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Cowboys Hash Marks: Dallas isn't winning the Super Bowl

A demoralizing Week 9 beatdown to the Denver Broncos on Sunday surely left everyone feeling worried about the chances for playoff glory for the Dallas Cowboys.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott rolls out of the pocket before throwing a pass in the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

DALLAS — What everyone learned on Sunday in Week 9 at AT&T Stadium against the Denver Broncos is that the Dallas Cowboys aren't going to win the Super Bowl.

After all, they lost their second game of the season. Quarterback Dak Prescott looks like he could have waited another week to let his calf heal. The defensive line looked like they could have used another big ugly at the trade deadline to shore up their run defense. 

If not for the Cowboys' 16 palliative fourth quarter points after being down 30-0, Sunday could have resulted in the first Cowboys shutout at AT&T Stadium and first for Dallas at home since Sept. 15, 1991, versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

Plus, the Cowboys didn't beat the Broncos. In every year where the Cowboys have beaten the Broncos in the regular season (1977, 1992, 1995), they have won the Super Bowl. Therefore, the season's outcome is already determined.

Of course, this all makes for good satire and some healthy hand-wringing. Make no mistake: the Cowboys had a bad week, but it doesn't mean they need to cancel their plans for Inglewood, California, in February 2022. Here are four takeaways from the 30-16 loss to Denver:

1. Dallas looked off emotionally — Some might characterize the Cowboys' play as though they believed their own hype following a 6-1 start and after getting the job done with Cooper Rush at backup quarterback the week prior. The way the Cowboys looked was more like they struggled to summon the intensity to care. 

The NFL season isn't just a 17-game grind on the body; it is a 17-game campaign on the emotions and the spirit. The Cowboys looked emotionally drained, even though they did have the momentum of a six-game winning streak. 

Denver was another game where the Cowboys needed to get out the ice bags, but they couldn't find the resolve inside to match the Broncos' desperation as a 4-4 team. It isn't an issue that should persist over the course of the rest of the season, but it was on display in Week 9.

2. Of course there is a blueprint to beat Dallas — One of the storylines coming out of the loss was whether or not the Broncos displayed the blueprint to beat Dallas. Of course they did, but the Cowboys helped with the execution of the plan, or lack thereof. 

The Broncos gambled on stuffing the run and opening up the pass. This was the strategy the New England Patriots used, and Dak Prescott was the driving force with 445 passing yards. The Vikings also used this strategy against the Cowboys with Cooper Rush, but the backup made the plays to win the game. 

Similarly, the Broncos were using a proven strategy, and it was Dallas' lack of execution that helped the plan be successful.

3. Terence Steele was substandard at left tackle — The second-year offensive lineman from Texas Tech had played well at right tackle since Week 2 in the absence of La'el Collins. The Cowboys' plan was to bring Collins back to his old job and kick Steele over to left tackle to fill in for an injured Tyron Smith. 

Steele struggled protecting Prescott's blindside, which only underscores how pivotal Smith is to the team's chances in January. If Steele continues to struggle at the position, Dallas must find ways to help their tackle. 

After all, Bill Parcells once said that you can hide a tackle; you can't hide two. They don't need to hide their right tackle, regardless of who plays over there. But the Cowboys better figure out what to do at left tackle until Smith returns.

4. The punt block was fluky, but doesn't warrant a rule change — The tenor of the game changed when the Broncos kept possession after receiver Malik Turner blocked a punt deep in Denver territory only for the Broncos to keep possession. 

Dallas touched the ball after it crossed the line of scrimmage, which then made it a live ball, and Denver recovered. Even though it seemed the Broncos were still behind the line to gain with the recovery, they had actually reestablished possession. It seems like a dumb rule, and Cowboys fans want to see it changed as an emotional response to a momentum-changing play going to waste, but it makes sense. 

There are punts of 20 yards that are so short because a defender tipped it as it left the punter's foot. If the rules were changed, those punts would have to be ineligible to be recovered by the kicking team. It creeps in on negating one of the big plays on special teams. Dallas was on the wrong side of a fluky play. It has happened in Dallas' favor before. Sometimes you have to take your lumps, not change the rules.

Do you still believe that the Cowboys are contenders in 2021? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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