By Dwain Price, NDG Sports
For two straight weeks the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t get out of their own way in losing to two of the better teams in the National Football League. On Sunday, the Cowboys again couldn’t get out of their own way in losing to one of the worst teams in the NFL.
In one of the team’s more horrific and bizarre losses during the Jason Garrett Era, the Cowboys started slow again and didn’t have enough juice at the end in losing to the previously winless New York Jets, 24-22, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. After opening the season with three consecutive wins, the Cowboys have now suffered three consecutive losses as the wheels have come off a squad many thought had the goods to play in this season’s Super Bowl.
“We haven’t played well enough to win,” coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s really as simple as that.
“You have to go back and you look at the specific things in each of the phases of your football team and you try to get better. And that’s what we’re in this business of as coaches and as players to make sure that we do that.”
The tide turned in the Cowboys’ latest loss when Garrett tempted faith and went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Jets’ 7 with Dallas only down 7-3 with under five minutes remaining in the first half. The play call was a roll out to the left by quarterback Dak Prescott, who was ultimately stopped for a 1-yard loss.
And on the ensuing play, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold connected with wide receiver Robby Anderson on a 92-yard touchdown to put New York ahead, 14-3.
Shortly thereafter, the floodgates opened even more as Darnold hurled a 5-yard TD to Ryan Griffin and the Jets bolted to a 21-3 lead late in the first half.
In explaining exactly why he chose to bypass a short field goal that would have brought the Cowboys to within 7-6 of the Jets, Garrett said: “You want to be aggressive in that situation. We had a good drive, we had moved the ball fairly well throughout.
“We just felt good about the opportunity to convert that and possibly score a touchdown on that drive.”
Still, despite a flood of penalties that cramped their style and a touchdown wiped out by a controversial call, the Cowboys were in position to force overtime when Prescott scored from the 4 with 43 seconds left to make the score 24-22. However, under a heavy pass rush from Jamal Adams, Prescott’s pass to tight end Jason Witten for the game-tying two-point conversion was incomplete, and the Jets recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
“I just got to figure out a way to absorb the hit better and give (Witten) a better ball,” Prescott said. “I’ve got to put the ball in a better place.”
Overall, this was just another frustrating day for the Cowboys. Like they did in the previous two losses to the New Orleans Saints (14-12) and Green Bay Packers (34-24), the Cowboys got off to a start slow, scrambled back in the game, but came up short.
But this loss took on a totally different flavor than the losses to the Saints and Packers. That’s because the Jets entered the game 0-4, had scored just 29 total points in their previous four games, and were averaging just 179 total yards per contest.
Against the Cowboys, the Jets tallied 21 points by halftime and also racked up 247 yards – in the first half.
“Ain’t no answer for how we played out there,” defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said. “We understand what we need to do.
“It’s unacceptable, but we’re going to accept it and we’re going to fix it.”
How do the Cowboys fix it?
“We’re the truth,” Lawrence said. “We’ve got to just start playing like it.
“Last week we beat ourselves, the week before we beat ourselves, this week we beat ourselves. Now it’s time to buckle down and go to work.”
While buckling down, the Cowboys know they still have a share of first place in the NFC East. They share the top spot with the Philadelphia Eagles, who are also 3-3 and who the Cowboys will host on Sunday at 7:25 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“What matters is what we do now,” linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “Our team is going to be defined by how we respond.
“We’re a group of tough guys – coaches and players. It’s unacceptable for us to give up that many points.”
Granted, the Cowboys played without their two starting injured offensive tackles – Tyron Smith and La’el Collins – and without injured wide receiver Randall Cobb. They also loss their best wide receiver, Amari Cooper, two plays into their first offensive series with a quadriceps injury.
But the Cowboys know sports is a next-man-up proposition. And the next men up weren’t productive enough to help the Cowboys overcome the Jets.
“With injuries, without injuries, you can’t get in your own way, and that’s what we’ve continuously done, and we’ve got to figure out a way (not) to do that,” Prescott said. “Great teams don’t do that, and right now we’re far from that, so we’ve got to figure it out.”
Prescott completed 28 of his 40 passes for 277 yards, while running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed 28 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Also, Brett Maher made 3-of-4 field goals, including becoming the first kicker in NFL history to convert at least two field goals from 62 yards in his career when he booted one from that distance late in the second quarter.
But it was the field goal that Maher was denied to kick by Garrett – when the Cowboys were only down 7-3 and facing fourth-and-2 from the Jets’ 7 – that ultimately changed the momentum of the game and start things spinning out of control for the Cowboys.
“We just got to go out there and play better football,” Elliott said. “We’re not playing really good football right now.”
And that bad football is costing the Cowboys dearly.
“It’s frustrating because it’s self-inflicted,” Prescott said. “We know the players that we have, the men that we have on this team.
“We’re not going to lose confidence, but we’re definitely going to gain focus and a sense of accountability to lock in and to lean on one another. This brotherhood has to grow right now more than it ever has.”
Dallas Cowboys searching for answers after three straight losses
By Dwain Price, NDG Sports