Just a couple of weeks ago I said that we had to deal with the idea that the Dallas Cowboys are a good football team. For the record, I still believe it. I think when they go about their business, the Cowboys are capable of beating any of their contemporaries in the NFC and competing for a championship.
But yesterday’s Dallas Cowboys weren’t in their game. In fact, they looked like the group that stumbled in November and made everyone nervous about their chances in the playoffs. There’s no beating around the bush about yesterday’s 25-22 loss at AT&T Stadium. It was not a good effort. And by the time they got to perform together, it was too late.
The Dallas Cowboys played a sloppy and lethargic game, and they paid for it.
This was an Arizona Cardinals team that entered the game beaten, missing notables like wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back James Conner. By contrast, the Cowboys were almost completely healthy and had their full complement of weapons on offense. So it was a huge surprise when Arizona came out with a swing and seemed to catch Dallas off guard.
Also, before going any further, I have seen and heard a lot of complaints about umpiring in yesterday’s game. Simply put, that’s the loser’s lament. The Cowboys had a chance to improve their luck against a struggling Cardinals team that had faltered. Arizona, however, had the best game plan, was better trained, and executed across the board when the Cowboys couldn’t.
A familiar and frustrating theme developed during the game. The mistakes got worse. A missed field goal here, a dropped pass there, and various all penalty flags conspired to undermine the Cowboys at all times. Also, quarterback Dak Prescott fell back to his November form. To be fair, it wasn’t horrible. After all, he threw three scores.
But there is still something wrong with Prescott’s mechanics. When he’s out, his shots are high, and I wouldn’t be surprised when this season’s postscripts are written we find out he’s been taking care of that calf strain the entire time. This is not to be excused. It is good enough to play. It’s just that he hasn’t enjoyed the precision he had before the injury.
There is also the elephant in the room which is the complete absence of a hasty attack from Dallas. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combined for just 25 yards on 12 carries. I don’t know if that speaks to a lack of commitment to the run, Arizona’s defense, or both, but that production just won’t cut him down in the playoffs. In fact, if the Cowboys have one fatal flaw, it is their inability to run the ball. They absolutely need to shore that up if they want to avoid a postseason blackout.
I won’t go out and say the sky is falling, but a careless loss like this is certainly enough to make everyone stop. We know that this team has enormous difficulties to play from behind. We know that it is difficult for them to win when they constantly shoot themselves in the foot with bad penalties. They have to be more disciplined and the time to work on themselves is running out.