Other than the passing game, there was not a whole lot to be positive about following the Dallas Cowboys 28-24 loss at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings.
While the Cowboys are still clinging onto a first-place lead thanks to their head-to-head tiebreaker over an idle Philadelphia, both teams are currently at 5-4, and Dallas has a tougher schedule ahead of them than the Eagles do.
One positive – if your glass is half full – is the Cowboys were close. In fact, Dallas was 11 yards away from taking a late lead despite being manhandled in the run game on both sides of the ball.
The near-win was thanks mostly to the Houdini-like performance from Dak Prescott, who attempted to rescue the loss away from the Vikings with one of the best passing performances of his young career.
Prescott did his very best to keep the Cowboys in the game. But, ultimately, the offense ran out of time and downs after the play-callers inexplicably took the ball out of Prescott's hands on the second-to-last drive with a chance to take the lead and opted instead to go to a run game that had been stymied all night.
Prescott was more than good enough to get the win, but the Cowboys fell short and thus created a doom and gloom atmosphere this week for most of the fanbase.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a similar story to the one that has been told in Dallas for the better parts of over 10 years now.
The lineage of Tony Romo’s near misses appears to have been passed down to Prescott despite routine Herculean efforts from the quarterbacks. There’s a common denominator looming over the franchise, and it isn’t the signal-callers.
The Cowboys have been under the leadership of Jason Garrett since 2011, when he became the full-term head coach following a 5-3 campaign as the interim.
Garrett has been part of this staff since 2007 and the results have been the same. Either the Cowboys miss the playoffs or have a divisional-round exit. In his full eight seasons, the team has missed out on the postseason five times.
Merely winning the NFC East and getting into the tournament appears to be the absolute annual ceiling around here. That’s not good enough anymore and that’s not something that gives you much optimism for a young football team that should be ascending.
With Prescott as the quarterback, the Cowboys have missed out on the postseason just once, but they could inexplicably be in danger of it happening again despite no reason to think they shouldn’t be looking to take the next step after a season in which they won the division and won a playoff game.
The immediate disappointments don’t completely fall solely on Garrett, either. In their four losses this year, twice Dallas was unable to stop the run game. In fact, between the Green Bay Packers and Vikings games, the Cowboys were gashed for 273 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns against the NFC North leaders.
The enormous gap in production from the rushing attacks was very reminiscent of what the Los Angeles Rams were able to do in the divisional round of the playoffs last season when they ran all over the defense for 273 yards and three rushing touchdowns while Ezekiel Elliott was bottled up for 47 yards.
While the failings on defense can be pointed directly at the tandem of Kris Richard and Rod Marinelli’s inability to stop the bleeding, it feels all too familiar with this team. And the defensive coaching staff can’t exactly be blamed for Elliott getting stonewalled.
Remember, the Cowboys are built to play and win exactly like how the Vikings came into Dallas’ building and beat them on Sunday. Dallas is built to stop the run with fast, young linebackers and built to run the ball on offense until the other team submits. Minnesota beat Dallas at its own game. That responsibility ultimately falls on one person, for better or for worse.
Over the eight seasons under Garrett, he has changed coordinators on both sides of the ball four times apiece. The underlying factor has been the man in charge, Garrett himself.
And yet, while the Cowboys are in first place, it would be foolish to make any sort of change at this point in time. There must be no questions remaining when Jerry Jones is finally forced to swing the ax. Garrett and the rest of the staff are in the final year of their deals and the team still has an opportunity to win their division and reach the playoffs.
Should Dallas fail to capture the NFC East, or flame out early in the playoffs, a decision would be more prudent following the season. With no doubts left about the ability to take the Cowboys back to glory, Dallas and Jones would be welcome to finally wash its hands of the former backup quarterback from those glory years.
Obviously, if the Cowboys make a deep run such as the first appearance in the conference championship game since the 1995 season, Garrett would likely be retained at that point.
Given his history, and given the fact that Dallas has already lost to the likes of the New York Jets this season, a deep run seems a far-fetched conclusion at this point. But there has to be a reason that Jones has stuck with Garrett for as long as he has so maybe we’ll finally see that rabbit snatched out of the hat.
What the front office should be doing is looking around the league and putting together a list of candidates that they would like to interview. The shortlist should include Greg Roman, who is doing wonders offensively with Lamar Jackson for the Baltimore Ravens. It makes you wonder just what he could do with a young star like Prescott.
Do you think we’ve reached the end of the line with Jason Garrett or would another NFC East title save his bacon? Share your thoughts with Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.