Denver 42, Dallas 17: It Was the Worst Day

During the past twenty years, the worst things that could happen to the Dallas Cowboys have seemingly resulted from high expectations.

Think the team will go no better than 10-6? The Cowboys go 13-3. But think the Cowboys are on the cusp of a Super Bowl season?

Well, you get the 2008 season. Or the 2010 season. Or the 2015 season.

Hopefully, we don’t add the 2017 season to the list of failures to meet high expectations, and Sunday’s 42-17 loss to Denver is just an aberration. But Sunday’s loss was bad.

It was the worst day forEzekiel Elliott and the Greatest Offensive Line in Football

Until Sunday, the only thing that seemed to be able to stop Ezekiel Elliott was the NFL’s disciplinary process or the judicial system.

Add the Denver defense to the mix.

Elliott had never rushed for fewer than 51 yards in a game. He had never had fewer than 12 carries, and that came during the season finale in 2016 when the Cowboys barely played their starters.

Against the Broncos, it was 9 carries for 8 yards.

We need not say much more. The Denver line manhandled the Dallas offensive line all game, and Elliott was stacked up from the opening drive.

Of course, Emmitt Smith had a few dud games. So did Tony Dorsett. But neither had many of those games, and hopefully this is the last bad game in a while for Elliott.

It was the worst day for…Dak Prescott

The quarterback was bound to have a bad day at some point. He threw two interceptions for only the second time during his career, and his throws were off for much of the game.

It did not help that he had little time in the pocket, and his receivers did not do him too many favors. Dez Bryant had a nice touchdown catch, but he is not catching some passes he needs to be able to catch. Brice Butler dropped another pass, and Terrance Williams too often disappears.

It was the worst day forTackling

The biggest highlights for the Broncos came on plays when three or four Cowboys seemingly had chances to tackle ball carriers but failed.

Jaylon Smith was credited with three tackles, but he should have had about ten. The banged-up secondary had trouble bringing people down. So did Sean Lee.

It was the worst day forA Banged Up Secondary

Chidobe Awuzie left the game with a hamstring injury, and Nolan Carroll left with a concussion. The team was already without Orlando Scandrick, who has a hand injury.

So the remaining players included the likes of Kevon Frazier, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods. Not saying we should yearn for the days of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, but this secondary is going to remain a concern.

Yes, the Cowboys did a great job shutting down the New York Giants, and Lewis recorded his first career interception against the Broncos. But Denver rarely faced a third-and-long against Dallas, and Trevor Siemian had little trouble slashing the secondary throughout the game.
***

It was not the worst day for DeMarcus Lawrence. For the second game in a row, he recorded two sacks. One of those sacks resulted in a fumble, which the Cowboys recovered. The play set up the first Dallas score and kept the Cowboys in the game during the first half.

Of course, Lawrence was later called for a penalty on a field goal attempt. The Broncos kept the ball and scored a touchdown instead of settling for the field goal.

***

Very different circumstances, but the 1998 Dallas Cowboys were able to rebound from a terrible loss at Denver during week 2.

After beating the Cardinals 38-10 to open the season, Dallas traveled to Denver to face the defending Super Bowl champions. The game was no contest, with the Broncos routing Dallas 42-23.

Even worse, the Cowboys lost Troy Aikman to a broken collarbone, leaving the Cowboys to play Jason Garrett.

The Cowboys turned around to win three of their next four games, including wins over the Giants and Redskins. Most people remember Garrett for his heroics on Thanksgiving Day in 1994, but he had his moments during that 1998 season as well.

(Of course, that 1998 season did not end well, as the Cowboys lost to the Cardinals in the divisional playoffs.)

***

Tony Romo is not yet performing at the level of Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth, but he does have a knack for predicting plays.

NFL.com has a compilation of his predictions during the Patriots-Saints game.

  • Bad day all around. Even on special teams, we couldn’t down a punt near the goal-line before it rolled into the end-zone for a touch back.