Make no mistake, Dallas Cowboys offense looked far superior Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Lions than they have at any point so far in the 2018 season. Having said that, they missed at least five opportunities at scoring a touchdown by my count, instead settled for field goals for the most part. It may be nitpicking, but it could've cost them the “W” against Detroit.
I don't know who's responsible for lighting a fire under Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan's rear, but his playcalling was pretty impressive against the Detroit Lions. He had the offense and Dak Prescott using much more an up-tempo pace, more pre-snap motion, and play action to get them back on track. It was enough to secure the victory, but just barely.
Because of missed touchdown opportunities, the Dallas Cowboys had to rely on Kicker Brett Maher to make a game clinching 38 yard field goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Maher ended up being the hero Sunday afternoon, but could've easily cost Dallas the victory. This is a game that never should have depended on the leg of Maher to begin with.
1st Missed TD Opportunity
Just three plays later after Quarterback Dak Prescott hooked up with rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup on a 37 yard completion, the Dallas Cowboys missed their first touchdown opportunity when Prescott overthrew Gallup in the end zone on a 3rd and 9 play from Detroit's 14 yard line.
Gallup had a step on the Lions best defensive back, Darius Slay, but unfortunately Prescott's throw sailed out of bounds. It would have likely taken a nearly perfect throw into the back corner of the end zone to give Gallup a chance at securing the catch for the TD, but the opportunity was there nonetheless. Instead, the Cowboys had to settle for Maher's first FG of the game.
2nd Missed TD Opportunity
The Dallas Cowboys next missed opportunity to score a touchdown came in the second quarter when they were trailing the Detroit Lions 7-3. This failed opportunity might just have been Dak Prescott's best throw of the entire game. Yes, I'm talking about the dime he threw to Tavon Austin in the end zone from 34 yards out.
In all honesty, Prescott couldn't have thrown a better pass to Austin. It was somewhat surprising he was challenging Darius Slay once again, but Austin did have a step on him and probably should've secured the catch for the Cowboys first TD of the game. Instead, it bounced off his hands and fell incomplete. The result of this series once again ended in a Maher FG, bringing the score to 7-6, Detroit.
3rd Missed TD Opportunity
The Dallas Cowboys ended up scoring a touchdown on this particular offensive series, but it ended up being much more difficult than it needed to be. This is the series where Prescott hooked up with Geoff Swaim for his first career TD. But, Prescott could have made a much easier TD pass to WR Allen Hurns, who is standing wide open in the end zone just two plays earlier.
Unfortunately, Prescott gave up on the Hurns just a millisecond too early. This was an excellent example of route running by #17, and it should've resulted in his first career touchdown with the Cowboys. Luckily though, the Cowboys were able to score a TD on this drive. But, it was still a missed opportunity regardless of the outcome.
4th and 5th Missed TD Opportunities
The Dallas Cowboys fourth and fifth missed touchdown opportunities came in their second to last offensive series in the fourth quarter. After an impressive 19 yard pass to Cole Beasley, the Cowboys were looking at first and goal from Detroit's 6 yard line. Let's take a look at how this failed TD opportunity played out…
- 1 – 6 Ezekiel Elliott to DET 4 for 2 yards.
- 2 – 4 Prescott overthrows Swaim on the right side of the end zone
- 3 – 4 Prescott's pass to Rico Gathers falls incomplete
- 4 – 4 Maher makes a 22 yard field goal
As much as I liked Scott Linehan's playcalling against Detroit, I hated this sequence of plays, mostly the second and third down plays. I have much more faith Zeke would've scored from 4 yards out than I do in Prescott's ability to connect with one of his pass catchers in the end zone. After all, Detroit didn't have an answer for #21 the entire game.
The Cowboys could've possibly scored however on either of the two passes to Swaim or Gathers. Swaim was open, but Prescott's pass was off target in large part due to the pressure he had in his face. Isolating Gathers, who is vastly unproven, was highly questionable. Yes, he had the size advantage over Detroit's smaller DB, but that's not a very high percentage play to make. That's especially for someone as inexperienced as Rico.
I know a lot of these plays may seem like nitpicking to a lot of you, but the good teams around the NFL typically capitalize on these kind of opportunities. If the Dallas Cowboys want to be serious postseason contenders, they can't allow these failed touchdown opportunities to slip through their fingers. Kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns isn't the best way to win games.