With the regular season in the books, the Dallas Cowboys’ margin for error has officially reached zero. Coming off two consecutive sloppy performances to close out the 17-game schedule, the Cowboys don’t have much momentum heading into their Wild Card showdown against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
While Dak Prescott threw an interception for the seventh straight game against Washington, and the running game was non-existent yet again, Dallas’ multitude of special teams blunders added insult to injury in the upset loss.
Between a holding call on the opening kickoff, Bryan Anger dropping a punt that gifted Washington a short field — Sam Howell threw a TD to Terry McLaurin two plays later — and Brett Maher, of all people, missing an extra-point, it was an afternoon to forget for the Cowboys’ special teams.
And how could we forget KaVontae Turpin’s muffed fair catch?
While Dallas’ defense rallied for a red zone stand, Turpin’s gaffe gifted the Commanders (already up 7-0 at the time) a 1st and 10 at the 15-yard line.
Turpin’s been anything but sure-handed fielding punts down the stretch of the regular season, and it might be time for the Cowboys to bench the Pro Bowl returner now that we’ve reached the do-or-die section of the calendar.
Should the Cowboys bench return specialist KaVontae Turpin after his latest muffed punt?
We hate to call for anyone’s job, but Turpin’s been playing with fire and the Cowboys cannot afford muffed fair catches, a fumble on a return — pretty much any turnover following a kickoff/punt from the opposing team — in the playoffs.
Could you imagine if Sunday’s blunder happened with Dallas trailing early against the Bucs? You’d expect Brady to capitalize in the form of at least a field goal, if not a touchdown. Brady is renowned for pouncing on opponent’s mistakes. It’s one of his many qualities that make him the greatest to ever do it.
With that in mind, Dallas can’t take any risks Monday night. As much as Turpin is capable of breaking a long return, he’s just as capable of committing a costly error. Look back to Week 14 against the Texans. The same thing happened.
Turpin muffed a punt after calling for a fair catch and Houston got the ball near the red zone. That’s two muffs in a five-week span.
As PFF’s Marcus Mosher noted above, that kind of stretch can get a return specialist cut. That might seem a little drastic given he was just named to the Pro Bowl, but a benching before the biggest game of the year better be something the coaching staff is mulling this week.
At the rate Turpin is making mistakes (he’s had a couple close calls baked into this forgettable stretch, too) it might behoove the Cowboys to sacrifice the potential for an explosive return to simply ensure they keep possession.
If that means putting CeeDee Lamb back there to catch the punt, then so be it. Love Turpin, but beating the Bucs is already a big enough challenge. Having to overcome a special teams howler would be a recipe for disaster.