2017 Season

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Dallas 28, Kansas City 17: Winning Despite Themselves

The worst prevent defense in the history of football.

The Dallas Cowboys returned home for the first time since October 8 to host the Kansas City Chiefs. This Dallas team is the one that blew a 17-6 lead at home against the Rams and a 21-6 lead at home against the Packers, so the return to AT&T Stadium would hardly guarantee that the team’s positive charge during the last two road games would continue.

The Cowboys did what they have done in most games this season and took a first-half lead. In fact, thanks to an 80-yard drive with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Dallas had a 14-3 lead with only 13 seconds remaining in the half.

What could go wrong?

Well, how about a personal foul on Byron Jones on the kickoff return? That shouldn’t have been so bad, given that the Chiefs were nowhere near field goal range, even after a completion on first down.

So with two seconds left and the Chiefs sitting on their own 44, the Cowboys only needed to defend a Hail Mary.

Or a much shorter pass in the middle of the field to Tyreek Hill. Okay, so the Cowboys just have to tackle Hill, right?

Well, no, the Cowboys barely touched him, despite the fact that six Cowboys had lined up inside the 10-yard line.

How does this happen? Seriously?

Kansas City had first possession in the second half and scored again, taking a 17-14 lead. It certainly looked like the Rams game or the Packers game once again.

Somehow, though, the Cowboys started looking more like the 2016 version.

The offense scored touchdowns on the next two drives, which consisted of 12 and 13 plays respectively. Zeke Elliott ran well again, and Dak Prescott was efficient.

The defense also shut down the powerful Kansas City attack. After the Chiefs took the 17-14 lead, Kansas City ran only 19 more plays and never scored again.

Elliott’s status is going to remain up in the air, and it appeared that both Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams suffered leg injuries. However, the latest news is that both receivers should be fine.

The 5-3 Cowboys travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons next Sunday.

Dallas 40, San Francisco 10: Disaster Averted

The Cowboys turned a 20-3 halftime lead into a 40-10 win over San Francisco.

The Dallas Cowboys have had success jumping out to leads this season, including a 17-6 lead over the L.A. Rams and a 21-6 lead over the Green Bay Packers.

Of course, Dallas won neither of those games.

So when the Cowboys jumped out to a 20-3 lead at San Francisco on Sunday, it was not time to exhale. Even with the Cowboys facing a rookie quarterback in C.J. Beathard, this Cowboy defense has not given anyone reason to express confidence.

Even worse: the Cowboys kicker during the second half would be safety Jeff Heath, thanks to a groin injury suffered by Dan Bailey. Thus, if the 49ers had made the game close, the Cowboys would have had to turn to a former high school kicker for some of its points.

The 49ers drove into field-goal range on the first drive of the second half but then decided to go for it on 4th and 4 from the Dallas 28. The attempt failed.

Dallas turned around and ran a screen pass from Dak Prescott to Zeke Elliott, and the play went 72 yards for a touchdown. On top of that play, Heath hit the extra point.

Thus, no worries.

Elliott was unstoppable on Sunday, gaining 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns in addition to his 72-yard touchdown on the reception.

Dez Bryant scored. Jason Witten made an awesome one-handed grab to score his third touchdown of the season. And the Dallas defense shut down Beathard and the 49ers for nearly the entire game, recording five sacks and three turnovers.

The 3-3 Cowboys travel to Washington to face the Redskins next Sunday.

Green Bay 35, Dallas 31: Mirror Images

Yes, this is supposed to be a mirror image.

During the playoffs last January, the Cowboys tied the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium, but Dallas left 35 seconds on the clock.

And then…

Well, how many plays could Aaron Rodgers run in 35 seconds? That number would be five.

With 12 seconds left, Rodgers scrambled out of the pocket and hit Jared Cook on a 36-yard play. A Mason Crosby field goal gave Green Bay the 34-31 win.

One week ago, the Dallas Cowboys led the L.A. Rams, 17-6. The Dallas defense forced the Rams to punt.

