The Dallas Cowboys' Head Coach Jason Garrett was under fire all week-long after his passive decision to NOT go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Houston Texans 42 yard line in overtime last week. Instead of taking a shot with a really good offensive line and one of the best running backs in the NFL, Garrett opted to punt the ball to a Texans offense that the Cowboys defense struggled to stop -- until it got inside the five yard line that is.
Well, in typical Jason Garrett fashion, in a game in which they were leading from start to finish en route to a 40-7 victory -- that was never really that close -- the Dallas Cowboys' head coach kept the offense on the field on two 4th and 1 occasions. Converting both of them.
The head coach and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys organization may feel vindicated in pulling the trigger in situations that the Dallas Cowboys have been almost automatic in converting since the start of 2016. The reality is there was nothing at risk in the point of the game in which Garrett opted to try to convert the fourth down.
Though they converted on both 4th-and-1 attempts, they were nothing more than hollow victories for the much maligned head coach.
Their first 4th and 1 attempt was late in the first half of the game with the Dallas Cowboys already leading 17-0. They were driving with under two minutes to play in the half at the Jacksonville Jaguars 37 yard line. The Jaguars had only crossed midfield once and hadn't sniffed any scoring opportunities. There was little risked at that point in the game. If you miss on the conversion, the Jaguars would have to pick up at least 26 yards to get into field goal range. At that point in the game the Jacksonville had only picked up two first downs. The Jaguars had only averaged 13 yards per drive on their four first half drives to that point and three of those drives went three and out.
You can make a case that if the Dallas Cowboys missed on this opportunity and the Jaguars took the ensuing possession and scored, it could have had an impact on the outcome of the game. But with the way that the defense completely dominated the Jaguars in the first half, there was little chance of them driving the length of the field to score a touchdown with under a minute to play.
The next time the Dallas Cowboys went for it on 4th and 1 was with 10:22 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys up 37-7. The game at this point was already decided.
Unlike the week before.
Tony Romo said it best during the broadcast. He talked about the leeway Garrett would have gotten from Jerry Jones had the Dallas Cowboys gone for it on 4th-and-1 against the Texans and missed because Jones is a risk taker (paraphrasing). Now, I know Garrett has been known to take a chance or two at times, think of the Chris Jones fake punts, but there are situations in football that aren't that big of a risk. When you're in opponent territory and have the run game that the Cowboys have, picking up 4th-and-1 is about as sure a thing as you'll find in the NFL. Since 2016, the Dallas Cowboys had gone 18 for 19 on 4th-and-1 situations. Even if they don't make it, the opponent still has to pick up a 2-3 first downs to have a shot at winning the game.
Don't be fooled by what Garrett did on Sunday. He wasn't being aggressive. He wasn't taking the fight to an opponent who was still in the game. He was kicking a team while it was down. The Jaguars had zero answers for the Cowboys on either side of the football. The Cowboys wouldn't have lost the football game if they missed on either of those two opportunities.
If anything, Garrett was just being petty about all the criticism he took this week for declining his offense the chance to keep the ball week five. I've always been a Garrett believer because of the way he gets his teams mentally prepared to play. They rarely have bad games and typically when their backs are against the wall, they respond. On 4th and 1 against the Texans a week ago, their backs were against the wall as a team and he didn't give them the opportunity to respond. Had Garrett had faith in his defense, he would have gone for it because he would have believed in their ability to prevent the Texans from getting into field goal range. He showed a lack of faith in both sides of the ball by not giving the offense a chance to convert and by trying to help the defense with better field position.
I don't believe for a second that Jason Garrett changed his philosophy on those types of calls and I fully expect us to be rather frustrated by another conservative call in the future. Like I said before, these two 4th-and-1 conversions meant nothing in how the game was going to play out. Is it possible that Jerry Jones got in Garrett's ear about taking those kinds of chances to win the game? Absolutely. If we see a similar situation come in the future and Garrett goes for it, perhaps there was a change, but change is a difficult thing. Most humans do not like change and most people don't change.
I hope I'm wrong and this marked a change in the approach of Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff. With their offensive line and the running ability of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, I don't care if they only convert half of those opportunities, those two are too good with the ball in their hands to not go for it.
Hopefully Jason Garrett realizes that running those two are his best avenue to winning football games and is aggressive on future 4th-and-1 situations. Since I like my life, I'm not going to hold my breath.
Lion Down: QB Matthew Stafford Ruled Out for Cowboys Game
The Detroit Lions will be without starting Quarterback Matthew Stafford this Sunday when they host the Dallas Cowboys. He has been officially ruled out due to fractures in his back; the second-straight game that Stafford will miss with the injury.
Fourth-year backup QB Jeff Driskel will get the start as he did last week against the Chicago Bears. The Lions lost that game 20-13, and Driskel went 1-4 as a starter last season when playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Stafford's status was confirmed this morning by Lions' Head Coach Matt Patricia.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford (back) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Cowboys
Losing Stafford could leave Detroit completely crippled on offense. While they have one of the league's top passing offenses so far in 2019, that was all Matt's work at QB. Now they are missing both their starting QB and their top running back, Kerryon Johnson, who went on injured reserve in Week 7.
