Wow, things seems to have gone from bad to worse for our Dallas Cowboys. We had a 1) home game 2) against a losing team 3) on Thanksgiving and… lost. To further pour salt in the wound this is a game we got Ty Smith back. For the aforementioned reasons, this game was perfectly aligned to get us back in the win column. Instead, we laid an egg and now it will take more than a couple of holiday miracles to get us into the playoffs.
After the loss to the Eagles, our division prospects were pretty much sunk. Being down four games with six remaining and behind a very good Philly team kind of put us in that position. But, running the table and grabbing one of the two NFC playoff spots seemed possible, if not probable. The upcoming schedule of the Chargers, Skins, @ the Giants, @ the Raiders, Seahawks and @ the Eagles didn’t seem to be daunting considering the first four teams are under .500 and the last two we’d have Elliott back. In addition, the last game of the season would probably be against an Eagles team that has their playoff spot wrapped up. But, the lost to the Chargers absolutely crushes our playoff chances. After the weekend, we are now tied for the ninth spot in the NFC. Looking at the trusty ESPN Playoff Machine, there are not too many plausible scenarios that we make it to the dance. The very best record we can compile is 10-6. If the current division leaders stay in first: Carolina can go 2-3 and get to 10-6, Atlanta and Seattle can go 3-2 and get to 10-6 and Detroit can go 4-1 and get to 10-6.Assuming we do go 5-0 in the last five games, Washington would lose to us next week and be elimatated, we would need to hope Green Bay also 5-6 does not go 5-0 and bump us out due to our head-to-head loss. With five weeks out, it is hard to come up with all the combinations of the final five games, but it is plain to see for the last two spots there are a lot of teams we would need to either leap-frog or beat out.
Offense: For the last two weeks the offense has been dead. With Ty Smith back, it was hoped that he would re-ignite the offense. It didn’t happen. You’d think this is the part of the analysis where I say, “We should have run the ball more.” You’d be correct. Honestly, the ratio of run to pass wasn’t that bad. At 20-27 run to pass, the percentage is 43% run, especially since the game was out of hand in the second half. But, again it is the old issue. We get into passing downs, go with a no back set and the defense has no threat of a run and that’s it. Many will say without Zeke we haven’t been efficient running the ball, but in this game Rod Smith had 41 yards on nine carries, which is a little over four yards a carry and Morris had 36 yards on nine carries which is exactly four. Averaged out, that’s a first down every three runs, which is what you want to see. Instead, we have Dak throwing 27 times. I hate to say it Dak has been a little bit exposed, but the reason is that we are not playing to Dak’s strengths with is getting clean looks, due to the run game, and getting it to the open guy. We get to 3rd & 4 or 3rd & 5 and it is a guaranteed pass. That is not our strength and we are paying for inefficiencies of our play calling.
Offensive Players: As noted above our QB hasn’t been playing as well as needed. But, the problem with Dak is the problem we saw in 2015 season when we went 4-12. We give up on the run. We still have a powerful line and we aren’t taking advantage of it and Dak is suffering from it. It is well-documented that Dak has 500 passing yards total in the last three games. Alfred Morris has gained only 180 yards, but on only 37 carries in those game. That averages out to 4.9 yards a carry. Not saying he is a better back than Zeke, but he has a better average this season. My fear all along, was that Scott Linehan would use the excuse of Zeke to do what he always wanted to do and that is throw the ball around, as he is prone to do.
Defense: We’ve known for years the defense isn’t very good. Lately, Sean Lee is playing consistently, and we have a semblance of a pass rush. But still we rely on our offense to keep our defense off the field. I guess it is good for any team to win the time of possession and keep their defense fresh, but it seems it is critical for us. With the issues with the offense, the defense is getting killed. Again, without Sean Lee, the defense always seems to be out of position and that can be the extra leadership and knowledge Lee brings. But, the fact remains, in the last three games we have been down three twice and up once. Each time keeping the opposing team to less than ten points. But after halftime, we’ve gotten killed. This is an issue of bad adjustment by the coaching staff and having broken after bending so much in the first halves of games. The fact that Philip Rivers threw for 434 yards, is a testament to the bad play of the defense. His passer rating was an otherworldly 149.1, 158.1 is a perfect rating.
Defense Players: With all the passing in the game you’d think our pass rushers could have gotten to Rivers, but that was a no. The defensive backs were absolutely abysmal. There is talk Anthony Brown is going to be placed on the bench and the rookies are going to get opportunities. The only bright spot seems to be the continued improvement of Jaylon Smith. This week he had seven tackles and an assist. He looks to be getting his burst back. We can only hop he continues this pace.
Special Teams: For the second consecutive week the opposing team’s kicker was compromised and we couldn’t take advantage of it. This is more of a problem with the defense, but the kicker is a special teamer.
Bottom Line: I’m going to hold out hope that we can put together some wins together, but from what we have seen the last couple of weeks I’m not holding my breath. Next comes Washington, which is a winnable game. If we lose this game, it is over. But playing at home we get to stave off elimination for another week. However, more important than the game, is the way we come out. Were needs to be a sense of urgency that has been missing. Jason Garrett preaches “fight.” We will see if that message takes with the slimmest of margins to make the playoffs.