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Was The Cowboys Divisional Loss To Green Bay A Microcosm Of Their Season?
There are going to be a lot of long and arduous days in the coming weeks and months where we struggle moving past the 2016 Dallas Cowboys season.
If you scan the confines of Dallas Cowboys Social Media then you'll see a lot of debate as to whether this season was successful or simply deemed a failure. Obviously you can argue success because of the large discovery of talent, but unless you are holding that beautiful Lombardi Trophy in February... well you get the idea.
While trying to wrap my own head around this whole thing in the immediate aftermath, I found myself identifying a lot of my feelings about the whole season directly to the Divisional Loss against Green Bay. Sometimes that happens in instances like this, our feelings about certain events across a whole season intertwine and ultimately marry into the same thing.
When you look at this game in a vacuum, you look at a Dallas Cowboys team that put themselves in an early 21-3 hole. Hope was all but dead, it felt like we'd seen this horror movie before, and people were clamoring about the state of the backup quarterback position.
Wasn't that how the 2016 season started... in general? When Tony Romo went down with an injury during the third week of the preseason it felt a whole hell of a lot like going down 21-3 with your season on the line. We were just one year removed from understanding the ramifications of not responsibly-planning for this situation, and we scratched our heads about the backup quarterback position.
Just like he did across the entire season for Cowboys loyalists, Dak Prescott put forth a Herculean effort after this hole was dug for his team. He fought, fought, and fought some more... pulling off the damn near impossible.
Of course throughout said effort even Dak Prescott showed a sense of humanity - like he did against the New York Giants - when he threw an ill-timed and porous interception. A performance with a single blemish is pretty much the story of young Dakota whether across the entire year or in this single game.
The Cowboys weren't without their own interceptions, though. Jeff Heath - the GOAT - intercepted Aaron Rodgers. This is real life. We're not just talking about any errant Aaron Rodgers throw, either. Aaron Rodgers was in the middle - really, the end - of the longest interception-less streak of his career. Jeff Heath of all people picking him off is in and of itself the story of this defense, isn't it? A group not expected to do much, but turning in performance after performance against all realms of logic and supposed records.
What about Ezekiel Elliott? His 2016 campaign was one of the more impressive individual ones put forth by anyone in the NFL, and he continually showed us the ability to do more and more and more to help his team. This effort was seen in this game when he hit the B Button on Clay Matthews with the most incredible spin move ever. That's who Zeke is - a do-whatever-it-takes-and-do-it-in-a-flashy-way type of guy that gave us his absolute all, so much so that he almost got Jason Garrett to curse on Monday!
The narrative about Dez Bryant entering this game was that he was looking for revenge from two years ago's catch. Dez insisted all week long that he'd put that behind him and was focused on today - a Jason Garrett philosophy fully adopted by the star receiver. Dez went through a lot this season... another injury that sidelined him for a while, and the devastating loss of his father. Through it all Bryant stepped up as a leader across the year in new ways, and that was captured with a performance for the ages against Green Bay.
On the other side of the ball, when Jeff Heath wasn't ballhawking Aaron Rodgers... Sean Lee was making plays. An All-Pro season is what we've grown to expect from Sean Lee, and the ability to be fully healthy across a season cashed those expectations in for the real thing this year. It was all that and more as "The General" was the lone pillar of excellence on this defense in Sunday's loss, giving his all on every single play.
Perhaps the largest sense of the season that diluted into this game was Jason Garrett's #FinishThisFight mantra. His team fell down 21-3 to what many people believe is one of the three best quarterbacks to ever play this game. They never blinked, never doubted themselves for one second... nobody exemplified this sentiment more than Jason Garrett himself. Even when Dak Prescott threw his interception, Jason Garrett could be seen mouthing that everything was alright - a common criticism of the Head Coach many moons ago.
Everything was alright, though. Coach Garrett's team found ways to put themselves in a position to win. They - as he demands - relied on each other and almost pulled off the impossible... just like this team as a whole on the year.
We talked so much about how the 2016 Dallas Cowboys weren't real in a sense. It isn't real - a reality we're now being forced to accept - for two rookies to come into the NFL at running back and quarterback and just go win the Super Bowl. It was the stuff of movies and a classic Hollywood blockbuster.
Isn't that who the Cowboys were all season long, though? They always have been the top one, but in 2016 they were undeniably the NFL's only blockbuster as they saved ratings that were otherwise down week after week. The Cowboys were the heroes everyone wanted to root for.
Sometimes in Hollywood blockbusters the heroes don't win, but isn't that what makes the story riveting and powerful? If the heroes always won, things would be predictable. We have to see the hero fall in order to understand just how heroic he is - just ask Tony Romo.
The Dallas Cowboys almost pulled off something miraculous this season, and it's going to hurt for a long time that they didn't. That's exactly what happened on Sunday. A season's worth of drama, rise, fall, intrigue, sorrow, and joy was condensed into four quarters of high-octane action. This one didn't go our way, but if we're to follow the course laid out for us... it certainly feels like the next one will.
The Cowboys are the heroes, and ultimately the heroes win. We will win. We are Hollywood.
Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern
What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.
Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.
The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.
That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.
With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.
There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.
The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.
Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.
I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance
A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.
It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.
Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?
Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.
It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.
Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.
Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.
This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.
Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.
Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."
Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.
It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.
Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.
Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC
2018 has seen the emergence of high-powered offenses in both NFL conferences. The Kansas City Chiefs sit atop the AFC and the NFC is spearheaded by the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Through 14 weeks, these three teams are the top three offenses in the NFL, each averaging over 30 points per game. This year, for the first time in NFL history, two teams scored more than 50 in the same game.
Thanks to this consistent impressive offensive performances, you would think "offense" is the name of the game for the 2018 NFL season. Well, not so fast, my friend. Despite sitting atop the NFC, the Saints and the Rams have recently suffered losses that indicate hope is anything but lost for defensive teams in the league.
The Chicago Bears were able to bring down the Rams last Sunday Night 15-6. The same offense that averages 33 points per game was limited to six points. Sean McVay's remarkable offense went home with no touchdowns to talk about on the plane back home. Instead, they probably discussed Jared Goff's four interceptions.
Weeks earlier, the Dallas Cowboys shocked the world when they brought down the Saints. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas simply couldn't move the ball against Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones. 13 points were all the Cowboys needed to score to beat an offense that was averaging 37 per game heading into week 13 but was only able to put up 10 in Dallas.
The Cowboys are the #4 seed with the Bears slightly ahead of them as the #3 seed in the NFC. Together, these teams have defeated the top two in the conference. Now granted, playoffs will definitely be different.
For starters, if they are to advance to the divisional round, they'll be on the road. Chicago was surely benefited by playing in such a cold weather versus a Los Angeles team. As far as the Cowboys are concerned, few times has AT&T Stadium been as loud as when they beat the Saints.
Hopefully, we'll get to see both of these elite defenses advance to the Divisional Round to square off against this couple of high-powered offenses again. We will not only be witnessing amazing football games, but a great discussion regarding the everlasting debate between offense and defense.
For years, "defense wins championships" has been a widely accepted statement in football. The Cowboys and Bears have made that same statement resound recently with their impressive wins.
Can they do it again in January football? Can they do it on the road?
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