Another close game at home versus the New York Giants but a different result. Here’s why the Dallas Cowboys started off 2016 at 0-1.
For fans of the Dallas Cowboys out there hoping for a repeat of last year, you almost had your wish.
Another fourth quarter scenario involving no timeouts, limited time and points needed for a win. This time, however, quarterback Tony Romo was not there to lead the team to a last second win. This time, rookie fill in Dak Prescott tried his best but could not seal the deal.
It certainly was not all his fault. In fact, Prescott did pretty well, all things considered, in his NFL debut. Unfortunately, it was not enough to earn a win though.
So, why are the Dallas Cowboys 0-1 heading into another pseudo must-win divisional matchup next week against a Washington team with the same record?
The main reason comes down to third down performance.
Not so much offensively, although that had something to do with it. No, the Dallas Cowboys lost this game thanks to their third down defense.
The Cowboys allowed the Giants to convert on exactly half of their third down attempts. That does not sound bad initially, especially when you realize it was only five conversions.
The problem was that two of those five successful attempts both yielded touchdown passes, both in the red zone. When you lose a game by one point, being able to keep a team from putting up six points is crucial.
If the Cowboys defense could have done that just once, that would have made for a much different outcome. If you question that belief, look no further than the other side of the ball for your proof.
On two separate occasions, the Dallas Cowboys occupied space inside of the Giants ten-yard line. Both times, instead of kicker Dan Bailey coming out for a point after attempt, he set up for a chip shot field goal.
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The other issue, when it comes to that money down, was how many times Dallas were in long distance situations. Eight times, the Cowboys were forced to convert a third down over eight yards.
The Cowboys were able to convert only three. Two of those three came on the final drive of the game. In that case, the Giants were more than content to give up yards in order to keep the clock rolling.
Those failures, on both sides of the ball, are why the Dallas Cowboys open the 2016 season 0-1.
Clearly there are things to work on for next week.
Limiting the number of times facing 3rd and 9 or longer to keep the chains moving would be a good start. Scoring touchdowns instead of field goals and not giving up touchdowns would be gravy.
More Dallas Cowboys observations from Week 1:
- In no situation, ever, should a healthy Dez Bryant only have five targets. I get that the Giants put most of their focus on Bryant. I’m sure he was dealing with double coverage most of the game. I don’t care. Move him around. Find ways to put the ball in his hands. Electing to neglect your best offensive weapon is a sin on this coaching staff’s head.
- Speaking of threats, the coaching staff did not use Prescott properly either. Carrying the ball just twice makes no sense. One carry was on a broken play when there was miscommunication between he and running back Ezekiel Elliott. The other came on a read option keeper gaining 11 yards. With a running attack struggling, more pressure in the read option game could have done wonders.
- Even though the defense managed to get only minimal pressure on quarterback Eli Manning, the pass coverage did well. Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. was held to 73 yards. No other wide receiver totaled more than 45 yards. Cornerback Brandon Carr obtained his first interception in nearly two years. Fellow corner Morris Claiborne also performed well.
- With all the issues getting off the field on third down, the defense only gave up 20 total points. I have to believe that if you were to tell fans that would be the Giants total, they would take that every time. It becomes even more disheartening to realize that total was not good enough.
- If teams are going to continue to play receiver Cole Beasley one-on-one, he could feasibly end up with 100+ catches this season. He is a matchup nightmare for almost any slot corner in this league.
- Lastly, as bad as you feel about this loss, it is just one game. There is plenty of season left and many more positives to take away from the game.
We’re on to Washington.