It’s time to hit the panic button on the Cowboys season. Three games without Ezekiel Elliott, three lop-sided defeats. The most recent coming to the Los Angeles Chargers 28-6 on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.
It took until the fourth quarter when the Cowboys finally snapped a franchise-record 10 quarters without scoring a touchdown. The touchdown came with the Chargers already with the game under control, leading 16-0. It could have been much worse too. In the first half, Los Angeles missed a field goal and was forced to go for it on 4th-and-13 deep in Cowboys territory after its kicker was injured. After being dominated in the first two quarters of the game, Dallas only trailed 3-0 at halftime.
As a disturbing trend continued, Dallas was outscored in the second half 25-6. That’s 72-6 over the last three games. At 5-6 the Cowboys playoff hopes are dwindling. In their favor, though, are three straight games against teams with losing records, starting Thursday against Washington. If Dallas could win each of those three games, they would get to Week 16’s tilt against another playoff hopeful, Seattle at 8-6, and with Ezekiel Elliott eligible off of his suspension. That’s a big if.
Three Things As The Cowboys Drop Third Straight
1. Dak Prescott Has Hit A Sophomore Slump
This started, oh say, three weeks ago, when Elliott began serving his suspension. Prescott was having a good season until Elliott was suspended. He threw for 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions for 1,818 yards in those first eight games. In the last three games, Prescott has not thrown for a TD, has five picks and has not eclipsed 200 yards passing.
That’s not to say that the Cowboys haven’t been efficient rushing the ball without Elliott either. Dallas got a solid four yards per rush from Alfred Morris in Week 12. Morris has rushed for an average of 5.4 and 4.5 yards per carry in the other two games as well.
Prescott also relies too heavily on checking down to Jason Witten (seven catches, 44 yards). The biggest play was a 38-yard pass to Terrance Williams against a prevent defense trailing 22-6 in the fourth quarter. Before that, the longest pass was an 18-yarder to Bryant on the previous drive.
When the game was still relatively within reach in the fourth quarter, Prescott threw the back-breaking pick-six that sealed the win for the Chargers. The NFL is a quarterback league and the Cowboys need their quarterback to snap out of his slump before it’s too late.
2. Jason Garrett‘s Seat Is Getting Warm
Jerry Jones met privately with the team after the game. He delivered a message of support for the players as well as head coach Garrett. That’s what he’s supposed to say right?
Garrett was the NFL’s Coach of the Year last season. Jones knows this. However, he has just two winning seasons and one playoff win in seven years (not counting his 5-3 record from 2010 when he took over the job midseason). The Cowboys second-half performances this season should fall on Garrett too. Game after game, Garrett has been consistently out-coached by his opponents.
In Week 4, Dallas led the Rams 24-16 at halftime. The Rams outscored Dallas 19-6 in the second half to win the game.
The following week, the Cowboys were up 21-12 over the Packers at the break. Dallas lost the game after being outscored 23-10 in the final two quarters.
Against Philadelphia in Week 11, Dallas led 9-7 at the half, only to get its doors blown off 30-0 in the second half.
Those three games, plus this most recent loss to the Chargers have all been at home. Maybe Garrett gets the benefit of the doubt for this season and survives to coach another year. If he does, expect changes with either the offensive or defensive coordinator. Jones will want to pin the blame on somebody if Dallas misses the playoffs.
3. The Defense Was Torched By Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen
Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli should be worried. The 14-year veteran, Rivers, looked like an MVP candidate against the Cowboys. Rivers was 27-of-33 for 434 yards and three touchdowns.
11 of those completions went to Allen, who finished with 172 yards receiving and one of those scores. Dallas simply had no answer for Allen. The defense also gave up pass plays of 46, 42, 38, 32, 31, 27 yards.
Linebacker Sean Lee did miss the game, but the secondary was healthy. The front seven did hold running back Melvin Gordon to just 65 yards on 21 carries. However, the pass rush failed to sack Rivers and it was the second consecutive game the defense did not record a sack.
Dallas is just not a very good team right now on either side of the ball. Without Zeke or Lee, the season is now on the brink.