Many will remember 2017 as an ugly year for the Dallas Cowboys. It was only fitting that their season finale was perhaps the ugliest game of all.
You might see that score and think two Dan Bailey field goals won the day. But on the contrary, Bailey missed the extra point after a touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to Brice Butler. Bailey also missed a 20-yard field goal in the final minute, after which he hung his head in personal defeat.
It was one of several low points in this “victory” for the Cowboys.
While finishing 9-7 and giving Jason Garrett his first back-to-back winning seasons was nice, that was one of only a few positives to take from the game. In fact, some would even argue that the win will ultimately hurt the Cowboys due to draft positioning. The 9-7 finish will likely put the Cowboys in the late teens of April’s draft, whereas an 8-8 finish could’ve had them around the 15th pick.
Also lost were opportunities to see more of the younger players as the Cowboys stuck with starters for much of the game.
We never got to see rookie QB Cooper Rush, or much out of WR Noah Brown and other prospects. Prescott, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Jason Witten played more than the non-existent stakes of the game would have suggested.
One starter who may wish he hadn’t played is guard Jonathan Cooper, who suffered a knee injury and left the game. Cooper had to be helped off the field and it could be a big blow to his upcoming free agency. The seventh-overall pick in 2013 has had his career marred by injuries.
So yes, the Cowboys win. But from Cooper’s knee to Bailey’s confidence to our 2018 draft spot, this game may be more memorable for the losses.
- Ezekiel Elliott‘s quest for a 1,000-yard season fell 17 yards short. He had 103 rushing yards on 27 carries, being given every opportunity to hit the milestone. After getting just 28 yards on his first 10 carries, Zeke found more running room in the second half and almost hit his goal. Still, Elliott will finish the year with the best per-game average of any RB in the NFL.
- DeMarcus Lawrence may wind up with a half-sack by the time this game is reviewed. What appeared to be a shared sack with Datone Jones was fully credited to Jones in the moment. If it does get split, it will give Lawrence a total of 15 sacks for 2017. Beyond that one play, DeMarcus was terrorizing Nick Foles early in the game and seemed to be getting pressure on every Eagles passing play. You’ll get to see him again in next month’s Pro Bowl.
- Just as impressive was Sean Lee, who was out there playing like a championship was on the line. The defensive leader put on a display of heart and personal accountability that we can only hope his young teammates took note of.
- Chidobe Awuzie recorded his first interception on a poor throw by Foles; the ball sailed and was an easy snag for the rookie corner. Along with the pick, Awuzie was laying out some tough hits and showing his toughness. While question marks abound for this offseason, the Cowboys’ young trio of corners with Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown is something they can feel good about.
- Ryan Switzer led the team with four catches and once again reminded you of Cole Beasley, who was inactive due to illness, with his playing style. Will Dallas seek cap relief by cutting Beasley due to Switzer’s presence? That’s one of the big questions for the coming months.
Well folks, that’s it for 2017. Our attention will now turn to free agency, the draft, and perhaps the changing of coordinators and other assistant coaches. Stay tuned to Inside The Star in the months ahead.
The games may be over, but the business of football never really ends.