And then…

Ryan Switzer fumbled, and the Cowboys lost momentum. The thin defense started giving up yards, and the offense no longer dominated. The eventual result was a 35-30 loss.

Put the two games together, and you basically get the 35-31 loss to the Packers in 2017.

Dallas had a 21-6 lead in the first half. The Packers moved the ball into Dallas field position, but a sack gave the Packers a 2nd and 17.

Rodgers completed a five-yard pass to Reggie Cobb, but Dallas linebacker Anthony Hitchens was called for a facemask penalty. Instead of 3rd and 13 from the Dallas 33, it was 1st and 10 from the Dallas 18. Three plays later, Green Bay scored to make it 21-12.

The defense that had held the Packers to 12 points in the first half was far less effective in the second. With 14:54 remaining in the fourth quarter, it was 22-21 in favor of Green Bay.

Nevertheless, the offense moved the ball, and Dallas regained the lead with a field goal. Then the defense forced a punt.

Momentum in favor of Dallas.

And then…

A Dak Prescott pass bounced off the hands of Terrance Williams, and Damarious Randall grabbed a pick and scored.

The Cowboys turned around and marched 79 yards on a 17-play drive. Prescott scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Of course, the Cowboys left 1:13 remaining on the clock. How many plays could Rodgers run with 73 seconds?

Dumb question. He ran nine plays. On a 3rd-and-8 play from the Dallas 30, he managed to get to the outside and gain 18 yards on a scramble.

Two plays later, he hit Davante Adams on a 12-yard game-winning touchdown.

It should have been hard to believe, but it wasn’t. We’ve seen it before.

In three losses, Dallas has given up 42, 35, and 35 points.

In 17 games in 2016, Dallas gave up 30 or more points only twice (including the playoff loss), and never more than 34.

Tough one to swallow, and we have two weeks to think about. The 2-3 Cowboys travel to San Francisco in two weeks.

L.A. Rams 35, Dallas 30: Another Can’t-Tackle Performance

For lack of anything else to write.

With 8:40 remaining in the second quarter, the Dallas Cowboys were about to blow the L.A. Rams out of AT&T Stadium. On the team’s previous offensive series, Alfred Morris bolted 70 yards to the Rams’ 5, and Ezekiel Elliott scored three plays later.

The defense then stopped the Rams, and the Cowboys would have plenty of time to add to their lead.

Dallas 17, L.A. Rams 6.

Then rookie Ryan Switzer muffed the punt return, giving L.A. the ball at the Dallas 18. A touchdown five plays later cut the lead to 17-13.

Dallas managed to extend the lead to 24-13 on the next drive, but the momentum was shifting.

The Rams drove to kick a field goal on the final play of the half, and the Cowboys had trouble putting the Rams away for the rest of the game.

The beginning of the second half looked promising, though. Dallas forced a three-and-out on the Rams’ first possessions thanks largely to a sack by DeMarcus Lawrence.

However, Dallas could not move the ball past its own 29 on the next series. The Rams kicked a field goal on their next possession, then followed up with a 90-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 53-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Todd Gurley.

Remember Dallas 17, L.A. Rams 6? The lead evaporated and became L.A. Rams 26, Dallas 24.

Dallas struggled on two possessions at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth. The Greatest Offensive Line in Football didn’t look so great, and neither did Dak Prescott. Dez Bryant had a decent game statistically but was not as effective as an elite receiver should.

Meanwhile, the Dallas defense looked a bit more like it did against the Broncos than it did against the Cardinals. Todd Gurley gashed the Cowboys throughout much of the day, and once the defense was worn down, it could not get a stop.

The Rams extended their lead to 35-30 with less than two minutes remaining, meaning the Cowboys needed a touchdown to pull out the win. It didn’t happen.

With the loss, Dallas falls to 2-2 and is a game behind the Eagles in the NFC East. Green Bay visits next week, and it could be a very long day.

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.
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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.

Dallas 19, N.Y. Giants 3: Dominance, for Starters

Cole Beasley made an improbable catch on a third-down play in the fourth quarter, snagging the ball from his name plate across the back of his jersey.

