Losing three out their last four games, and going up and down like a roller coaster is the best way to describe the Dallas Cowboys in the month of November. Comparing the October Cowboys to the November Cowboys is a tale of two entirely different teams.
In the nation media, Dallas went from a six-game winning streak with Super Bowl aspirations to a joke and a team that might not even win their own division. The ridicule has been merciless and utterly devoid of all necessary context.
People don’t want to talk about how many key players have been lost to injury over the past month. Or how the Dallas Cowboys are still dealing with possibly the biggest team-wide COVID outbreak in the NFL this season. Losing three of the last four may not be excusable but it’s certainly explainable.
After losing three out of their last four games, the Dallas Cowboys enter desperation time and need to get back to the basics.
Think back to Halloween night. The Dallas Cowboys upset the Minnesota Vikings in a prime time game in hostile territory all with with backup quarterback Cooper Rush under center. Dallas was supposed to lose that road game because Dak Prescott was out nursing a calf injury and Rush generally ranks as one of the worst QB2s in the NFL.
But the future looked as bright as the sun coming through the open roof in At&t Stadium because Dallas stole a victory, and Dak would be back the following week to keep the winning streak alive.
Since that glorious night, the Dallas Cowboys have hit a disappointing slump with more excuses for their losses than a child not wanting to go to school. Besides the bounce back beat down Dallas gave to the lousy Atlanta Falcons (43-3), this team has been completely off balance with no consistency to be found.
One week the defense will play great against All Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his elite offensive weapons, but the effort is wasted because in the same game Dallas’ offense sputtered with Dak throwing two interceptions, no touchdowns, and everyone somehow dropped passes like they were hot coals. Then the offense and defense swapped performances against the Las Vegas Raiders. How can the defense stop Mahomes but not Derek Carr? That’s a conundrum for sure.
Dallas has loosened up its once comfortable lead in the NFC East with a two-game lead, so now they find themselves in a must -win game over a feisty New Orleans Saints team tonight in the Superdome (Dallas has lost its last three games in the Superdome). And being desperate means Dallas has to get back to running the ball with consistency, instead of bailing out because the opposing defense stuffs the run on the first two series.
I love to see Dak air it out to his elite receivers, but whenever Dak has pass over 40 plus times, Dallas normally loses in a contested battle in the waning seconds. If you need proof-just look at the losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (granted it was hard to run against the Bucs stout front four) and the recent lost to the Raiders. But what’s wrong with feeding Ezekiel Elliott and the elusive Tony Pollard to keep the defense honest?
The main reason why Dallas needs to return to its running game is because it will ultimately help the defense rest while the offense secure a long scoring drive. As much as Dallas’ defense has improved this season, their flaws of last season flare up like pimples on picture day. In other words, a defensive back like Anthony Brown will go back to his wayward techniques and get flagged FOUR TIMES FOR PASS INTERFERENCE! My Gawd!
Dallas’ defense plays better when it forces takeaways and play with a lead.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that Dallas should run on all three downs like a cloud of dust. I’m simply just saying why not run it more because Dallas clearly wins when they rush for over 100 yards. Good things happen whenever Zeke and Pollard rush the ball on the regular because of their different running styles. There is no reason Pollard should not see more carries with his burst of speed and quickness, followed by Zeke’s bruising running style.
Being a desperate team and getting back to the basics means hard core measures like benching Brown and holding Dallas’ receivers accountable for easily dropped passes (drop passes are drive killers). If there is one constant in these recent losses, its dumb penalties and dropped passes at crucial times in the game.
Even the sure handed Amari Cooper had his first dropped pass of the season against the Denver Broncos. Unfortunately, these mishaps have a domino effect, and literally led to the opposing team capitalizing off of these mistakes.
Think about how Brown gifted the Raiders 20 points with his third down pass interference penalties. Dallas lost 36-33. Take away at least one of those pass interferences calls and Dallas more than likely wins the game.
If Brown starts the game against the Saints playing poorly, interim head coach Dan Quinn needs to pull Brown because he is truly a liability at that point. The same can be said for the wideouts. Either catch the ball or watch your replacement catch it.
Speaking of receivers, Michael Gallup has to step up and ball out like a true WR1. I will give Gallup credit for his clutch catches against the Raiders and for finishing with 105 yards on five receptions, but Gallup was missing in action throughout most of the game. My point is Gallup has to find a way to show up and show out and help out his quarterback because he’s talented enough to do it.
Gallup had a dropped pass against the Chiefs and was held in check. Being a WR1 means you find a way to get open, even with double teams. I expect Gallup to ball out because Coop and Lamb will be back on the field.
Despite these three bitter losses, the Dallas Cowboys issues are fixable, but it starts at the top with the head coaches holding these players accountable by any means necessary and sticking to a game plan that does not include Dak throwing it 60 times, only to lose in heart breaking fashion.
On the offensive side of the ball, feed Zeke and Pollard to set the tone of the game early- setting up play action pass. Dallas is 42-16 whenever Ezekiel Elliott runs for over 100 yards, but a collective effort between Zeke and Pollard going over the century mark is still beneficial.
Dak must be a threat to run the ball at all times- not using his legs to pick up extra yardage only hinders the team in the long run. The reality is any quarterback can get hurt -whether they are sitting in the pocket or scrambling. Dak has to do whatever it takes to win these last six games-that includes tucking the ball and sliding for a first down.
Dallas’ defense-especially the secondary-has to play better with its techniques and not fall for the okie dokie, blatant pass interference calls (please turn around and look for the ball). This secondary is not without its flaws, but it has improved tremendously with Trevon Diggs leading the league in interceptions.
So get back to the basics because it is a desperate time that requires the Dallas Cowboys to be fully focused disciplined on winning these last six games. BOOM!