DALLAS — Losing is never fun, but the way in which the Dallas Cowboys played in their defeat against the Denver Broncos is something that will stick with the team. The Week 9 loss was by far their worst performance of the season. The Cowboys simply weren’t good enough in many areas as they got blown out of their own building.
The best thing that the Cowboys can do now is to learn from the loss and move on. After playing so poorly, Mike McCarthy’s team can take plenty of from the beatdown and apply the lessons as they traverse the rest of their schedule.
Here are a handful of things that we learned about Dallas during their demoralizing winning streak-busting loss:
Cowboys can’t just show up and win
After an exhilarating win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8 on the road with their backup quarterback, the Cowboys might have felt that they could cruise to a win with Dak Prescott back and playing in front of the home crowd. The team swiftly found out that this was not the case.
It’s hard to win games in the NFL and the Cowboys might have taken that fact for granted against the Broncos. Denver isn’t one of Dallas’ rivals in the NFC, so perhaps the team wasn’t as focused as they needed to be on the task at hand.
Either way, the Cowboys need to be better prepared for every game. That didn’t appear to be the case against the Broncos and it was a harsh lesson to learn.
Micah Parsons continues to impress
The humbling defeat was mostly all bad but there were a few bright spots. Parsons had 10 tackles, 2.5 sacks and three tackles for a loss. Dallas’ defense got pushed around by the Broncos and Parsons was a part of that debacle, but he also proved that he’s among the best playmakers on the defense.
It was Parsons’ sack early in the third quarter that led to a blocked punt that could have been a turning point in the game, if only the Cowboys didn’t lose possession due to an oddity in the rule book. The sack had the potential to change the momentum for the defense and give Dallas a chance to come back.
It’s always hollow to play well and lose, but the rookie had another outstanding performance.
Run defense needs work
This isn’t a surprise as the Cowboys have had issues stopping the run this season. If teams commit to attacking them this way, like the Broncos did, the Dallas defense will need to find a way to solve their shortcomings quickly. Two of the last three opponents have shown a willingness to stick with the run against the Cowboys and have seen success.
The defensive line was pushed around by a subpar offensive line and the Cowboys had poor run fits all game long. You won’t win many games when you give up 190 yards rushing. Some of the things the Cowboys did will correct themselves with better execution, but the poor run defense is something that has been sticking out like a sore thumb.
Rest assured; the league will take notice and exploit the weakness.
Trevon Diggs is still a work in progress
There is no denying that Diggs is a ballhawk at cornerback for this secondary. However, he still needs work in coverage and that was more evident than ever in the loss to the Broncos.
Diggs was called for two drive-altering penalties and gave up a 44-yard touchdown to wide receiver Tim Patrick early in the game. The second-year pro continues to sit on routes and get beaten on double moves by opposing receivers.
Diggs needs to clean up his technique because, for the second game in a row, he got beat and hasn’t made up for it with an interception. The Cowboys need a more all-around effort and more consistency from their top CB.
Dropped passes and missed opportunities
The Cowboys weren’t sharp against the Broncos. There were too many mistakes, which included dropped passes and missed open receivers from Prescott. There were four drops by the offense, and they were all on plays that could’ve moved the chains and kept the offense on the field.
Running back Tony Pollard dropped an easy first down on a 2nd-and-7 opportunity in the second quarter, and wide receiver Amari Cooper did the same on a 3rd-and-1 play in the third quarter. Both drops were missed opportunities for big yards and led to no points.
One play after Cooper’s drop was a 4th-and-1 where Prescott overshot wide open receiver CeeDee Lamb. Prescott also overthrew a streaking Lamb in the first half, as well as missed an open Noah Brown on a 4th down play.
These were all chances to make big plays to either score points or stay in the game to make the Broncos earn the win over 60 minutes. None were made and the Cowboys let opportunities slip through their hands all game.
Do you think the Cowboys will learn their lesson following the blowout loss in Week 9? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.