The Dallas Cowboys were once known as the fastest-starting team in the NFL. Most fans are well aware that the team once won 17 consecutive opening-day games between 1965 and 1981.

Those days are long gone, and the first game of seasons for the past twenty years have been more of a mixed bag. Since 1998, Dallas has an opening-day mark of 10-10, and several of those games have been nail-biters.

The last two season openers against the Giants produced two one-point games, with Dallas taking a 27-26 win in 2015 only to lose 20-19 the following season.

Sunday night’s game did not cause the same anxiety. The Dallas defense, with its new secondary, shut down the Odell Beckham-less Giants offense, and the Dallas offense did enough to give the Cowboys a 19-3 win.

The big question marks heading into the season focused on the defensive side of the ball, but the defense was a strong point on Sunday night. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence recorded two sacks, and the line was able to pressure Eli Manning throughout much of the night.

Although the Cowboys lost Orlando Scandrick to a broken hand, second-year corner Anthony Brown came up huge with an interception in the fourth quarter. The play occurred with 7:48 remaining in the game and all but ended any chance of a New York comeback.

Dak Prescott missed a few throws, but he was largely efficient and did not throw an interception. Ezekiel Elliott picked up where he left off last year, rushing for 104 yards on 24 carries.

The highlight of the game came from receiver Cole Beasley. With Dallas facing a 3rd and 6 early in the fourth quarter, Prescott threw the ball on a short out to Beasley. Beasley managed to tip the ball to himself, then trapped the ball along the nameplate on his back shoulder before hauling in the pass to gain seven yards. The play allowed the Cowboys to maintain possession and drain another three minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter.

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The three points were the fewest allowed by the Cowboys on opening day since the 1995 Cowboys beat the Giants, 35-0.

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The 16-point point differential in the season-opener was the greatest since the Cowboys beat the Browns 28-10 in 2008.

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Dallas travels to Denver to face the Broncos on Sunday afternoon.

The Giants Yet Again: The History of Opening Day Opponents

The NFL’s scheduling gods have decided that Dallas must open the season against the Giants. Perpetually?

Dallas plays New York in the first game for the fifth time in six years. In the previous four games, Dallas won three of four but lost last year’s opener, 20-19.

In the team’s history, the Cowboys have opened the season against the Giants nine times, going 8-1 in those games. During the team’s eight-game winning streak, the Cowboys won by an average mark of 35-18. Of course, that streak ended a year ago.

After next Sunday’s game, the Cowboys will have faced the Giants on opening day more than any other franchise. Dallas has played Washington nine times, with the last opener taking place in 2010.

The Cowboys have an overall opening day record of 37-19-1.

Here is a complete list of records vs. different opponents (in alphabetical order):

Arizona: 0-1

Atlanta: 1-1

Baltimore Colts: 1-0

Buffalo: 1-0

Chicago: 1-1

Cleveland: 3-0

Detroit: 1-0

Houston Texans: 0-1

Jacksonville: 0-1

Minnesota: 1-1

New Orleans: 0-1

New York Giants: 8-1

New York Jets: 0-1

Philadelphia: 3-1

Pittsburgh: 3-3

L.A. Rams: 2-0

San Diego: 2-0

Tampa Bay: 1-1

Washington: 6-2-1

 

Dallas 20, Arizona 18: More Hall-of-Fame-Game Dominance

For the third time during the past eight years, the Cowboys played in the Hall of Fame Game. And what dominance the Cowboys have shown—undefeated in these games since 2010.

Of course, the real highlights from the game were few and far between. Three players worth noting:

(1) TE Rico Gathers showed that he has playmaking ability. He caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Moore in the second quarter to cut the Arizona lead to 15-7.

The play…

 

Rico Gathers caught three passes for 59 yards and this touchdown in the Cowboys’ 20-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals during the first preseason game of 2017.

