Roller coaster. That’s probably the best way to describe the 2019 Dallas Cowboys. They started the season with a three-game winning streak and looked like one of the better teams in the NFL. A three-game losing streak would follow once the competition got a little tougher. Now, they sit at 6-5 with five games remaining in the regular season and still have plenty of questions that need answering.
A huge reason why is this team’s inability to have both it’s offense and defense play well together consistently. It’s a frustrating truth about this organization and has become a head-scratching topic considering the talent on this roster.
As mentioned earlier, the Cowboys rolled through their first three games this season. However, when those opponents are the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, and Miami Dolphins it isn’t hard to see why they started so fast. Ever since then, trying to figure out which Cowboys team will show up week to week has been extremely hard.
Week 4 vs the New Orleans Saints would be the first big test for the Cowboys, albeit without Drew Brees. Defensively it couldn’t have gone better for the Cowboys. They held the Saints to 266 total yards, 0 for 4 in the red zone and only allowed 12 points. Unfortunately, as good as their defense was their offense was equally as bad. All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott only managed 35 yards on 18 carries. Dak Prescott completed 22 of his 33 passes but failed to reach the endzone and only produced 10 points. This was arguably their best defensive performance as well as their worst offensive showing in the same game.
A week later vs the Green Bay Packers was a disaster for both sides of the ball. Prescott threw two interceptions on the Cowboy’s first three possessions after moving the offense near field goal range. The Packers quickly went up 14-0 and the Cowboys defense never recovered. Running Back Aaron Jones had 182 all-purpose yards and four rushing touchdowns (a record for a Cowboy’s opponent). After being held scoreless in the first half, Prescott’s 329 yards in the second half led to 24 points as the Cowboys tried to rally back. Unfortunately, their defense continued to struggle giving up 17 more points as the Cowboys would suffer a 10 point loss.
In Week 6 vs the New York Jets, the Cowboys had another golden opportunity to pick up a win against a spiraling 0-4 team. However, like the previous week vs the Packers, both sides of the ball came out flat. The defense allowed 21 first-half points and the offense only produced two field goals. In the second half things turned around as Elliott’s 70 yards led the Cowboys to 16 points. Defensively, the held the Jets to only three points, but a missed two-point conversion in the final minute caused their comeback attempt to fall short. Yes, both units played well after halftime, but their slow start was too much to overcome.
Heading into the bye week, the Cowboys got their most complete game of the season on both sides of the ball vs the Philadelphia Eagles. Their defense sacked Carson Wentz three times, forced four turnovers and only gave up 10 points. Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper both went over 100 yards and the offense gained over 400, scoring 37 points. This game was a prime example of what the Cowboys are capable of when both units play well together.
Coming off the bye week the Cowboys went to Metlife Stadium looking to sweep the Giants for the third straight season. Once again, though, one side of the ball didn’t match the other to start. They only gave up 12 on defense in the first half. Offensively they struggled only producing three points in the first 27 minutes. Before halftime, however, Prescott found Tight End Blake Jarwin for a touchdown and a Xavier Woods interception led to a field goal as the Cowboys took a 13-12 lead. In the second half, the Cowboys dominated 24-6 and cruised to a 37-18 win. Prescott threw three touchdowns and Elliott had 139 yards rushing. Defensively they forced three turnovers, registered five sacks and only gave up 271 yards of offense. The second half was another example of how good this team can be if both sides play well at the same time.
When the Cowboys hosted the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10 they were facing the NFL’s leading rusher at the time Dalvin Cook, and their defense had no answer. He racked up 183 all-purpose yards as he absolutely gashed the Cowboys defense running between the tackles and catching screen passes. On the offensive side of the ball, Prescott threw for 397 yards and three touchdowns. Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb both went over 100 yards receiving. Ultimately, the Cowboys lost 28-24 in a game they would’ve won easily if their defense played up to par.
The Cowboys stormed into the Motor City to play Detroit Lions looking to bounce back after a tough loss. This would be another struggle for their defensive unit. While they didn’t give up a ton of yardage they were kept off-balance by backup Quarterback Jeff Driskel’s arm as well as his legs, leading the Lions to 27 points. He would be outmatched by Prescott, though, who threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Also, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb made it back to back weeks the Cowboys had multiple 100-yard receivers. The Cowboys survived 35-27 but once again, they would’ve won easily with a better defensive effort.
Finally, this past Sunday the Cowboys traveled to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots. This would be exactly the kind of defensive performance you would want to see on the road, especially vs New England. The Patriots only converted three of their 14 third downs, only scored on one of their three trips in the red zone, and produced 13 points. However, the Cowboys offense was stuck in the mud from start to finish. They were only 2 of 13 on third down, 0 for 2 in the red zone and produced a grand total of nine points. This was a big-time defensive effort gone to waste by the Cowboys due to a pedestrian offensive performance, to say the least.
So, it’s safe to say the 2019 Cowboys can make the case for being the most up and down football team in the NFL. One week their hot and the next they’re cold, which would explain their 6-5 record (0-4 vs current playoff teams). They’ve only been consistent at one thing, being inconsistent. Three of the other five current playoff teams in the NFC have already beaten the Cowboys. If they want to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs or make the playoffs at all for that matter, both their offense and defense must find a way to play at the highest level in unison