cowboys quarterbacks under duress quite often as in most of those games they were on the losing side of the sack differential. And in some cases, both happened like in 2021 against the 49ers when Dak Prescott was sacked five times and SF reeled off 169 rushing yards.
Whether it’s insufficient protection from the offensive line or the inability to stop the opposing team from running the ball, these deficiencies have come home to roost for this Cowboys team during the playoffs.
But hopefully, the times are a changing, and that’s because in each of the last two years, the team has prioritized power in the trenches when making their first-round selection. In 2022, the team selected the raw, but powerful offensive lineman Tyler Smith, and this year they opted for the super-strong defensive tackle Mazi Smith. Both these players were initially viewed as “reaches” and the latter was the first time the Cowboys took a defensive tackle in the first round since 1991.
While it’s early, and we don’t know how these players will ultimately pan out, it’s nice to see that Tyler Smith is off to a good start. It’s also nice to see that the team’s previous two first-round investments, CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons, have already earned All-Pro honors before the age of 24. If the trend continues, that could mean great things for both the Smiths. And it could mean great things for the team too as these more recent draft selections add power to areas that have ailed the Cowboys in games that have mattered the most.
It will be fun watching these two powerful linemen battle each other in training camp. and hopefully, they will help add some much-needed strength in the trenches.