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For the Cowboys to have playoff success, they need to avoid these 2 pitfalls

When the postseason rolls around, the Cowboys always seem to fall victim to these two scenarios.

Event Name: NFC Wild Card Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

How good the Dallas Cowboys are is something that’s always heavily debated in the national media. Even our own fan base can’t agree on just how well this team has performed over the years. The reality is that even though we haven’t witnessed Super Bowl success since the mid-'90s, the Cowboys have still been pretty good. They are ranked in the top seven in regular-season winning percentage over the last 10 years, in the top 10 over the last 20 years, and have the highest overall winning percentage of any team in NFL history. That’s pretty good.

Unfortunately, regular season success just doesn’t provide the same fulfillment as those wonderful victories that spill over into the new calendar year. As great as things have been at times, playoff success hasn’t followed them since their ‘90s dominance. The Cowboys have played in eight playoff games over the last 10 years, and they’ve only won three of them. Making things even more heartbreaking is that all five of those losses have been by just one score where the team has had a shot to come back at the end, but just couldn’t get it done.

As close as those losses were, there are some troubling trends that have existed over the last 10 years. They keep rearing their ugly head, and unless the Cowboys rectify these problems, they’re setting themselves up for more disappointing playoff losses. Today, we take a look at these playoff pitfalls.

Getting in big holes

While we’ve had some close games in recent memory, some of them have required the Cowboys to pull themselves out of big deficits. Of the team’s eight playoff games over the last 10 years, half of them have consisted of games in which they have trailed by at least 13 points in the second half.

Digging a hole

2021 WILD CARD San Francisco 49ers Down by 13 Early 4th Lost by 6
2018 DIVISIONAL Los Angeles Rams Down by 15 Early 3rd Lost by 8
2016 DIVISIONAL Green Bay Packers Down by 15 Early 4th Lost by 3
2014 WILD CARD Detroit Lions Down by 13 Late 3rd Won by 4

We can remember the fight that each of these Cowboys squads had in these instances to work themselves back into the game, and against Detroit in 2014, they were able to come back and win, but it’s a tough ask to continuously dig themselves out of these holes. Whether it’s being torched by Aaron Rodgers, an inability to stop the run, or slow starts by the offense (which we’ll get to next), the Cowboys have found themselves behind the eight ball too many times.

The offense is sluggish out of the gate

Do you know what can get you into big holes? Slow starts.

While half of their playoff games over the last decade have consisted of big holes, 75% of them consist of instances where the offense hasn’t scored more than 13 points by late in the third or entering the fourth quarter. And in a few instances, they’ve only scored seven points.

Slow Starts

YEAR WEEK AGAINST Total points scored by late 3rd/entering 4th quarter OUTCOME
YEAR WEEK AGAINST Total points scored by late 3rd/entering 4th quarter OUTCOME
2022 DIVISIONAL San Francisco 49ers 9 Lost by 7
2021 WILD CARD San Francisco 49ers 7 Lost by 6
2018 DIVISIONAL Los Angeles Rams 7 Lost by 8
2018 WILD CARD Seattle Seahawks 10 Won by 2
2016 DIVISIONAL Green Bay Packers 13 Lost by 3
2014 WILD CARD Detroit Lions 7 Won by 4

Again, the Cowboys did get it together in a couple of those games as both Tony Romo and Dak Prescott worked some fourth-quarter magic to persevere, but why does this team keep putting themselves in tough spots? The Cowboys have had some great offenses during many of those seasons only to sputter come playoff time.

The good news is the Cowboys didn’t fall into a big hole in last year’s playoff. In fact, they created one for Tampa Bay when Dallas had a 24-0 lead until the last play of the third quarter.

However, they did experience offensive struggles, not only early, but throughout the entire game during their divisional round loss to San Francisco. Their 12 total points scored was the lowest offensive output of all eight of the Cowboys' playoff games over the last 10 years. Lack of weapons played a part in that as Tony Pollard got hurt and CeeDee Lamb was their only legit receiving threat. The Cowboys are hoping things are different now with the addition of Brandin Cooks and a healthy Pollard.

Had the Cowboys had any type of offense, it likely would’ve resulted in a win as their defense performed well only allowing the 49ers to score one touchdown the entire game. With a defense that is on the cusp of elite and an offense that is capable of better things, this team could take a nice step forward and eliminate these bugaboos that have plagued them in years past.

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