The Dallas Cowboys ended their season on an extremely sour note with a 48-32 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. Just one week after clinching the NFC East thanks to two crucial season-ending wins, the Cowboys once again looked flat in their opening playoff game.
The team looked completely outcoached, leading many to believe both Mike McCarthy and Dan Quinn coached their final game in Dallas. In a surprising turn of events, McCarthy is back and all signs point to Quinn returning if he doesn't land a coaching gig.
A lot will need to be looked at by Jerry Jones who for sure did not expect to see his team's season end this early in the playoffs. However, the Cowboys were only the number two seed in the playoffs for a reason. While Dallas has loads of talent at many positions as they do most years, weaknesses came into full light in games that mattered the most. When a team wins and keeps winning, many things can be glossed over, but the problems are still there.
The Cowboys benefited a lot this season from playing bad teams for the majority of the year. The only teams the Cowboys played that made the playoffs were the Eagles, 49ers, Lions, Bills, Dolphins and the Rams. Against all those opponents, including the Eagles twice, they went 3-4. Both the 49ers and Bills games were complete blow losses. In most of these games, Dallas' weaknesses got exposed.
1. The run defense did not improve much from last year
The Cowboys run defense was one of their major weaknesses last year. This year they tried to improve it by bringing back Johnathan Hankins and drafting Mazi Smith. However, the moves did not seem to provide as much help as expected. Hankins missed a lot of the back half of the season due to injury and Smith never looked comfortable as a rookie at nose tackle.
It may be a stretch, but Smith already looks like a bust. He might have played in all 17 regular season games and the playoff game, but there was a reason Hankins remained the starter when he came back. Smith only had one sack the whole season and 13 total tackles. With Hankins aging, Dallas was hoping Smith would show he is capable of taking over in his rookie year but that has not happened.
The worst performances came from this run defense against some of the best teams on the Cowboys' schedule. Against the 49ers Christian McCaffrey and Jordan Mason combined for 120 yards, but the worst was yet to come. Against the Bills in Buffalo, they gave up 179 yards on the ground to James Cook as they steamrolled past them 31-10. Losses by big margins like that at the end of the season should be considered alarming.
In the playoff game, Aaron Jones once again got the best of his hometown team. He rushed for 118 yards and three touchdowns as the defense seemed to have no resistance. The fact the Cowboys gave up that kind of performance to a first round opponent screams issues still exist with their run defense. That area needs to be looked at extensively in the offseason.