One thing that can hurt Dallas Cowboys come playoff time

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy (Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy (Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) /

After a big performance in Week 10 where the Dallas Cowboys beat the Atlanta Falcons by 40 points, they struggled in much of Week 11.

It wasn’t a pretty performance for the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11’s 19-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, as they scored just nine points on three field goals. This was also the first time since Week 16 of the 2019 season that a quarterback Dak Prescott-led team did not score a touchdown.

However, all the blame can’t go on Prescott in this game.

Yes, the 6-foot-2 quarterback didn’t play his best football, throwing for only 216 yards and two interceptions, but neither did the Dallas offensive line. This unit, which was missing tackle Tyron Smith due to an ankle injury, had a hard time against Kansas City’s defensive line. The injury to Smith happens to be a big loss, not only for the Cowboys, but for Prescott as well. With the 6-foot-5 tackle in the lineup, Prescott has a 74 percent completion percentage.

Without Smith, Prescott’s number drops to just 63 percent.

The absence of Smith was definitely felt in this game, as Dallas’ offensive line gave up five sacks, which was more than it had given up in the past five weeks combined (four).

It was a different look for this Dallas Cowboys offensive line with guard Connor McGovern getting the start over guard Connor Williams. At the end of the day, the Cowboys couldn’t block defensive tackle Chris Jones, as the former Mississippi State product had 3.5 sacks in this game, more than he has had all season (three).

Even with the terrible offensive performance in two of their three last games, the Cowboys will likely be fine come playoff time. They still average the third most points per game (29.3) and first in yards per game (418.1).

Numbers suggest Dallas Cowboys should be fine

This only marks the third time this season where Dallas struggled to score. This surprisedly happened to be all against AFC West teams. Could it be the unfamiliarity of only playing them once every four years? Nevertheless, the Cowboys have a very explosive offense and will keep putting up high numbers every game.

On the other side, this defense has been a different breed this season. What they are doing on this side of the ball is something that no Dallas fan probably imagined.

Last season, the Cowboys defense allowed 29.6 points per game, which was a franchise record-high.

Now, that number is at 21.4 to begin the season, which ranks eighth.

It’s a much different defense without arguably the best player, defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who suffered a broken foot in practice in Week 2. Even defensive end Randy Gregory has been out the past two games after being placed on injured reserve. Also, defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, who was supposed to take a big step up this season, hasn’t played in any game due to an elbow injury.

Nonetheless, what defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has done with this group is quite impressive. Forcing Kansas City to score just one touchdown is a win for that defense.

This isn’t the first time that this defense played well in a big matchup. Earlier this season, they held the Los Angeles Chargers to 17 points and the Minnesota Vikings to 16 points.

This defense is already playing well and with guys like Lawrence, Gallimore and Gregory slowly getting back to return, there is every reason to stay confident in this group going forward.

What will hurt Dallas Cowboys then?

There are reasons to believe that when the Cowboys get healthy, they are arguably one of the best teams in the league. Their offense has looked unstoppable at times, and their defense has made stops when they needed to this season.

However, the one thing that can hurt this team going forward, especially in the playoffs is head coach Mike McCarthy.

More, specifically, his clock management skills. This season, there have been many instances where McCarthy simply botched the clock. Just last week, the Cowboys were driving late in the second quarter hoping to put points on the board before halftime. After a first down that put Dallas at the Chiefs’ 28-yard line with 35 seconds left and two timeouts, McCarthy chose not to use a timeout.

Rather, he allowed Prescott to rush a deep throw, which ended up being intercepted.

This was not the first time this happened. Earlier this season in Week 1, Dallas did not do an excellent job of using the clock at the end of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McCarthy seemed content with a long field-goal attempt from Greg Zuerlein, leaving 1:30 on the clock for quarterback Tom Brady.

However, if the Cowboys were smarter with the clock, they could have come home with the victory.

Then in Week 2, McCarthy once again seemed content with a 56-yard field goal by Zuerlein to win. Before the field goal, the Cowboys let 33 seconds run off the board. Additionally, the play before the field goal was just a 3-yard run.

Instead, the Cowboys could have used the 36 seconds to move closer.

Finally in Week 6, when Dallas faced the New England Patriots, there was another instance of McCarthy’s poor clock-management skills. The Cowboys were fortunate enough to march back in that game, and they were set up with another Zuerlein field-goal attempt to tie the game.

However, McCarthy called a timeout before the field goal with 24 seconds left on a fourth down, a decision that makes Dallas fans shake their heads. Instead of calling a timeout, he could have let the clock run down and then call it with four or five seconds left.

Giving teams any amount of time in the playoff could be the difference from getting America’s Team back to the NFC championship.

McCarthy has to do a better job at using his timeouts and managing a better game, because if he doesn’t, the Cowboys can be in trouble.

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