The Dallas Cowboys let a golden opportunity slip away

It was just a couple weeks ago when I stated that we needed to deal with the notion that the Dallas Cowboys are a good football team. For the record, I still believe that. I think that, when they’re taking care of their business, the Cowboys are capable of beating any one of their NFC contemporaries and competing for a championship.

But yesterday’s Dallas Cowboys weren’t on their game. In fact, they looked like the bunch that stumbled through November and made everyone nervous about their chances in the playoffs. There’s no way to mince words about yesterday’s 25-22 loss at AT&T Stadium. It wasn’t a good effort. And by the time they managed to get their act together, it was too late.

The Dallas Cowboys played a lethargic, sloppy game–and they paid for it.

This was an Arizona Cardinals’ team that entered the game beat up, missing notables such as wideout DeAndre Hopkins and running back James Conner. Conversely, the Cowboys were almost completely healthy and had their full complement of weapons on offense. So it came as quite a surprise when Arizona came out swinging and appeared to catch Dallas off their guard.

Also, before I move on here, I’ve seen and heard a lot of the grumbling about the officiating in yesterday’s game. Simply put, that’s the loser’s lament. The Cowboys had a chance to improve their lot against a struggling Cardinals’ team that had been reeling. Arizona, though, had the better game plan, were better coached, and executed across the board when the Cowboys could not.

A familiar and frustrating theme played itself out during the game. Mistakes compounded themselves. A missed field goal here, a dropped pass there, and several penalty flags all conspired to undermine the Cowboys at every turn. Further, quarterback Dak Prescott regressed to his November form. To be fair, he wasn’t horrible. He threw for three scores after all.

But there is still something amiss with Prescott’s mechanics. When he’s off, his throws are high, and I wouldn’t be surprised that when this season’s postscripts are written we’ll find out he’s been nursing that calf strain the whole time. This is not to excuse him. He’s well enough to play. It’s just that he hasn’t enjoyed the accuracy he did prior the injury.

There’s also the elephant in the room that is the utter absence of a Dallas rushing attack. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combined for a meager 25 yards on 12 carries. I don’t know whether that speaks to a lack of commitment to the run, the Arizona defense, or both, but that output simply will not cut it in the playoffs. In fact, if the Cowboys have a fatal flaw, their inability to run the ball is it. They absolutely need to get that shored up if they want to avoid a postseason flameout.

I won’t come out and say the sky is falling, but a sloppy loss like this is certainly enough to give everyone pause. We know this team has enormous difficulty playing from behind. We know it’s hard for them to win when they’re constantly shooting themselves in the foot with bad penalties. They’ve got to be more disciplined, and the time for working on themselves is running out.