(2) QB Moore: he threw a pick along with the touchdown to Gathers. He did not look bad, but he hardly gives anyone confidence as the primary backup.

(3) WR Brice Butler: he caught a 46-yard pass from Moore in the second quarter. It would nice if Butler could turn out to be a breakout performer this year.

We did not get to see Jaylon Smith, but his brother, Rod Smith was the primary ball-carrier, gaining 64 yards on 18 carries.

Otherwise, the defense gave up too many big plays, and the special teams had some bad penalties. Otherwise, it’s the first game of preseason, so what do we expect?

The Cowboys next face the L.A. Rams on August 12.

***

Curious at all about the results of the first preseason games in recent memory? Well, here are the last ten:

2008: San Diego 31, Dallas 17
2009: Oakland 31, Dallas 10
2010: Dallas 16, Cincinnati 7 (Hall of Fame Game)
2011: Dallas 24, Denver 23
2012: Dallas 3, Oakland 0
2013: Dallas 24, Miami 20 (Hall of Fame Game)
2014: San Diego 27, Dallas 7
2015: San Diego 17, Dallas 7
2016: Los Angeles Rams 28, Dallas 24
2017: Dallas 20, Arizona 18 (Hall of Fame Game)

Five Things to Know About the 2017 NFL Draft for the Cowboys

I found five things about the 2017 draft class worth noting, but before presenting those five things, we cannot get enough of Drew Pearson:

Anyway, here are the five things:

(1) Before 2017, the Cowboys had drafted only eight players from Colorado. They took two–CB Chidobe Awuzie and DT Jordan Carrell–in 2017. Three of the previous players drafted from

Dallas took Chidobe Awuzie in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Colorado never played in the NFL. The only starter was Andre Gurode, a 2002 pick who became a Pro Bowl center.

(2) The Cowboys took four defensive backs with eight picks. The last time Dallas took as many as four defensive backs in one draft was 2009, when the Cowboys took DeAngelo Smith, Michael Hamlin, Stephen Hodge, and Mike Mickens. Those four combined to play nine games for the Cowboys.

(3) The last defensive back drafted by the Cowboys to make a Pro Bowl was Mike Jenkins in 2009.

(4) Xavier Woods is the first player from Louisiana Tech to be drafted by Dallas. The school has had 85 players in the NFL; the only one to play in Dallas was kicker Chris Boniol.

(5) A total of 229 players have been drafted from North Carolina, but only 12 of them before 2017 were wide receivers. Add 4th round pick Ryan Switzer to the mix. The best-known of the North Carolina receivers has been Hakeem Nicks, who has played for the Giants and Colts.

Five Things to Know About the Taco Charlton Selection

The Dallas Cowboys used to be a team filled with great nicknames—Doomsday Defense, Too Tall, the Manster, Hollywood, and so on.

(The Tony Romo nicknames never quite caught on, at least not in a good way.)

Well, the Cowboys took a player with a great nickname of Taco. Plenty of people wanted Dallas to take T.J. Watt (who ended up going to Pittsburgh), but others are happy the Cowboys have Taco Charlton.

Here are a few trivial matters about the pick:

  1. Dallas has not taken a player from Michigan since selecting running back Tony Boles in the 11th round in 1991. And Boles never played a down of football in the NFL.
  2. The only player from Michigan ever selected by the Cowboys in the first round was defensive tackle Kevin Brooks in 1985. Brooks spent three years as a starter but never really developed into a quality player along the defensive line.
  3. The first player ever taken from Michigan by the Cowboys was a running back named Ken Tureaud in 1962 (8th round). Like Boles, Tureaud never played in the NFL.
  4. The last time the Cowboys took a defensive end in the first round was 2007 when the selected Anthony Spencer from Purdue. Of course, the Cowboys played in the 3-4 at the time and converted Spencer to an outside linebacker.
  5. The last time the Cowboys took a defensive end to fit a 4-3 scheme was 1999 when Dallas selected Ebenezer Ekuban. One year earlier, Dallas had taken Greg Ellis.

Anyway, some highlights featuring Charlton: