Although they got the win last week against the Minnesota Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys didn't look like the who'd won 10-straight games going in. The offense sputtered more than any other week since the season opener.
The performance raised concerns that the Cowboys might headed into the dreaded December decline. There is a prevailing notion among Dallas fans and the nation as a whole that the Cowboys play their worst football at the end of the year.
I thought it would be a good idea to look back on the team's late-season history during Jason Garrett's coaching tenure. How true is it that the Cowboys' level of play drops after Thanksgiving?
After the win over Minnesota, Garrett has a 14-15 record in regular season games played after Thanksgiving. That alone says that the Cowboys aren't horrible at the end of the year, but they certainly aren't above average.
Each December is its own story, though. How many of those games has a backup quarterback played? How many games were inconsequential due to having clinched or been eliminated from the playoffs?
We'll get a much more accurate impression of the Cowboys' late-season record if we look at each season separately.
2010 - 3-2 post-Thanksgiving (5-3 overall)
This was the year that Jason Garrett took over as interim head coach after Wade Phillips' firing. He went 5-3 over that stretch despite Jon Kitna, and not Tony Romo, starting at quarterback in all those games.
The Cowboys' three late wins this year were not overly impressive. The best win was an overtime victory over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in their stadium. Another was against Washington, who was having a bad season of their own. The final win came against the Eagles, but Philly was resting their starters after having already clinched the NFC East.
2011 - 1-4 post-Thanksgiving (8-8 overall)
This was the season that helped create the entire December narrative for the Cowboys. They were 7-4 after beating the Miami Dolphins on Thanksgiving and would only win more game, missing the playoffs in deplorable fashion.
Three of the four losses came were with Tony Romo under center. In Week 16, Romo injured his hand on the first drive against Philadelphia and Stephen McGee played the rest of the way.
2012 - 3-2 post-Thanksgiving (8-8 overall)
The Cowboys were 5-6 going into December this season, so they actually improved their record overall. However, they ultimately failed when it mattered most.
After three-straight wins the Cowboys were 8-6 and contending for the division title. They lost in overtime to the Saints and then headed to Washington for a winner-take-all game for the division title. Tony Romo three three interceptions as they fell 28-14, giving up the NFC East and missing the playoffs.
2013 - 1-3 post-Thanksgiving (8-8 overall)
Another bad December performance, but not as ugly as 2011. One of the losses comes with a major asterisk.
Once again, the Cowboys were in a Week 17 game for the division title. This time it was against the Eagles, but Tony Romo wasn't there to try and redeem himself. Kyle Orton was the starter after Romo had back surgery earlier in the week, and the Cowboys ultimately fell short of the playoffs yet again.
2014 - 4-0 post-Thanksgiving (12-4 overall)
Not much to complain about here, obviously. The Cowboys kept right on winning and actually increased their performance level overall. Despite playing three games on the road, Dallas improved their average margin of victory from 8.4 points in their first eight wins to 21.5 in their last four games.
2015 - 1-4 post-Thanksgiving (4-12 overall)
In a season where everything went wrong for Dallas, would would December be any different? Ironically, despite the losses, they may have played their best football overall during these final games.
Though it didn't produce any wins, switching to Kellen Moore at quarterback had the offense looking more fluid and functional than at any other point with Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel.
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So is it true that the Cowboys suck in December?
Depending on what you want to focus on, you can make a case either way. They've had some rough times, especially from 2011-2013. But the 2014 season showed that this team can carry momentum right on through December and even elevate their level of play.
There is plenty of reason for optimism. This 2016 iteration of the Cowboys is on the longest winning streak in franchise history. They're taking more momentum into the final stretch than any Garrett-coached team has, even that 2014 bunch.
It's also important to consider who's at quarterback. Since Garrett became the head coach, Romo's post-Thanksgiving record is just 9-7 in games where he took the entirety or majority of snaps. That's a far cry from his usual record as a starting quarterback.
Dak Prescott got the win last week and was a key reason for it. Despite not putting up big numbers, he made plays with his feet and avoided throwing any interceptions. His kept the team in the game with timely plays and led them on the escape path to victory.
Last week was a legitimate cause for concern if you know the team's December history. Even though Dak kept his head up and the team won, the fumbles and penalties were reminiscent of times we'd all like to forget.
Tomorrow night's showdown against the New York Giants is the most important game left on the Cowboys' regular season schedule. They can clinch the division with a win and perhaps even a first-round bye and home field advantage depending on other games. It could, effectively, be their season finale if everything goes right.
With nine full days of rest since Minnesota, the Cowboys will have no excuses for laying an egg. They can play very well and lose; the Giants are a quality team and have the passing weapons to exploit Dallas' defensive problems.
However, if the Cowboys have another weak of anemic offense and costly mistakes, it's going to bring the December narrative right back to the headlines. It will become a leading question in every press conference and interview as they finish out the season. Jason gGa
Of course, Dallas has already clinched a playoff spot. There's only so much that the negativity can do to hurt them.
Still, you want your team feeling good about itself headed into the postseason. Winning against the Giants and keeping their foot on the neck of their remaining opponents is the kind of a confidence builder that all teams want, and that this youth-led team greatly needs.
REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent S Eric Berry Tuesday
According to Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys have a meeting scheduled to visit with Free Agent Safety Eric Berry Tuesday at The Star.
Source: Former #Chiefs S and new free agent Eric Berry is visiting the #Cowboys on Tuesday. His first visit. They have a need there...
Eric Berry has spent his entire career with the Kansas City Chiefs after they drafted him fifth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. After signing Earl Thomas last week, the Chiefs decided to part ways with their former All-Pro Safety.
