The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their worst loss of the season as they look to clinch the NFC East on Sunday, the duality of this causing a panic in Cowboys Nation this week. Often times the source of these frustrations is misguided after a loss, but with the Cowboys being shut out for the first time in over a decade, it's impossible for Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to escape the criticism this time.
The Cowboys have worked admirably hard to dispel the narrative that their offense lacks creativity and their receiving corps is underwhelming (before the acquisition of Amari Cooper), and with just two promised games remaining are nearly back where they started.
Linehan no longer roams the Cowboys sideline on game days, but if he did on Sunday he'd see a familiar face in Matt Eberflus. In 2011, Eberflus took over as the Cowboys Linebackers Coach, promoted to the Passing Game Coordinator position last season.
A title currently held by trending head coach candidate Kris Richard, Eberflus was more than ready for Linehan's offense as the Colts Defensive Coordinator. The Cowboys offense showed some flashes in the first half, but failed to finish a single drive before rolling over in the second half.
The Colts were allowing 102.9 rushing yards per game coming into their match up with the Cowboys, who were held to 112 empty yards. Prescott's 180 yards was well below the Colts average of 242.3 yielded each week through the air, before sparking a win streak of their own by beating the Texans and Cowboys in their last two games.
As mentioned, the Cowboys issues with Linehan are nothing new, including during a recent five game win streak. This streak is deserving of scrutiny after the Cowboys looked uninterested in clinching the division on the road in week 15.
They'll get the same opportunity at home this week against the Buccaneers, as well as at the Giants the following week if needed.
Relying on individual talent and skill to win on offense, where other teams routinely make things easy on their quarterback and scheme much more yardage than Dallas, is worrisome for a Cowboys team that's played worthy of playoff success.
The talk of the league outside of “what happened to Dallas?” this week seems to be a much more global “what is going to happen in the NFC playoffs”? The Cowboys, Linehan included, would love to have something to say about both questions, yet have more than a large enough sample size of inept offense to see how things could go horribly wrong.
Saving the day in the Cowboys most recent win was Cooper, who admitted he changed his route with Quarterback Dak Prescott on a key fourth quarter touchdown. The week before that, in the Cowboys most impressive win of the year, they managed just 13 points against the New Orleans Saints.
With the remaining Cowboys opponents boasting a combined ten wins this season, the outlook is certainly favorable that Garrett will lead this team to the playoffs for the third time – doing so once with Linehan as his OC in 2016.
To say the Cowboys win streak was all bad is the worst of overreactions to a loss the team's been working to put behind them for three days already. Whether or not their flashes of brilliance during it will be wasted because of their play calling on offense is to be determined.
First up is how they recover from being dragged by a former Cowboys coach that showed no remorse for preparing his defense to totally dominate the Cowboys offense.
Dealing with heart-break, especially in the postseason, is nothing new for Cowboys fans. So too is the emerging truth that Scott Linehan is holding the Cowboys back to a fault that could become more than last week's shutout at the hands of Eberflus.