And so, the Dallas Cowboys’ season comes to a close. Not with the most pitiful of whimpers, but still a tough beat, nonetheless, especially given the fact there were legitimate playoff aspirations on the line (as surprising as that sounds).
Dallas slipped away a winnable regular-season finale road slate on Jan. 3 against the New York Giants, 23-19, which snapped the Big D’s three-game winning streak heading into the contest. With the loss, the Cowboys finished 6-10, their worst record since going 4-12 during the 2015 season.
Here is the breakdown of the 2020 Cowboys’ finale.
Dallas was outgained in total yards (336 vs. 307), despite leading in time of possession (32:33 vs. 27:27). Although Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton did not throw a touchdown pass, he was able to keep the Giants’ defensive unit on their heels as he went 29-47 with 244 passing yards and also ran on the ground for 48 yards on seven attempts.
The receiving corps continued its philosophy of running routes toward the sidelines but opened up the middle of the field more with the likes of tight end Dalton Schultz, who picked up 70 yards on seven receptions. Although the movement through the air kept the defense honest, the rushing attack, led by Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, were unable to completely explode through the Giants’ front seven behind Dalton’s rushing attack, as the pair combined for only 57 yards and one touchdown.
In the end, the Cowboys’ offense was plagued by the same issues mentioned time and time again. If anyone needed to be proved this any further, well, look at the Cowboys’ final drive. Although they were able to chug down the field, two of their final three plays ended up with a sack (one of six during the contest) and a defeat-clinching interception. The lack of quarterback Dak Prescott and a healthy offensive line showed. The question now is what Dallas does on both of these fronts during the offseason. The final verdict could be very telling toward the short and long-term success of head coach Mike McCarthy’s tenure.
Aggression was once again the name of the game for the Dallas defense. The unit only continued this momentum with shaky ball handling on New York’s part, as the Giants turned over the ball twice and almost turned it over again during their final drive in the fourth quarter, as Giants’ running back Wayne Gallman broke free but lost the ball, only to recover it with an acrobatic (albeit uncomfortable) sprawl on the ground. Even still, Dallas was able to recover from the likes of two Sterling Shephard touchdowns and keep Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones from maintaining a poised pocket presence for the entire game.
Are there, or should there, be signs of optimism moving forward? Absolutely. The question for how much optimism there is moving forward, though, may depend on the direction the Cowboys go toward in regard to potentially bringing in a new defensive coordinator and whether they go heavy on defense in the upcoming draft. Decisions, decisions. Will we know the answer right now? Probably not. Buckle up, it might be a while before we do.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein capped off a strong 2020 effort with another perfect day as he went 4-4 in field goals (36, 38, 46 and 57 yards) and 1-1 in extra-point attempts. The 33-year-old, who signed a three-year, $7.5 million-dollar pact with the Cowboys during the previous offseason, finished his season going 34-41 in field goal attempts (82.9%) and 33-36 in extra-pointers (91.7%).
With the Cowboys’ season now at an end, the franchise now looks toward the 2021 NFL Draft, where the team holds the 10th overall selection. The 2021 NFL Draft is slated to take place in Cleveland, Ohio from April 29-May 1.