That said, Detroit did put up 357 total offensive yards last week against the Bears with Driskel starting. Given the quality of Chicago's defense and that the Lions were playing on the road, that's a strong number.
It will be interesting to see how Dallas strategizes on defense after last week's loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys were completely run over by Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, so will increased focus on run defense creates opportunities for Driskel and the Lions' receivers?
However it shakes out, Matthew Stafford's absence definitely helps the Cowboys. He is still one of the top quarterbacks in football and had a top-five passer rating before the injury.
We never root for injuries but such is life in the NFL. Sometimes you get the benefit, sometimes you're on the losing end.
Hopefully, this turn of fate helps Dallas get a much-needed victory.
#DALvsDET: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
Cowboys -3.5 O/U 51.5 points.
After suffering a devastating four point loss to the Vikings on Sunday night, the Cowboys will look to get back on track against yet another NFC North foe.
Dallas now sits at 5-4, clinging to their first place spot in the division with the Philadelphia Eagles right on their heels. They have fumbled away four very win-able games already this season, and are running out of chances to take full control of their playoff destiny.
You can't necessarily call this one a must win for the Cowboys, but it's damn near as close as it can get to one for a week 11 game. Considering Detroit's record and injuries, the Cowboys can ill afford to let this one slip away on Sunday.
It's one of the few games against a team with a losing record remaining on their schedule.
The 2019 Lions are a tough team to figure out. Expected before the season to be one of the worst teams in the conference, the Lions started out the season rather well.
They were "undefeated" (there was a tie) through the first three weeks of the season, and played the Kansas City Chiefs extremely tough. They also went on the road and had the Green Bay Packers on the ropes for four full quarters.
But, with all that being said, they now sit at 3-5-1, with their NFC playoff hopes just about destroyed. Quarterback Matt Stafford is having one of the best seasons of his entire career, however, and is surrounded by an offense littered with receiving talent. If he's healthy and can play, he'll be a handful for the Cowboys secondary to deal with.
- The Cowboys are now 2-4 against the spread their last 6 games.
- The score total has gone over in 5 of the Cowboys' last 6 games. It's also gone over 5 of their last 6 road games.
- The Lions are 1-4 against the spread their last 5 games.
- The score total has gone over 7 of the last 8 times these teams have played.
Despite being on the road this week, I'm going to pick the Dallas Cowboys to come out on top and cover the 3.5 point spread. At some point, talent has to take over for this bunch, and what a better day for that to happen than against a hobbled Detroit Lions team?
The Cowboys have been far from perfect in 2019, but it's now or never if they want to rack up wins and start a playoff run.
The Brady Report: Cowboys Defense Run Over In Primetime Loss
Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings was a tough one to take for the Dallas Cowboys. They could easily be sitting here today at 7-2 or 6-3, comfortably ahead of the Eagles for first place in the division and fighting for a first round bye in the postseason.
Instead, they are barely over .500 on the season and face de facto must win games each week from here on out. Obviously they let this one slip away, but there's a whole seven games to go before we know the fate of the 2019 Dallas Cowboys.
Let's discuss what went wrong (and right) last week during the Cowboys 28-24 loss.
- What more can we say about Dak Prescott? The Cowboys franchise quarterback was incredible yet again on Sunday night, having arguably his best game to date even in defeat. Prescott was in complete control of the offense, and showcased his mastery by bailing the Cowboys out with some big third down throws. Prescott finished with 397 yards and 3 touchdowns, and continues to force the hand of the Jones family to break out the checkbook this offseason.
- Much like Dak Prescott, I'm running out of adjectives to describe the play of wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper has been a God-send for this Cowboys offense over the last calendar year, looking like one of the best wide outs in the league week in and week out. Cooper went for 147 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches, and should have been given a chance to win the game on the team's final drive.
- Alright, that's enough praise in defeat. Let's talk about the negatives. The defensive tackles were flat-out awful. No matter who it was - Antwaun Woods, Maliek Collins, Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder - anyone who was asked to defend the run at the 1 or 3 technique position had some very low moments against the Vikings. Minnesota bullied the Cowboys upfront on both the sides of the ball, en route to over 150 yards on the ground for this Vikings offense. Dalvin Cook and the Vikings offensive line won this game, and the Cowboys interior defensive line needs to be better if they hope to actually compete against good teams.
- The defensive tackles were bad against the run Sunday night, but let's not let the linebackers off the hook. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are each immensely talented, but neither has been as consistent as a run defender as they need to be going forward. Smith looked flat-out dis-engaged at times during this one, and both linebackers were run over by interior offensive linemen getting to the second level. I've often praised Smith for his versatility and what it does to unleash this defense, but he was plain bad last week.
- Of course, we can't let the coaching staff off the hook for this loss either. Head coach Jason Garrett made several questionable fourth down calls down the stretch of the game, and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was determined to pound the ball on first down despite achieving next to no success. On the defensive end, Kris Richard's defensive backs were toasted. Chidobe Awuzie continues to look like a liability opposite Byron Jones, and the safety spot next to Xavier Woods has been a massive hole all season. And, while both Jones and Woods have been mostly good this year, neither was particularly impressive either during this loss. It was a total and complete defensive failure. This team needs to get better fast, and it all starts at the top with the coaching staff.
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