In the game of football, the objective is to acquire as much talent as possible in order to perform at a high level. The Dallas Cowboys have done a remarkable job of putting the right pieces in place to be competitive year in and year out.
Players like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and more have put the Cowboys at the top of the list when it comes to who has the best roster in the NFL. However, no matter how deep your talent pool is your coaching staff is just as important. Having the right men to guide the ship will put you in the best position to succeed. The Cowboys have players that are good enough to get the job done, but this coaching staff must do a better job of game planning and making the proper in-game adjustments if this team wants to reach the next level.
The Cowboys 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday left plenty of questions going forward as it relates to if this staff has what it takes to finally get this team past the divisional round of the playoffs for the first time since 1995. Let’s dive into a few of those concerns.
First, there was the inability of the Cowboys defense to stop Dalvin Cook on screens. It seemed as if every time the Vikings needed to move the chains they repeatedly called screens to keep drives alive. You would think Defensive Coordinator Kris Richard would have kept a spy on Cook or tweaked his defensive packages to counteract how screens continuously gashed his defense but it never came to pass. Definitely a head-scratcher.
The Vikings defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage from the opening kickoff. The Cowboy’s top-five rushing attack was stuck in the mud as Elliott could never get a rhythm going like his counterpart on the other sideline. Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore failed to get Elliott the ball in other ways, via screens or other short passing plays to get him out in space. Instead, Elliott routinely got stopped for minimal gains on first down putting the Cowboys behind the chains. Once it was clear the running game wasn’t going to be effective there could have been a better attempt to use Elliott’s skillset.
Maybe the biggest question mark came on the Cowboys second to last drive of the ball game. Prescott had been on fire all game long spreading the ball to Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb. He completed six of seven passes and had the Cowboys at the 11-yard line going in for the go-ahead score with under two minutes left in the game. Instead of riding the hot hand of Prescott, back to back run plays were stalled on second and third down. Prescott would try to find Elliott on a fourth-down pass play but it was broken up by Linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Why did the Cowboys take the ball out of Prescott’s hands when he was playing so well? Why did they try to force-feed Elliott during the most important drive of the game when he was bottled up all night? Mind-blowing decision with the game on the line that simply can’t happen.
Lastly, there’s been the ever so frustrating slow starts and lack of adjustments made by the Cowboys in games vs the other two current playoff teams they faced so far this season, the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.
In the Cowboys Week 4 showdown with the Saints their running game could never get going. Elliott only gained 21 yards on 11 first down carries which repeatedly put the Cowboys in second and third and long situations. Passing more on first down would have made the offense less predictable and possibly created more opportunities to be effective running the football by keeping the defense honest. The Cowboys only had three points at halftime and score a grand total of 10 in a two-point loss.
The following week, when the Packers came to town one man single-handedly beat the Cowboys by himself, and it wasn’t who most people would have guessed. Running Back Aaron Jones had 182 all-purpose yards (107 rushing, 75 receiving) and four rushing touchdowns. He continuously moved the chains on the ground and catching passes out of the backfield. Aaron Rodgers failed to throw a single touchdown pass all game but he didn’t have to with the Cowboy’s inability to stop Jones. The Packers jumped out to a 24-0 lead and never looked back, eventually winning 34-24. It was mind-blowing to not see any adjustments made to keep Jones neutralized.
Lack of preparation and failure to adjust a game plan when the original doesn’t work will get you beat every week in the NFL. It’s a trend that we’ve seen far too often under Head Coach Jason Garrett. There is too much talent on the Cowboys roster to have these kinds of deficiencies week after week. If this coaching staff doesn’t improve and quickly these last seven games are going to be a struggle and the Cowboys hopes of a second consecutive playoff appearance will slowly fade away.
Will they turn it around as the push for the postseason heats up? We shall see.