In a matter of eleven days, the optimism of the 2017 season has been completely derailed. The latest installment of destruction came at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers as they beat the Cowboys, 28-6 on Thanksgiving.
The offense would continue their woes, struggling to move the ball and the defense had very few answers as the Chargers never had to punt the entire game. It was so terrible that even a couple extra helpings of pumpkin pie couldn’t take the horrible taste away.
Here are this week’s winners and losers:
There wasn’t a lot to be excited about on the defensive side of the ball, but the improved performance by Jaylon Smith shouldn’t be overlooked. He finished with a team-high eight tackles, including a nice tackle behind the line of scrimmage. His change of direction looked very good and he did a much better job shedding his blocks. This is a promising showing for the Cowboys young linebacker.
But Jaylon wasn’t the only Smith brother who had a nice game. Rod Smith led the Cowboys in rushing yards, racking up 41 yards on nine carries. It was a modest performance, but it’s worth noting that Smith got 34 reps versus 20 for Alfred Morris. Initially, Morris was expected to be the clear #1 backup to Ezekiel Elliott, but the team is gradually giving Rod Smith more snaps.
On Sunday, the Cowboys released Darren McFadden with further solidifies that the team is perfectly content with what they have in Morris and Smith. The team is starving for anyone to emerge as a big playmaker for the offense and with more playing time in store going forward, Smith has a chance to be that guy.
The Cowboys would get Dan Bailey back for this game, but as it turned out - he wasn’t needed. The team would never attempt a field goal. The lone touchdown they scored would be followed up with a two-point conversion attempt.
While Bailey’s leg wasn’t needed, the same was not true for punter, Chris Jones. It’s easy to overlook what he does, but he consistently does a great job pinning teams deep in their own territory.
I HAVE GOOD NEWS!!!!! I HAVE GOOD NEWS!!!!! I HAVE GOOD NEWS!!!!! I HAVE GOOD NEWS!!!!!— Cowboys Nation (@CowboysNation) November 24, 2017
“Chris Jones has the highest percentage of punts downed inside the 20 in NFL History” #mvp pic.twitter.com/Edfj2m20RS
It was also really good to see Ryan Switzer have some nice kick-off returns in this game. After a costly fumble earlier in the season against the Los Angeles Rams, the rookie returner has been a bit skittish. But his confidence was restored as he would burst through the holes to give the Cowboys good field position. It’s just a matter of time before he takes one to the house.
The Cowboys running game hasn’t been too bad over the last three games, but the offense has completely spun its wheels. The team cannot convert third downs, they lack any ability to make big plays, and they just can’t score touchdowns. These are all things that Zeke can bring to the offense and it’s clear now that the offense sorely misses his presence.
Zeke's absence has been felt. pic.twitter.com/ScvO1Lsmjp— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 24, 2017
With no Elliott on the field, the Cowboys have to rely on last year’s Rookie of the Year, Dak Prescott. And it’s safe to say, the young quarterback hasn’t been up to the challenge. There is no doubt that he doesn’t feel comfortable in the pocket. After being sacked only 10 times over the first eight games, he’s now been taken down 14 times over the last three games. During this span, he hasn’t thrown a touchdown and he’s been picked off five times, which is more than he was intercepted all of last year.
The poor performance from Prescott has some fans uneasy on whether or not he’s going to be the talented quarterback we all believed he would become after such a great rookie season. Hopefully, he can get back on track if not to salvage the season, but to keep fans optimistic about what the future holds.
As great as Anthony Brown played last season, he has played equally as bad this season. He is constantly getting beat and can’t seem to stop grabbing receivers. He is the second most penalized player in the league with a total of 10 on the season. He has five pass interference calls and five defensive holding penalties. Brown is a clear liability in pass coverage.
The Cowboys coaching staff appears to have seen enough as word on the street is that changes are coming.
Jason Garrett said Cowboys plan to create more competition for the starting CB job held by Anthony Brown. He'll give rookie CB Chidobe Awuzie and CB Bene' Benwikere a chance to compete for more playing time.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) November 26, 2017
When the offense can’t score points and the defense can’t stop anyone, it’s clear the problems are bigger than the absence of a few players. Between poor tackling, miscommunications in coverage, and opponents picking up on blitzes, the coaching staff is not doing enough to help their players be successful.
Jason Garrett is the reigning Coach of the Year, but Cowboys fans are scratching their head wondering what’s going on with their team. How can this team suddenly become this bad? Garrett and company better start finding some answers soon.
After this disappointing loss, do you think the Cowboys are in trouble? Or can they shake it off and still make a playoff run? Share your answer with Dan on Twitter @DannyPhantom24.