Now a few days removed from the event, it was not easy watching another promising young Cowboys team suffer another Divisional Round playoff exit. You all (including myself) seemed to have wanted the Rams. Our mentions were full of hot takes of how ideal of a matchup the Rams would be. Well, Dallas got every bit of them Saturday night. Let’s just be a little more careful of what we wish for is all I’m saying. Though, in order to be the best, you do have the beat the best.

Anyway, here’s some thoughts as to how to Cowboys failed in their final game of the 2018-2019 season:

Defense Gone Missing

Hello, LAPD? I’d need to report a vicious assault.

So-called elite defenses don’t get run all over like the Dallas defensive unit got manhandled by the Rams rushing attack. Especially when they’ve taken pride in their ability to stop the run when called upon. Just check against Seattle last week. With all the hype surrounding that stellar performance and that it would somehow effortlessly travel to LA with them and we’d see it all again, I had my concerns that the front seven would be on their high horses. In particular the Hot Boyz being the front four got bullied like they hadn’t seen all year. Getting little to no pressure on Rams QB Jared Goff all night, you could tell on their faces post-game, they paid with their pride. Instead of Dallas hearing they were going to get punched in the mouth on defense (much of what was said prior to the Seattle matchup), they had been hearing all the noise that they were going to bring the fight to the Rams offense. The exact opposite transpired.

The Rams did whatever they wanted on the ground. At halftime, Dallas had given up 170 rushing yards. Dallas, being a team who had given up an average of 94.6 yards a game all season, gave up 100 yards to both Rams backs, being Todd Gurley and CJ Andersen. Yeah, you read that right. That stat alone really  highlights the poor performance as a whole. You let that happen, you’re more than likely not going to win that football game. Cowboys defensive play caller Kris Richard owned the performance post-game, saying the lack of preparation he gave to the players translated into this poorest performance.

Talking schematically though, it wasn’t a poorly called game by Kris Richard. For what it’s worth, the pass defense was alright holding Goff to only 186 passing yards on 15/28 attempts with no TDs and a rating of 74.4, and both Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks — two 1,000-yard receivers — to fewer than 70 yards a piece.

Hit and Miss Offense

The Dallas offense again kind of mirrored what it had been like all season; showing encouraging signs with chunk plays on touchdown scoring drives, or the latter being completely incapable of moving the chains at times. All I can say is that they are who we though they were. Nothing more, nothing less. But this unit almost always goes as Ezekiel Elliott goes, and he was going nowhere fast in this one. Mix that in with the defense’s inability to get stops and it’s a recipe for a tough loss. The Rams entered the postseason allowing a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry. Zeke averaged just 2.7 on Saturday and could only manage 47 yards on 20 carries. Again, the Rams front seven had been hearing all about how bad they’d been during the season, and they simply got up for this one and took it to the Cowboys.

With Zeke being bottled up the game was forced into the hands of Dak Prescott, where he again showed promise through several more gutty plays that allowed Dallas to stay in the ballgame. Despite the usual way too predictable play-calling from his offensive coordinator Scott Linehan who’s name you should know quite well now if you’ve been following us, it was still the mixed bag of results from Dallas’ quarterback that we witnessed for much of 2018-2019. Lots of ill-advised throws which could have ended tragically, and a bunch of gorgeous dimes to his all of a sudden pretty talented receiving core. When it was all said and done, it balanced out for an overall solid day for Dak of 266 yards, a passing TD and a QB rating of 99.2.

It’s how Dak (or more likely Linehan) again neglected to use his legs in the rushing attack, which allowed the Rams to stay locked in on Zeke. Dak Prescott has the ability to be a true dual-threat quarterback in the NFL, and the inability to threaten defenses with RPOs and more scramble plays on a regular basis is pitiful. This not only falls on Linehan, but Dak himself. In order to save the game Saturday night, Dallas needed to not (again) try to create Dak into the pure pocket passer which he is not, and instead allow him to take the reigns himself and play loose like he did at Mississippi St. We’ve only seen flashes of that this season and when we did, the Cowboys won those games (see Jacksonville, Philly, New Orleans, Tampa etc.). The two carries for three yards on the ground for Dak against the Rams says it all.

Oh, and Dallas also went 1-10 on third down. We’re all searching for the exact reason that they’re season is over. That stat is a viable contender.

Of Course, Coaching Questions

Jason Garrett continues to get his teams to buy into his message of ‘fight’ each and every year and he’s built a respective atmosphere at The Star. In terms of preparation and putting in the work during the week, he’s all you could ask for. But with another Divisional round exit, I continue to wonder if he is capable of elevating his group of men when needed in order to get to the Super Bowl, let alone win it. To be fair, his players have never quit on him, but Garrett has given us as fans and supporters no evidence to believe that he can get this team to the promise land. Sort of feels like how Tony Dungy built the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster that eventually won a chip, but the only thing that was missing was Jon Gruden’s demeanor. I don’t see Garrett going anywhere soon, but it’s a fair point to raise.

What’s Next?

Well it may not feel like it quite yet, it’s officially the offseason in Dallas. It’s just about time to address every single personnel move possible for this team. But we’ll have plenty of time to do just that. Like I mentioned above, I don’t envision any significant coaching changes happening, but at the same time who knows what’s about to happen? Dallas has a young core. They won’t be a major player in free agency other than trying to lock up their own. That starts with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.

Before we begin to drive each other crazy and put every move this team now does under a microscope, let’s keep things in hindsight for a quick second; the Dallas Cowboys were 3-5, they finished 10-6 and two steps shy of the Super Bowl. We had fun, man. We had fun.

Either way, expect a big offseason of coverage from here though. We’ve got you covered.

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