For the first time this season, the Dallas Cowboys lost their second consecutive game, on a short week to the Las Vegas Raiders. Again without Amari Cooper or CeeDee Lamb, the Cowboys responded to being held out of the end zone at Kansas City on Sunday by scoring 33 at home. This wasn't enough to avoid a third straight Thanksgiving loss, as the Raiders flipped the field in overtime and kicked the game-winning field goal.
The Cowboys have seen their NFC East lead drop to two games by losing three of their last four games, and are still in search of a signature win entering week 13. Penalized 14 times for 166 yards, the Cowboys had every right to be upset with the way this game was called, but they also saw their opponent get flagged 14 times as well.
It was a crucial fourth pass interference foul on Anthony Brown in overtime that sealed Dallas' faith. Derek Carr underthrew Zay Jones, which didn't allow Brown to turn his head and avoid the penalty. Three plays later and after three penalties on the FG attempt, the Raiders drew within a game of the Chiefs in the AFC West – the division that's handed the Cowboys three of their four losses on the season.
Here are the rest of my notes from yet another game the Cowboys will be quickly looking to forget.
Dan Quinn was criticized for playing man coverage on the third down throw against Brown in overtime, but his zone coverage got beat on a previous third down to give the Raiders a two-score lead. The Raiders once again had the Cowboys playing from behind with a second quarter FG to go ahead 17-6. Jones settled into a window away from Trevon Diggs and converted a third and ten at the Raiders' 30 yard line. The Cowboys would be chasing this lead until the fourth quarter, when Dalton Schultz tied the game at 30 on a strike down the middle from Dak Prescott.
Speaking of Schultz, I was surprised to see him not targeted on the Cowboys three-and-out in overtime that started from their seven. On a previous drive where the Cowboys were backed up, Kellen Moore kept his tight ends in to protect, forcing Prescott into check downs. On this drive, Schultz was in the pattern, but a crucial second down throw to Elliott felt forced. Elliott had a similar short reception on first down, but on the next snap it appeared Prescott didn't even look the way of Cedrick Wilson on the other side of the field, who had more room to work.
The Cowboys also saw Tony Pollard put up 32 receiving yards on four catches, carry ten times for 36 more, and return a kickoff for a touchdown that quickly cut into a 24-13 Raiders lead. After scrambling right and missing on third down, the Cowboys may second guess not giving Pollard one of Elliott's two touches in OT.
Terrence Steele's missed block killed a great play design from Moore on the Cowboys' two-point attempt. The Cowboys try to make this a three point game failed when Elliott pitched the ball to Wilson short of the goal line, and Jonathan Abram made the stop. Wilson and Elliott ended up too close together on the play, and Elliott was forced to pitch it earlier than he would have liked as the defensive end blew past Steele and closed on him. The Cowboys shuffled their offensive line throughout this game, though Steele's time as a starter should have prepared him for this look.
The Cowboys game-tying touchdown to Schultz doesn't happen without Dorance Armstrong chasing down Hunter Renfrow on third down. Renfrow caught a short pass but picked up a block and had the angle to beat Jayron Kearse, who struggled tackling in space throughout this game. Armstrong turned around from his rush and caught Renfrow from behind, holding the Raiders to a field goal and handing the ball back to Prescott in a one-score game.
Other than penalties, this game can be defined by how both QBs played against the blitz. Prescott has been one of the best QBs in this category all season, and it's a part of his game that's grown considerably. The Cowboys had all of their starting linemen available and Tyron Smith on the field, but Vegas still had success dialing up pressure on Prescott. Without Cooper or Lamb, Dak wasn't able to beat the blitz by throwing into it, instead holding the ball for Gallup and Wilson to separate later in downs.
For the Cowboys defense, Quinn's blitzes opened up plenty of easy throws for Derek Carr to step up and deliver. After a week where his defense held up their end of the game plan and then some, holding the Chiefs to 19 points, the Cowboys were on the losing end of a 30 point output for the first time in their last seven occurrences. Last year's forgettable defensive performance against the Browns is the outlier here, going back to the 2013 Tony Romo-Peyton Manning shootout for a similar Cowboys loss before that.
The Cowboys will get an equally desperate team on the road next Thursday, traveling to the Saints who have lost three straight. New Orleans played in primetime on Thanksgiving night and had a chance to upset the AFC contending Bills off a loss, instead catching Buffalo's bounce-back game in a 31-6 defeat.
Dallas has responded to losses this season by narrowly beating the Chargers on the road, beating the Falcons by 40, and now dropping a second straight to the Raiders. This isn't the usual Saints offense that could force the Cowboys into another high-scoring affair, which bodes well for a team averaging just 22.6 points on the road in five games compared to 35.5 from AT&T Stadium.