GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Dallas Cowboys saw a Week 10 victory slip through their hands that they should have won, squandering a 14-point lead to the Green Bay Packers. It’s a loss that feels worse after watching the Washington Commanders beat the Philadelphia Eagles and bringing the previously undefeated rival back to the NFC East pack.
That’s hindsight, though. In the moment, the Cowboys knew they had choked away a victory at Lambeau Field. The demons of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers remain for the Cowboys, who did everything they could to lose a game that looked in hand. Now it’s back to the drawing board for the last half of the schedule.
Here are three observations about what went wrong in the unfathomable Week 10 loss to the Packers:
Fourth down gamble wasn’t to blame
In overtime, the Cowboys had the ball in Packers territory at the 35-yard line with a 3rd-&-3 staring them in the face. The play call was a pass to wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who had a monster game. Quarterback Dak Prescott’s attempt fell incomplete due to an obvious pass interference on cornerback Jaire Alexander, who hit Lamb before the ball got there. The flag was not thrown, however.
The third down failure brought up fourth down, and marauding former Packers coach Mike McCarthy chose to go for it instead of attempting a 53-yard field goal to take the lead. The call to go for it wasn’t the wrong decision as it’s always tough to make long kicks at Lambeau Field at night on a slick field. Kicker Brett Maher has been great all season long, but a miss would’ve given the Packers the ball near midfield needing just a field goal to win.
McCarthy also knew all too well that he couldn’t give Rodgers a chance to win the game. The Cowboys’ best shot at winning was to score a touchdown and never allow Rodgers to touch the ball. A first down meant, at worst, the chains move, the clock is milked, and Maher is given a shorter kick to make, should the drive stall again.
Going for it was the right call. The two plays that the Dallas offense ran were the real issue. The Cowboys torched the Packers on the ground all game and if McCarthy knew he was going to go for it on fourth down, the offense would have been better off running the ball on third down. If they didn’t get the first, they should’ve been in better position on fourth and short and would have had the option to run it again.
McCarthy’s instinct was right, as the Cowboys couldn’t stop Rodgers in the fourth quarter, and the Packers moved the ball with ease to win the game. The decision was spot on, the play calls were awful.
Cowboys have a cornerback problem
Coming into the season, the Cowboys had one of the deepest groups of cornerbacks in the league, led by All-Pro Trevon Diggs. The position took a hit a few weeks ago when Jourdan Lewis was lost for the year, and things went from bad to worse when starting corner Anthony Brown was lost to a concussion against the Packers.
Brown was already struggling in the game, giving up a 58-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Christian Watson, but his absence led to the Cowboys being forced to lean on second-year CB Kelvin Joseph and rookie corner DaRon Bland. Both had issues in coverage and gave up big plays.
Bland was beaten for a 39-yard touchdown by Watson on a fourth quarter 4th-&-7, when a stop could’ve sealed the game. On the next possession, Watson ran away from Joseph and safety Malik Hooker for a seven-yard score to tie the game.
All corners not named Trevon Diggs were roasted, and Diggs was barely targeted by Rodgers.
Teams are starting to look away from Diggs and it’s becoming a problem. The Cowboys need better cornerback play opposite Diggs, or risk getting burned weekly by whoever isn’t being covered by Dallas’ best CB. Rodgers won’t be the last quarterback to pick on anyone other than Diggs.
Where was Micah Parsons?
The Cowboys have one of the best defensive players in the league in Parsons, who makes impact plays weekly. Against the Packers, Parsons’ presence wasn’t felt, which was an opportunity lost.
Parsons is among the favorites to be the Defensive Player of the Year, but he wasn’t utilized to his full capabilities in the Week 10 loss. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn used Parsons more as a middle linebacker against the Packers than he has at virtually any point in his young career, which was a grave mistake.
The Cowboys were short at LB due to Anthony Barr’s absence but playing Parsons as a middle-of-the-field hole-stuffer wasn’t the answer. The second-year hybrid defender led the team in tackles, yet he had no effect on the game. Perhaps it was Quinn’s plan to slow the running game that gashed the Cowboys for over 200 yards on the ground or to spy on Rodgers, who can work magic outside the pocket, but it didn’t work.
The Cowboys have made a living off attacking quarterbacks when they have a lead this season, but that wasn’t the case against the Packers because Parsons was stuck playing at the second level instead of getting after the QB. When the Cowboys got up 14 points late, Parsons could have been lining up more on the defensive line to pressure Rodgers. It didn’t happen, and the game turned sour.
Parsons was drafted as an LB, but the Cowboys have seen how naturally he can rush the passer and impact the game as a defensive end. Having him play too much at LB and not enough at DE was a mistake that cannot be repeated.
Do you think the Cowboys will bounce back in Week 11 against Minnesota? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.