The Dallas Cowboys had nine months to prepare for this. They had nine months to correct the mistakes of last season. They had nine months to figure out how to overcome the things that led to that horrid 4-12 season (Tony Romo’s and Dez Bryant’s injuries notwithstanding).
You waited nine months for this. And you got the same, old, thing.
The Cowboys’ 20-19 loss to the New York Giants didn’t happen because Lance Dunbar and Terrence Williams failed to get out of bounds on separate pass plays on the final drive of the game. The die was cast long before that final drive.
There are three areas that I had hoped the Cowboys would improve upon in 2016. The Cowboys went 0-for-3 on that count Sunday.
Start with red-zone offense. The Cowboys were horrid last year, scoring a touchdown 44 percent of the time. The Cowboys needed to get more efficient in this area, as they were in 2014 when the Cowboys converted on 64.9 percent of those opportunities.
Dallas was 1-for-3 in the red zone on Sunday (the Giants were 3-of-3 in that category on Sunday, so if you’re looking for a distinction in winning and losing there you go).
The Cowboys ran 10 plays inside the 20 — six passes and four runs. That included the drop by Cole Beasley on the first drive of the game that, if caught, most likely would have been a touchdown. The only TD came on Ezekiel Elliott’s 8-yard run in the third quarter, shortly after Brandon Carr’s interception of Eli Manning, and gave the Cowboys the lead.
None of that includes the fact that two other drives sputtered outside the Giants’ 20 but the magical foot of Dan Bailey converted them into field goals. So the Cowboys ran 75 plays on Sunday and walked away with 19 points. Just one red-zone touchdown and the game would have been theirs.
If you were just looking purely at the stat sheet, you might actually be happy about two sacks and two quarterback hits. But look a little closer and it’s not something to get too excited about. First, Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw 28 passes and was only hit twice (to be honest, both offensive lines played great on Sunday, at least in terms of sack avoidance. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott wasn’t sacked at all). So the Cowboys barely harassed him on Sunday. Second, just one of those sacks came from a defensive end, Benson Mayowa. The other came from cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
So the Cowboys needed extra help from blitz packages and stunts to mount any kind of rush on Manning, and even then it didn’t muster much. Yes, the Cowboys are without DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. But if the coaching staff won’t make excuses, then we shouldn’t either, right? The Cowboys and their coaching staff has to find a way to squeeze as much pressure out of these ends as possible until Lawrence and Gregory return (expect the latter to be gone a while).
Plus, the defense finally broke — again. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Cowboys defense struggles in the first half, makes sound adjustments, puts the opponent in the corner but the Cowboys ask the defense to make it happen one more time and they can’t. We saw it again Sunday.
The Carr interception did more than just set the Cowboys’ offense up on a short field. From that point the Cowboys’ defense pinned the Giants down. The Giants were forced to punt on their next three possessions, as the Cowboys’ defense limited them to just 14 plays. If the Cowboys’ offense had been a little more efficient, the defense wouldn’t have been asked to hold the lead. But after the Cowboys’ TD they had just one remaining scoring drive — the 11-play drive to Bailey’s fourth field goal. Three short drives ended in punts and you saw the final drive to end the game.
It was just too much for this unit, unfortunately. The defense was certainly game. They actually forced the Giants into a 3rd-and-goal situation before Victor Cruz found a seam in the middle of the Cowboys’ defense to catch what became the game-winning score midway through the fourth quarter.
Dallas should have won this game. They possessed the ball for more than 36 minutes. The Cowboys actually forced a turnover and won the turnover game, as the offense never turned it over. Prescott had a solid game. There were elements to be pleased about.
But in the end, this was a rerun, an oldie. "Ain't No Sunshine'' ... except down the stretch, when the lack of curtains at AT&T Stadium meant there was blinding sunshine in the eyes of Dallas' potential playmakers.null