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    Next Day Rant: Cowboys’ Identity Crisis is Killing Them

    The ' 19-16 loss to the last night could be blamed on a lot of things. In a close battle like that, one play might've swung things. But today, our focus is on Jason Garrett's decision to punt in overtime and how it goes against the core philosophy of how this team has been built.

    Since 2011, the Cowboys have spent three first-round picks, a second, and a third to build up their . They've shelled out big money to those first-round guys, plus , to make the line the strength of their and really the entire roster.

    They spent another first-rounder, the fourth overall pick in 2016, to get a stud . And since then, has proven that he's as good with the ball in his hands as any RB in the league.

    But last night, Jason Garrett didn't trust his most talented players to make the play.

    In overtime, at 4th-and-1 from the Houston 42, the Cowboys elected to punt rather than let Zeke try to convert the down. The Texans got the ball and the chance to win on a sudden-death field goal, and that's exactly what they did.

    Garrett trusted that pinning Houston deep would allow his to make a stop and get him the ball back. But I'm not sure what made him think he had the 2000 Ravens or the '85 Bears out there.

    Before overtime, had already thrown for 314 yards and run for 40 more. had run an all-night clinic on Dallas' best corner, . The Cowboys defense hadn't proven they could keep Houston out of scoring position.

    Next Day Rant: Cowboys' Identity Crisis Cost Them the Win
    Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins got the best of Cowboys CB Byron Jones most of the game.

    Yes, the defense had come up big in redzone situations and goal-line stands. But the Texans were able to get up and down the field without too much issue. Of their 11 offensive series, only three had ended in punts. Six of them had the team in position to at least kick a field goal.

    So no, I'm not sure what defense Jason thought he had. They'd played well and kept Dallas in the game, but they'd hardly dominated.

    To be fair to Garrett, his own had come up short several times already. Elliott was held to just 54 yards on 20 carries, one of the worst outputs of his career.

    And yes, Travis Frederick isn't out there to make that push up the middle. As solid as has been, he's not one of the elite blockers in football. I'm sure that factored into Jason's decision making.

    But at the end of the night, when defenses get tired, that's when offensive talent has a tendency to shine. Hopkins, despite fatigue and some nagging , made the big play to give his team the win.

    Ezekiel Elliott deserved that same opportunity. He's the Cowboys highest draft pick since Russell Maryland.

    And he only needed to get one yard.

    Next Two Games Critical for Jason Garrett's Cowboys Coaching Future?
    Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

    This isn't hindsight criticism, either. Even before Houston started their game-winning drive, Garrett's decision was being decried on . The majority view was that Dallas should go for it.

    Maybe you don't just hand it to Zeke and try to pound it. Maybe you do something creative with , who's known for his offensive skills and yet never gets the ball.

    Maybe you run a read-option and give a chance to make the play. We hadn't seen that play all night, and neither had the Texans.

    Or maybe you just let your QB, who's built like a , go for the yard himself on a sneak.

    But creativity and aggression have become inconsistent in this Cowboys offense. That's not all on Garrett; Scott Linehan seems to change personalities from week to week, and not in a good way.

    This identity crisis reaches back into the , too.

    Dallas decided to gamble on their receiving options after releasing and losing . They added and a third-round rookie, but they leaned heavily on current talent to step into those big shoes.

    The Cowboys also trusted a rookie converting from to , albeit a second-round pick, to keep the offensive line solvent. has been good but he's no mauler. His presence mattered in that game-changing decision, too.

    Given their issues the last few years, the Cowboys have had to make tough roster choices. They've done a good job of building the defense backup, but now the offense is falling behind. Too much dead money from 's contract has made it hard to do maintenance on both sides of the ball.

    The season is far from over. You're 2-3 and nobody's running away with the East right now.

    But Jason Garrett and his team have to find some consistency. They have to lean on their strengths, both in critical moments and in overall game strategy.

    If not, this identity crisis just might cost Garrett more than some games.

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    Jess Haynie
    Jess Haynie
    Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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    Sean Leonard

    I tried to be positive about this wide receiver group. I hear about receivers claiming they are getting separation. What good is it ,if they cant hold on to the ball? To be honest, DaK is responsible for maybe 1 pick this season. I see a bunch of “body catchers”, which is making the difference between a catch or an initialization of the tip-drill. Strong arms and hands creates a buffer between the receiver and defender. If the ref sees that, he is going to throw a flag if the defender tries to go through the receiver. The Cowboys are heading to 8 and 8, because of Jekyll and Hyde act of the offensive coordinator. On 3 and 2 in OT, they motion Cole Beasley in the backfield? Wouldnt that motion the defense toward the middle? Then they hand the ball to Zeke right up the middle. I didnt understand the concept.

    Steve

    I agree @ Sean, I also tried to be positive about our wideouts, but alas they aren’t what we thought! Hurns could be good if Linehan targeted him more but 4 times a game. Garrett should take over playcalling immediately and fire Linehan before he gets them both fired midseason, which I would enjoy because Jerry better know this much and that’s the window of opportunity doesn’t last forever and The Dallas Cowboys will NEVER return to glory under Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan! Put Richard in and watch the discipline return and reduce our penalties and have accountability brought back because we have a talented team and Richard has shown that in how our defense has played this year! Physical hard nosed and you play or get replaced and he has done that without a TRUE SAFETY and our stock of d-line that we should have because of injury and suspension!

    Amir Ridzuan

    I think the Cowboys should just sack JG. Enough said.

    w2lucky

    Go for it on 4th and 1. If you fail, you learn, get p-ssed off and fight harder next time. If you make it, it gives you the confidence to keep going. If you don’t go for it, the message is clear to everyone that you have zero confidence in your players with the game on the line. Garrett has made a critical mistake and will lose this team.