Beyond the boxscore of the Dallas Cowboys baffling loss to the Green Bay Packers
By Matthew Postins
First and 10 is RattleandHumSports.com’s Cowboys wrap-up. Consider this an outline of the 10 most important things to come out of the previous game and how it related to the outcome. It’s analysis and opinion of each week’s game that goes beyond the box score. Today it’s First and 10 after the Cowboys’ 37-36 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
There are plenty of reasons why the Cowboys lost on Sunday. The foremost among them, however, has to be the way the offensive coaching staff mismanaged the game. From the point the Cowboys took a 29-10 lead they ran the football twice the rest of the contest. And this was in a game in which DeMarco Murray was torching the Packers defense. The Cowboys were still up 29-17 after the Andrew Quarless touchdown catch with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter. And the Cowboys still only ran it twice. Conversely the Packers, who were the ones with their backs against the wall, ran the ball 13 times after falling behind 29-10.
Running the football twice in a 17-minute span with a double-digit lead against a team in which you are dominating their defense with the run game is just inexcusable. And it should cost offensive coordinator Bill Callahan his job. In fact, it should hurt head coach Jason Garrett’s job security, too. Think about it – he’s supposed to be a game manager now. Why didn’t he step in and manage the game better?
The field goals didn’t help. The Cowboys had five great drives end in Dan Bailey field goals. Sure, appreciate Bailey’s brilliance. But had one of those drives ended with a touchdown, it’s a much different story.
Neither did the Cowboys’ inability to convert on third down. Dallas was 2-and-9 on third down conversions on Sunday. How is it this offense can move the football so well on first and second down and so poorly on third down? It’s baffling.
To me the play that turned this game was the first play from scrimmage of the second half. The Packers had done nothing on offense before Eddie Lacy’s 60-yard run to start the second half. That run didn’t just set up the Packers’ first touchdown of the game. It gave them hope and a boost that they sorely needed, and I think that propelled the entire Packers team from that point.
Let’s make sure that DeMarco Murray gets proper credit for his performance on Sunday. He had 18 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown. He had a great deal to do with the Cowboys’ huge offensive output and he helped set up the passing game for the Cowboys. It’s not his fault that the Cowboys couldn’t properly manage the game and put it in his hands late in the game. The offensive line did a great job opening the holes for him.
For that matter, credit is also due to Dez Bryant. With 11 receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown, he had his way with the Packers secondary most of the game. Yes he left the field before time expired and I don’t agree with it either. But on this day that was the least of the Cowboys’ problems. That touchdown catch was brilliant.
You can pin Tony Romo’s first interception entirely on Romo. After the game Garrett told reporters that it was a run play, but Romo did have the option to throw a pass if he didn’t have a look he liked. So he checked into the pass. It was a solid run down for the Cowboys, coming off a 4-yard gain by Murray. Romo should have either stayed with the run or Callahan and Garrett never should have given Romo the option in the first place. Plus, this was another game in which Romo struggled mightily on third down. It makes me wonder if he’s pressing a little too much on third down.
What on earth happened to this defense in the second half? They were absolutely dominant, and then the Packers just shredded them in the final 30 minutes. I don’t think the Packers made any real substantial adjustments. I think they basically stuck to their game plan. The Cowboys lost Justin Durant at linebacker and defensive end George Selvie. The Packers wanted to run the ball and once they finally had it established it was much harder to defend the pass.
The Cowboys missed a huge opportunity on Sunday. Beating the Packers on a day when the Eagles lost to the Vikings would have allowed the Cowboys to move back into first place in the NFC East, thanks to tiebreakers. They’re still in it, but they’ve made things so much harder on themselves. But what else is new?
The Cowboys shouldn’t let Sterling Moore go again. He had a fine game on Sunday, picking off a pass, breaking up a couple of others and making a tackle. He’s making some of the other corners look like they’re not getting it done. It’s a shame it took injuries to get the Cowboys to re-sign him, but the Cowboys need to give him a larger role.