I've been watching the Cowboys since 1989. I won't say I've watched every game, but I'd wager that I have seen at least 75 percent of their games since then. Conservatively, then, we can say I've seen close to 300 Cowboys games in my life. It's not an impressive number, on it's whole, but it's big enough that the following sentence should carry some weight.
Yesterday was the worst Cowboys game I remember seeing.
There was the Owens-celebrates-on-the-star game, but at least we had George Teague save us some pride that day. There was a Lions game in 1994 that I remember being awful and terrible, but when I look it up now the score was 20-17, and that memory might have something to do with drinking a Zima that night, and having the standard kid-drinks-his-first-alcohol reaction.
There was a malaise around the team that made the drumming seem worse. I'm not sure how you make 45-28 worse, but malaise seems like a good way to do that.
I'd like to find some positive amongst the slop, but, I don't know how. You could point to DeMarco Murray's performance, but that just brings up how he only had 18 carries despite 6 of those coming on the opening drive. You could point to Barry Church, who seemed to have a pretty good game, but that was likely because the front seven in front of him was being ragdolled across the field. You could point to Tyron Smith, but doing a play-by-play rewatch of that game is technically a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
The loss was complete. Virtually every facet of the game was dominated by the Bears. What they didn't dominate, they won. It was an across-the-board butt kicking. Only the fact that the Redskins staged an on-screen intervention with themselves against the Chiefs is saving it from being the worst game of the week. Actually, it doesn't, but it should make you feel better. As bad as things are in Jones's Cowboys, Snyder's Redskins are worse. At least we have a draft this April.
The thing about a loss so lopsided is it's hard to point at one facet, or one unit, or one player, or one play, and state with any kind of authority that it was some manner of a turning point. That said, I'm going to do exactly that.
Win Percentage is one of my favorite stats. All it does is estimate, based on the circumstances of one play, what each team's chance of winning the game is. The Cowboys' held a 71 percent chance of winning as of Dez's TD in the first quarter. Six minutes later, the Bears answer with their own touchdown, and the Cowboys' WP is 53 percent.
At 1:38 left in the first half, the Cowboys were down 17-14 following a Robbie Gould Field Goal. Four straight passes later (each of which managed to stop the clock), the Cowboys were facing a 4th-and-10 with 59 seconds remaining. At that point, the Cowboys were at a 34 percent WP, which means that, as the score would indicate, there was still a good chance they would end the game on top, but needed to stop doing things that would shrink that chance, because they had done a lot of things to lower their chances already.
Hey, remember before when I mentioned DeMarco Murray had been really, really good early on? Nothing had changed, really, in that regard. He had run for 100 yards, which would be a great total for a game, and it was the first half. In those four plays, they took the ball completely out of his hands, which is noteworthy because if he had run, either you drain the other team of a timeout, or you get a first down and reset, or the Bears just accept that they're taking a 17-14 lead into the locker room, which is pretty ok.
Instead, the Cowboys dropped back four straight times, completing one (the first attempt, to Bryant, which resulted in a first down). The Bears got the ball with one minute left, and 43 seconds later Alshon Jeffrey posterized the Cowboys to the extent a non-NBA athlete can posterize another.
Where the Cowboy's Win Percentage was 34, that play dropped it to 20. It got predictably ugly from there (by halfway through the third quarter, it was down to single digits).
The Cowboys have been sadly conservative over the past few years, and one of the few times the team goes out with some semblance of aggressiveness in the offensive play calling, it blows back in their face in a sad and mathematical way. The predictability of how things played out in exactly the worst way possible (barring injury or lightning strike or some combination of both) was the saddest thing of all.
Like I said, it's wrong to point to one factor when a team is so completely beaten, but that 1:21 in the second quarter in Chicago sure sticks out.