What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
I’ve said it before…and I’ll say it again. As a life-long Philadelphia Eagles fan, I thank God every day for “Jerrah” Jones. That’s because he keeps the Dallas Cowboys in a perpetual state of dysfunction. It’s been 27 years since the Cowboys last hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, and Sunday night’s play-off loss to the San Francisco 49ers means it will be at least 28. But more importantly, this is yet another example of the “Jerrah” Cowboys continuing to be the NFL’s longest-running prime-time soap opera.
Another Cowboy season came to yet another abrupt end as they suffered yet another disappointing play-off loss. Of course, in typical Cowboy fashion as the football ends, the blame-storming begins. There are fans who want to blame the officials. The quarterback tried to take some of the heat for his coaches, but nobody is buying it. Even “Jerrah” got in on the act with a not-so-subtle tossing of his head coach underneath the proverbial “bus.”
The beauty in all of this is there’s plenty of blame to go around. What’s even better is I tried a month ago to warn all you Cowboy fans. There was a time when I posed the the question “Do you think this Cowboy team is good enough to go on the road and win in the play-offs?” The response was a collective, affirmative chorus, mostly singing songs about a Super Bowl and the associated “We’re going all the way!” bilge. Well, the Cowboys didn’t even get out of the house that “Jerrah” built, and as I was trying to tell Cowboy nation, the warning signs which manifested themselves Sunday night have been visible for quire some time.
The difference is now you can’t ignore them…and better yet…you can’t argue with them. We all saw what happened Sunday night, and now I’m here to point out what Cowboy fans still want to deny…but need to accept if this soap opera is to ever have a “happy ending.”
First, let’s talk about something the Cowboys did Sunday night which actually worked…and gives us the perfect starting point to explore how the “fool’s gold” that is the Dallas Cowboys was exposed. At times the Cowboys’ defense looked awesome; Micah Parsons was a one-man wrecking crew. But…there are reasons why that team was down by 16 points in the 4th quarter. That’s what we are about to get into…
Reason #1) The Offense Let Them Down, Part I
I might as well get to the most obvious one first. For all the talk of that “high-octane” Cowboy offense, when it came time to show up up in a “winner take all” situation, Dak Prescott gave us all another example of something I’ve said time and time again: Dak Prescott is a “garbage-time” quarterback.
Doubt that? Look at it this way. Quarterback get paid for three things: the “red zone,” 3rd down, and the 4th quarter. These are all areas where Prescott historically doesn’t perform, and that was on full display again on Sunday night. The “Dak-o-philes” all fall for the “banana in the tailpipe” on him; they all point to stats like passing yards and touchdowns, all while ignoring the fact most of those numbers come in “garbage time” when the Cowboys are behind and a lot of those numbers stem from attempts to mount a come-back (like Sunday night), or against lackluster competition (like their entire divisional schedule).
Still doubt that? Take a look at the three quarterbacks who played this weekend who recently got “big-time” cash. Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes both looked the part; they engineered complete dominations of their opponents. On the other hand, Prescott came up short (again) completing 23 passes out of 43 attempts (barely 50%) for a total 254 yards (most of which came in the second half in yet another futile come-back attempt).
The bottom line: Sunday was just another example of “Jerrah” paying “Mahomes” prices and getting “Kirk Cousins” performance.
Reason #2) The Offense Let Them Down, Part II
You can blame this on Prescott’s lack of performance. You can blame this on offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s exceptionally bland play-calling. But on a team loaded with offensive weapons for which “Jerrah” also ponied up big bucks, how is it some guy named Dalton Schultz led the Cowboy offense in receiving yards? Not only that, but half of his total came in a single play.
Where were the “big dollar” guys? The Cowboys might as well have put out an “Amber Alert” on Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. But the really vexing question is what the hell happened to Ezekiel Elliott? I mean, it’s not like just a few short years ago he was one of the most-feared offensive weapons in all the game. Now he’s worth 12 rushes for 31 yards, and you have to go back to Week 5 of the 2021 season for the last time he had a 100-yard game. Now, the Cowboys are selling the story Elliott played most of this season on a partially-torn knee ligament, but that still doesn’t explain why his production coincidentally nose-dived after “Jerrah” fattened his bank account.
Reason #3) The Defense Let Themselves Down…and The Offense Let Them Down, Part III
No matter which side of the ball, the Cowboys spent Sunday night taking turns shooting each other in the foot. All tolled, they set a franchise post-season record by committing 14 penalties for 89 yards; 6 of those being the exceptional deadly “pre-snap” variety.
