The Dallas Cowboys suffered their first loss of the season Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals: a team that was 0-2 but had beaten Dallas six of the last seven times they have faced each other. This past game marked seven and the last three matchups being losses. After blowouts against the Giants and Jets, most expected the Cowboys to take care of business and put away an inferior team early.
That did not happen. With key injuries to Trevon Diggs and the offensive line, the team came out flat. The defense struggled to stop the run, but the offense did them no favors when they started to settle down in the second half. Dallas went 1-5 in the red zone with the lone touchdown coming from Rico Dowdle on a screen pass.
The Cowboys also had four double-digit numbered play drives that ended up in field goals and an interception thrown by Dak Precott in the end zone, his first of the season.
With getting down early and the defense struggling to adjust to life without Diggs, that is not the ideal way to win games. What is also concerning is that so far through three games the offense has struggled to put the ball in the end zone. With an offense loaded with talent at the skill positions, most believed this team would be able to score at will.
The defense got the leg up early in the first two games which took pressure off the offense. However, the offense looked stuck in neutral for the majority of those two games. Dallas was 3-4 in the red zone against the Giants but could only muster 14 points the entire second half. One would think there would have been more with the defense playing that well.
Against the Jets they went 2-6 with the only points in the second half coming on four Brandon Aubrey field goals. Field goals are fine but every team wants to walk away with six. As of right now the Cowboys are 6-15 (40%) in the red zone so far this season.
That is concerning with the talent on this roster, but Dallas has been worse inside the 20-yard line with less talent. If one thinks the current redzone offense is abysmal, it is filled with more interesting pieces than the units in the early 2000s.
A look at the early 2000s Dallas Cowboys offense
One could call the Cowboys of the early 2000s as the dark days of the franchise. That label stuck when the 2001 team took the field. With Troy Aikman retired, the team handed the reins over to rookie quarterback Quincy Carter. However, two other quarterbacks would end of guiding the offense as Anthony Wright and Ryan Leaf each split time.
With no consistency at the primary position, the team struggled to score. Dallas only scored 17 red zone touchdowns that season, giving them a 34.7% touchdown percentage inside the 20. The inept offense contributed to a 5-11 finish. By the end of the season the Cowboys had the label as one of the worst offenses in the league.
The next season did not bring more hope. Despite Carter getting another chance to start, he lost his job to Chad Hutchinson. The change did not help as the offense only managed ten touchdowns in the red zone, 38.5%. Once again Dallas finished 5-11 in what would be Emmitt Smith's final season as a Cowboy.
Looking at those numbers is discouraging, but there is still a lot left in the season. However, after two glaring weeks of the offense struggling to score in the redzone, Mike McCarthy has plenty of work to do as his team gets ready to face the Patriots. He expressed his concern to the media after the Cardinals game to the media.
Dallas went into their last game undermanned. With Tyron Smith, Tyler Biadasz and Zack Martin hopefully back next week, the offense should be able to get back in rhythm. McCarthy now calling plays means he knows it is up to him on whether this offense under Prescott is successful or not.