The Dallas Cowboys lost to the Green Bay Packers yesterday in unique fashion leading some to conclude that if being too conservative led to Loss 1, too aggressive must be the cause of Loss 2.
In a world of absolutes, false dilemmas, and self-imposed binary choices, there can be no other logical conclusion. The Dallas Cowboys were too aggressive in their approach to the Green Bay Packers contest on Sunday. If only they had played it safe and fed Ezekiel Elliott all afternoon instead of airing it out and opening themselves to disaster, the result surely would have been different, right?
Wrong. Just because many of us (myself proudly included) blamed the game plan for Dallas’ loss in New Orleans, doesn’t mean the game plan was to blame in yesterday’s loss to Green Bay. Although I have yet to review the game film to judge more objectively (at the least, more sober), I can say at face value the offensive game plan was quite respectable.
They did what many of us demanded after their first loss. They attacked through the air on early downs with play-action. They used motion to expose coverage. And they played creatively from generally uncreative looking packages and formations.
The problem was execution.
Yes, I know execution can be blamed for the failure of any unsuccessful play, and/or any loss, but it’s glaringly apparent here. Dallas moved the ball with ease all afternoon. But something – something – always derailed them. Even when down by over 20 in the second half, Dallas still led the game in total yardage. I don’t have to tell you what losing the turnover value does for a team’s chances, because that’s exactly what we saw on Sunday.
It was wise of the Dallas Cowboys to use play-action passing on early downs. Even with Zeke’s success running, passing is proven to be the best mode of attack on 1st and 2nd downs. Again, the play calls worked pretty well. Players got open, and for the most part, Dak delivered.
Note: Once the All-22 drops I’ll be able to evaluate Dak’s performance better. Without seeing receiver routes and the secondary’s coverage, it’s impossible to draw definitive conclusions on his performance – it amazes me how many people think they can when they’ve only seen 30% of the total picture.
Not surprsingly pass protection was an issue. Cameron Fleming struggled to protect Dak’s blind side and single-handedly ended three drives with his lack of execution (although we could also look to Dallas’ coaching staff for not giving him much help protecting the edge). Fumbles, dropped passes, and interceptions only added to the list of mistakes and unforced errors.
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Basically, the Dallas Cowboys looked like a highly talented team playing their first game of the season. That’s obviously concerning because this clearly isn’t the first game of the season and after three easy tune-up games to start the season (and another winnable match-up in Week 4), Dallas should be playing much better than they are right now.
Sloppiness is to blame. Not play-calling. Sure, things could have been different if Dallas just pounded the rock early and avoided risk (but as the analytics say, also avoiding reward), but we’re applying blame incorrectly if that’s what we draw from this.
The game plan and play-calling were solid. Everything was playing out in the Dallas Cowboys favor. Dallas just didn’t execute in the way they needed to. The question is, is this less cause for concern or more cause for concern? That’s a question we should be asking ourselves.