When you look at the raw offensive numbers, it’s hard to see how the Dallas Cowboys only scored 17 points in their week 13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb each had strong games, Ezekiel Elliott looked as fresh as he has all season, and Andy Dalton seemed to avoid the big mistake most of the night.
The story of this game was that the Cowboys could not finish drives. Time and time again they moved the ball well between the 20’s, before failing to convert possessions into touchdowns. Their first ten points came as the result of a short field, making their final touchdown their only real scoring drive of the night.
It didn’t help, of course, that kicker Greg Zuerlein had arguably the worst night of his career. Zuerlein went 1 for 4 on field goal attempts, leaving 9 extra potential points on the field. It was a tough night to kick for sure, as even the normally automatic Justin Tucker missed a short field goal early in the game.
It’s easy to blame Zuerlein for letting this game get out of hand, as the Cowboys came away with empty possessions. But the real problem is having to attempt the field goals at all. Head coach Mike McCarthy spoke to exactly that during his postgame interview.
“Obviously, the issue, we’re attempting to kick field goals and they were scoring touchdowns” – McCarthy.
The Cowboys defense is far from perfect, and it was only a matter of time before the Ravens were able to eclipse 30 points. Dallas knows going into each week that they need touchdowns, not field goals, but untimely mistakes in the red zone took them out of the game.
Maybe the most head-scratching of those mistakes came at the beginning of the 4th quarter. Already having missed two field goals, the Cowboys were down two touchdowns and facing a 3rd and seven. The ball was at the Baltimore 26, however, making this four down territory as they tried to claw back into the game.
Dalton took a sack on 3rd down, losing 8 yards and taking the Cowboys out of a reasonable 4th down situation. You could argue that down 14 points with just under a quarter remaining they should’ve went for it anyway, but I can understand why they would attempt a field goal given it was 4th and 15.
Dalton cannot get sacked there. At worst he needs to throw the ball away and give them a chance at a 4th and semi-long. But as he did all night he looked a bit lost in the pocket, and the offensive line got beat quickly on this snap.
There are a plethora of issues the Cowboys need to clean up, but right now they are just a bad football team all around. And their red zone woes feed right into this poor play.