The Dallas Cowboys came into their matchup with the Houston Texans looking for answers on the road and came away with an overtime loss and a bunch more questions.
The Cowboys failed to muster up any sort of sustainable offense in their 13 drives. They averaged 4.6 plays per drive and 4.9 yards per play. While on the other side, the Texans’ offense averaged 6.3 plays per drive and 6.1 yards per play. The Texans were beating Dallas in every statistical category except for converting in the redzone. Both offenses were extremely inept in that category which is why Dallas was able to stay in the game in the first place.
The big discussion among the fans and talk radio alike is in regard to the decision to punt on 4th down from the Texans’ 42-yard line with five and a half minutes to go in overtime. At that point in the game, the Cowboys should have been willing to take a chance and roll the dice.
Dallas hadn't been able to stop Houston on offense all night in the middle of the field until they reached the redzone where they were 1-for-6 at scoring a touchdown. The problem for the Cowboys defensively was between the 20 yard lines, meaning giving the ball back to Houston without them needing a touchdown to win was foolish.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett decided to punt the ball and play it safe. In the end, it cost them the game despite still having their chances.
For example, the play in the tweet above was the 3rd down prior to the punt decision. As much as the punt has been lampooned, the Cowboys still only needed one yard on 3rd down to have sustained their drive and perhaps go down the field and score a game-winner.
The Cowboys ran the read option in hopes of getting the first down but the play itself lacked execution. The Cowboys hadn't been able to run the ball with much success against the Texans defense all game up to that point and the play itself looked telegraphed. It was obvious that the Texans knew it was coming, at least. Ezekiel Elliott finished the game with 20 carries for 54 yards, a blistering 2.7 yards per carry.
If there has been one issue for the Cowboys all season in their attempts to run the ball, it has been accounting for the middle linebacker. On this particular play, at a critical juncture, Houston LB Zach Cunningham knifed through the protection giving Elliott no shot at the first down. The Cowboys tried to decoy with Cole Beasley in the backfield but no one was buying it.
Considering that it probably already should have been four down territory, the Cowboys likely would have been better served spreading out the defense and giving themselves a better opportunity with a 4th down in their back pocket.
With the Cowboys' inability to move the ball consistently through the air, more and more teams are likely to follow the game plan from Houston defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and stack the line of scrimmage knowing that the Cowboys will be predictable. Take Ezekiel Elliott out of the game and Dallas likely loses.
The Cowboys will now turn their attention to the Jacksonville Jaguars who come in with a top five defense and unless Dallas can find a way to win in similar situations like Sunday's 3rd down debacle, the Cowboys will be in dire straights moving forward.
Do you think the Cowboys can figure things out and compete in a lackluster NFC East or was Sunday's loss a prediction of things to come in Dallas? Share your thoughts with Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.