Berry, 30 is an intriguing free agent for the Dallas Cowboys. When healthy, he is arguably one of the best safeties in the league. Unfortunately, injuries have kept him off the field these last few seasons causing him to only start in only three games since 2016.
This is a move many of us expected to happen after the Cowboys decided not to get into a bidding war for Earl Thomas, a player linked to Dallas for over a year now. In Berry, Cowboys Nation would be getting a similar player with the same kind of red flags. Both Thomas and Berry have to be approached with caution due to their injury history the past few years.
Depending on his asking price, Eric Berry absolutely makes sense for the Dallas Cowboys. He would be an upgrade over Jeff Heath and would pair well with the Cowboys up-and-coming three-year safety Xavier Woods.
This is still just a visit, so we should probably get our hopes up that a signing is imminent. But, I think we can all agree Eric Berry is exactly the "right kind of guy" Jason Garrett is always preaching about. He's a cancer survivor, five-time Pro Bowler, and All-Pro player. What's not to like!?
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Signed DE Kerry Hyder
The Dallas Cowboys added more defensive line help today after signing former Detroit Lions Defensive End Kerry Hyder.
Going back to Texas! #CowboysNation
Hyder, 27 originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech with the New York Jets in 2014. He spent a year in New York before signing a future/reserve contract with the Detroit Lions in January 2015.
He had a breakout eight-sack year with the Lions in 2016, but tore his Achilles in 2017 causing him to miss the entire season. In 2018 he had just one quarterback sack after Detroit switched to a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Overall, this is a good depth signing by the Dallas Cowboys. Kerry Hyder has starting potential, but shouldn't keep the Cowboys from upgrading the position further through either another free agent signing for the draft.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Free Agency: Week One Recap
It's been just a week since NFL free agents could begin negotiating with other teams, but it feels like a lifetime for anxious Cowboys fans. Dallas' seemingly passive approach to 2019 free agency has left many disappointed. Still, there are some moves to recap.
As has become their strategy in recent years, the Cowboys have focused on filling up their depth chart and trying to avoid any glaring holes prior to next month's draft. They've re-signed several backups and added at least one likely rotation player.
It's still far too early to judge Dallas' activity. Comparing the 2019 roster to last year will depend heavily on the draft, growth from current players, and other factors. But with the "second wave" of free agency upon us, it's a good time to look at who's come, gone, and stuck around so far.
- TE Jason Witten (unretired)
- TE Codey McElroy (Rams)
- DT Christian Covington (Texans)
The biggest addition so far this offseason wasn't even a free agent, at least not in the purest sense of the term. Jason Witten's surprising return from retirement helped shore up one of Dallas' biggest needs, though it may not preclude them from drafting a tight end high in April.
Also at tight end, Dallas signed developmental project Codey McElroy. His experience is in baseball and basketball, having played just one year of college football. But at 6'6'" and 255 lbs., and having spent last year working with the Rams, the Cowboys must see something they're intrigued by.
Last week Dallas signed Christian Covington, who had 3.5 sacks for Houston in 2018 playing as a 3-4 defensive end. He should move to DT in the Cowboys' scheme and should be a solid addition to their rotation.
- WR Cole Beasley (Bills)
- TE Geoff Swaim (Jaguars)
- DL David Irving (shenanigans)
- LB Damien Wilson (Chiefs)
Beasley is heading to Buffalo on a four-year, $29 million deal. It appeared the relationship soured between Cole and Dallas over his playing time last year, and clearly the Cowboys didn't fight hard to keep him.
Damien Wilson followed Anthony Hitchens to Kansas City to help round out their linebacker corps. Once it was announced that Dallas was hanging on to Sean Lee in 2019, it was fairly certain that Wilson wouldn't be back.
Also not expected back was TE Geoff Swaim, who signed with Jacksonville. Even before Witten came back, Dallas appeared likely to stick with Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz for returning talent and then add an upgrade via free agency or the draft.
While still a free agent, nobody expects David Irving back in Dallas or even the NFL after recent activities. Irving appears focused on a Hollywood career and advocating for medical marijuana use at this point.
- FB Jamize Olawale
- WR Tavon Austin
- WR Allen Hurns (team option)
- OT Cam Fleming
- G/C Joe Looney (team option)
- DE DeMarcus Lawrence (franchise tag)
- DT Daniel Ross (ERFA)
- LB Justin March-Lillard
- S Darian Thompson
While Dallas put the franchise tag on prized pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, his return in 2019 is far from settled. Lawrence has previously sworn he wouldn't play under a second franchise tag this year, and last we heard the two sides are far apart on a long-term deal. Could a holdout be on the horizon?
The Cowboys doubled-down on WR depth by re-signing Tavon Austin and exercising their team option on Allen Hurns' contract. Both are able to play out of the slot, meaning we could see more of a rotation approach to replacing Cole Beasley next year.
Dallas also re-signed fullback Jamize Olawale, which was a surprise given his low usage rate last year. Perhaps the change to Kellen Moore at offensive coordinator was behind this one, hoping to take better advantage of Olawale's receiving skills going forward.
Joe Looney and Cam Fleming will also be back as valuable backups on the offensive line. Looney started 16 games last year at center and also helps at guard, while Fleming will be the swing tackle once again for his second season in Dallas.
On defense, Dallas kept Daniel Ross in their DT rotation after solid performance in 2018. Justin March-Lillard return at linebacker, particularly for his value on special teams. And Darian Thompson, a former third-round pick by the Giants, is back as an ongoing developmental player.
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If this is any indication, next week's recap may have a lot more to discuss.
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