The Dallas Cowboys displayed some disturbing similarities on Sunday night to last season’s play calling. Will they learn from their mistakes?
It was posited in this space just last week that the Dallas Cowboys’ defense would be needed to bail the team out if the offense had an off night. Well, the defense did exactly that–mostly–in a defensive slug fest on Sunday night. In fact, if the fan base knew beforehand that the defense would give up only twelve points, then a convincing win was sure to follow, right?
See, the Cowboys reverted to some offensive habits that made people wonder what happened to the high-flying, point-scoring monster that emerged in the first three weeks of the season. First and foremost, they were playing a quality opponent. The New Orleans Saints should have been the NFC representative in last year’s Super Bowl, after all.
To that end, the Saints provided a stark contrast to the Cowboys’ first three opponents. Even though all-world quarterback Drew Brees was out with an injury to his throwing hand, the rest of the roster is still constructed to be a legitimate championship contender. Plus, New Orleans has a pretty nice insurance policy in the form of current starter, Teddy Bridgewater.
So with all of that taken into account, the two teams are still very evenly matched. As good as the Saints are, it’s safe to assume the Cowboys believe they are just as good. Barring catastrophic injuries to either team, Sunday night may well have been an NFC Championship game preview.
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But above and beyond all that, Sunday’s offensive game plan was a bit of a head scratcher. Most notably, the pre-snap motion and shifting was a lot less apparent. The play action, which was such a devastating component during the first three weeks of the season, was largely absent. Finally, the mere notion of using quarterback Dak Prescott on a zone read never reared its head. Up until Sunday, the Cowboys thrived off of keeping their opponents guessing. Was this a product of playing the Saints in that vibrating, boiling dome? That’s probably at least some of it. The New Orleans faithful bring the noise, and with the Cowboys in town, they didn’t disappoint.
The truth of the matter is, in a game in which both teams were such mirror images of each other, every possession of the ball was a precious commodity. To that end, the Cowboys failed on three separate occasions. The first occurred when Dak Prescott fired wide to an open Randall Cobb in the back of the end zone in the first quarter. The miss resulted in the Cowboys’ first field goal of the night. Score a touchdown there and the end result might have been different.
The other two instances were the consecutive fumbles in the waning stages of the second quarter. And they came from the unlikeliest sources: Jason Witten and Ezekiel Elliott. Now, the Dallas defense held strong and only gave up three points off the two giveaways, but those mistakes simply cannot happen. The Cowboys lost the turnover margin for the night, and if that occurs, wins aren’t exactly likely.
Yet, through all of this, the Cowboys lost by two points in the Saints’ barn. This setback is not the end of the world by any stretch. It will be a learning experience for offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. He’ll get better from this. For their part, the defense proved they could step up and give the team a chance to win. A play here or a bounce there could’ve made all the difference. Let’s hope we get to see a rematch come late January.
- Published on 10/01/2019 at 11:00 AM
- Last updated at 10/01/2019 at 05:45 AM