A promising 31-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings brought signs of optimism for the Dallas Cowboys as they prepared for a home matchup against the Washington Football Team. The offense showed signs of improvement on the health and production side, while the defense did just enough to make the offense matter.
Heavy hearts off of the field from the death of strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul, in addition to the woes on the field, however, would halt any signs of momentum for Dallas, as Washington obliterated the Cowboys, 41-16, to pick up the season sweep for the first time since 2012.
Here is my breakdown of the Thanksgiving Day performance.
So much for momentum. After a promising performance against the Vikings, the Cowboys, led by quarterback Andy Dalton, sputtered to produce similar results, as the team ended up with only 247 total yards and 13 total first downs (six apiece from the rushing and passing side, along with one from a penalty). Injuries and inconsistencies, in particular, leaked through the cracks once more.
When looking at the injury side of the coin, two offensive tackles for the Cowboys in Zack Martin and Cam Erving left a significant hole to an already patchwork, at-best, offensive line. As a result, Dalton was given less time to throw and maneuver around the edges, and thus could not consistently target or connect with his downfield weapons to change the outcome of the game. The inconsistency side of the ball, meanwhile, started and ended with Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for only 32 yards on 10 carries and lost a fumble to boot. Then, of course, there was the “fake punt” play-call. When tallying everything together, you do not have a beautiful outlook or result.
With both Martin and Erving slated to miss several weeks at the minimum, the protection for Dalton on the edge will be a question-mark for the rest of the season, if it was not already. Combined with the pivotal mishap(s) from Elliott and you have an offense that, collectively, cannot catch a break. While the NFC East race mathematically remains open for Dallas, their lack of production on offense is slowly, but surely, shutting the window.
If you thought the offense was a problem, well, let me introduce you to the defense, which did not help matters, either. 338 total yards of offense allowed, spearheaded by 182 rushing yards, kept the defense out of sync and unable to find rhythm. Steady rollouts from Washington quarterback Alex Smith allowed for more screens to Washington’s wide receiver arsenal led by Terry McLaurin, who collected 92 yards on seven receptions. The turkey leg-winner of the day, however, came from Washington running back Antonio Gibson, who rushed for three touchdowns on 115 yards and 20 carries.
The defense, while it tried to show signs of aggression, was simply unable to close down the space and the holes Washington’s offensive line created. Sure, Jaylon Smith picked up an interception, but the stopping power of the defense was simply not enough. This theme has been apparent all season, and it definitely made itself known once more.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein, once again, accounted for the majority of the Cowboys’ points. Over the course of the game, Zuerlein nabbed an extra-point attempt, a 28-yard field goal and two field goals from beyond 30 yards (32 and 33 yards).
Although the Cowboys were expected to play the Baltimore Ravens Dec. 3, a COVID-19 outbreak for Baltimore has pushed the game back to Dec. 8. The new Tuesday Night Football matchup is tentatively slated to begin at 8:05 p.m. EST.