It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When the 2019 season kicked off, the Dallas Cowboys were looked at as one of the few teams with a great chance to make the Super Bowl out of the NFC. Having gone 10-6 the previous season, and having one of the youngest rosters in the league, all signs pointed to a successful year in Big D.
There was one obstacle that could’ve derailed any hopes of a big year for the Cowboys, the contractual song and dance between Owner Jerry Jones and All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott. The two-time rushing champion drew his line in the sand and let it be known that he wouldn’t return to the field until a long-term deal was reached. Setting up shop in Cabo San Lucas, Elliott continued his preparation for the 2019 season away from his teammates as Jones and the organization went about business as usual with training camp and the preseason on the horizon. After six weeks of tough negotiations, the two sides finally reached an agreement as Elliott inked a six-year 90 million dollar extension with 50 million in guarantees, and the Cowboys were off and running.
The Cowboys were set up to get off to a great start with games vs the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, and Miami Dolphins in the first three weeks, and they took full advantage of it. Quarterback Dak Prescott came out guns blazing with 920 yards passing and nine touchdowns. Elliott’s 289 yards would give him the best three-game start in his short career. Defensively, they only allowed 44 points and found themselves sitting pretty at 3-0.
Every season has it’s ups and downs, though, and the Cowboys were about to be served its first taste of adversity. The New Orleans Saints awaited them in Cajun Country, and it wouldn’t be a pleasant trip. The Saints won the battle at the line of scrimmage vs the Cowboys offensive line all night long as they held Elliott to a pedestrian 35 yards on 18 carries. This lack of a running game made the Cowboys offense predictable and didn’t allow them to take advantage of a stellar defensive effort. Dallas would lose a tough one 12-10.
The next week vs the Green Bay Packers would be a nightmare from the outset. Prescott threw two interceptions on the Cowboy’s first three drives as they would fall into a 17-0 hole at halftime. Eventually falling behind as much as 28 points, the Cowboys never established any kind of offensive rhythm as Prescott had to basically throw every down if they were to have any hopes of a comeback. On the defensive side of the ball, they weren’t fairing too well either as Running Back Aaron Jones had 182 all-purpose yards and scored four rushing touchdowns, a record for a Cowboys opponent. They would drop their second straight game 34-24.
In Week 6 vs the New York Jets, who were 0-4 at the time, the Cowboys had a great opportunity to get back on track, at least that’s what it looked like on paper. Quarterback Sam Darnold was seeing his first game action since the season opener as he dealt with mononucleosis. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell as he lit up the Cowboys secondary for 338 yards and two touchdowns, not an ideal defensive showing. Offensively it wasn’t any better as they only mustered together six points in the first half. Elliott would grind out 105 tough yards on 28 carries but it wouldn’t be enough. The Cowboys lost their third straight game 24-22 and found themselves searching for answers.
The next two games were division showdowns with the Philadelphia Eagles and Giants, and the Cowboys would leave little doubt about the outcome of either of these contests, thanks to huge defensive performances. They forced seven turnovers and only allowed 28 points en route to two blowout victories and were in the driver’s seat at 5-3 atop the NFC East.
After a tough four-point loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys were looking to get back on track vs the Detroit Lions, and they did just that. Prescott had one of the best games of his career with 444 yards and three touchdowns. Elliott only had 73 all-purpose yards but he did find the end zone twice. Lastly, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb both went over 100 yards as the Cowboys won 35-27 and improved to 6-4.
The last six weeks of the season were a disaster for the Cowboys. They would suffer their second three-game losing streak of the season falling to the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, and Chicago Bears. They bounced back with a dominant 44-21 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, setting up a showdown with the Eagles with a chance to clinch the NFC East crown, and it didn’t turn out well. The Cowboys failed to reach the end zone in a devastating 17-9 loss which squandered their division lead and essentially ended their season. A blowout 47-16 victory in the season finale vs the Redskins was irrelevant and the Cowboys finished a disappointing 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
When you look at how both sides of the ball finished it’s really mind-blowing how this season turned out. Offensively, they were the top-ranked unit in the NFL. Prescott nearly set a franchise record with 4,902 passing yards, finishing second league-wide in that category. Elliott finished fourth in rushing, tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns, and second in all-purpose yards. Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup showed what kind of duo they could be as both went over 1,000 yards receiving. Defensively, even though they weren’t the unit from a year ago, they did finish ninth in the league.
How can this team have possibly struggled to break even? That can be explained by using one word, inconsistency. They could never constantly put together complete games on both sides of the ball. With the high expectations they had for themselves and from others, it’s safe to say that the 2019 Cowboys were the NFL’s biggest disappointment.
So where do the Cowboys go from here? Well, one thing is for certain, this pattern of making the playoffs one year and missing them the next has to change, which has been the norm since 2014. There’s too much talent on this roster to only produce eight wins. They need to solve this puzzle and fast or they’ll be in danger of wasting the careers of a plethora of talented players.