Of all the “warning signs” I’m listing here, this is the one that’s completely objective…and the one all the buyers of the Cowboy “fool’s gold” should have seen. Through the regular season, this team committed 153 total penalties…84 of those were against the on defense…which means that’s how many “free” first downs the Cowboy defense gave away through no other reason than sloppy and undisciplined play
This was on full display on Sunday. How many times did the Cowboys have the 49ers stopped in them second half, only gave them new life with a yellow hanky? Randy Gregory was worth at least three of those by himself; two of the dumbest defensive holding penalties I’ve ever seen and at least one for lining up in the neutral zone.
If a team commits that many penalties, you simply cannot expect them consistently to beat good football teams…and the Cowboys didn’t.
4) They Don’t Know How To Take A Game Being Given To Them
To be fair, the “penalty sword” cut both ways on Sunday; I lost count of how many false start flags were thrown against San Francisco. The worst was on the 4th and 1 with a minute to go in the 4th quarter. The whole world knew a quarterback sneak was coming, and thanks to the extended official review over where to spot the ball, San Francisco has all the time in the world to run the play they wanted. The problem was quarterback Jimmy Garropolo called for the snap too soon, the shifting offensive line was not set, and 4th and 1 became 4th and 6 and a punt rather than a game-sealing 1st down.
That re-spot and re-measurement wasn’t the only gift the Cowboys would get. That pre-mature snap was another…and it wouldn’t be the only one they would get from Garrapolo. The pick he threw earlier in the 4th quarter set the table for all the craziness that was to come. Sprinkled amongst those gifts, the 49ers threw in those countless penalties.
But the Cowboys couldn’t capitalize on those miscues for two reasons. We’ve already discussed the crushing amount of penalties they committed on their own. But the thing that’s getting overlooked in all this is arguably the key play of the entire game.
Now, I’m a firm believer that football games rarely come down to one play; wins and losses usually are a result of a series of events within a game. While this game is no exception, it’s hard to ignore the interception Dak Prescott threw in the third quarter from his own 26-yard line. The 49ers scored on the very next play to give them a 23-7 lead which they carried into the 4th quarter.
This was crucial because by the middle of the 3rd quarter, it was obvious that for as sloppy as the Cowboy defense was, they also had a lid on the 49ers; Jimmy Garropolo et al. weren’t scoring again in that game without help. So, after Prescott gifted the 49ers with a possession on the cusp of the “red zone” and San Francisco converted that into seven points, what could have been a 17-16 Cowboy win became what it was.
Now, the list of teams which have overcome a two-touchdown-plus deficit in the final frame is preciously short…and it didn’t get joined on Sunday. For those of you who think the Cowboys could have pulled off a last-second “Hail Mary,'” don’t forget, they already blew one “trick” play…which brings us to…
5) The Fake Punt Fiasco
If anybody is looking for a moment where Cowboys head Mike McCarthy clearly didn’t know what he was doing, there’s no better example then the fake punt Dallas pulled off early in the 4th quarter.
The good news? It worked. The 16-yard pass was good for a 1st down at San Francisco’s 36-yard line.
The bad news? McCarthy then tried some shenanigans in an attempt to run a play catching San Francisco sleeping with its punt team still on the field. This never works. At best, you might get the 49ers to burn a time-out. But that likely doesn’t happen because by rule, once the Cowboys substitute players, the officials must give the 49ers time to match any player changes.
The worst-case scenario is actually what happened; McCarthy farted around long enough to get called for a delay of game penalty, which essentially killed all the momentum the fake punt provided. In other words, in the span of two plays, McCarthy turned what could have been a touchdown drive into a field goal…just what a team desperate for points needed.
6) Does Anybody In Dallas Know The Rules To This Goddamn Game?
We’ve already been through the fact Randy Gregory doesn’t know it isn’t legal to put a “Hulk Hogan” souplex on an offensive lineman. We just explored Mike McCarthy’s ignorance of the substitution rule. But there’s an even moe monumental problem when your quarterback doesn’t know when you can start a play.
See, there’s a serious issue with the end of the game that I haven’t heard Cowboy fans get right. Sure, we can go down the “rabbit hole” debating running down the middle of the field with only 14 seconds left and no timeouts. We can can even get into why was Dak Prescott was running at all? After all, the Cowboys didn’t need any yardage to be within reach of the end zone for the inevitable “Hail Mary;” they were already inside the 49ers 40-yard line.
Given the fact Prescott decided to run the ball (he said in the post-game press conference he made that decision), he did three really dumb things.
First, he ran too far; if he’s not going to get out of bounds, he’s got to get down right on the hash mark with no less than four seconds to go. The official is going to spot the ball there, and you can hand the ball directly to him to ensure the shortest amount time before you can snap the ball again.
Second, with such a short amount of time left, you also can’t run too far in front of the umpire – who is the official responsible for spotting the ball at the end of the play. Since most official are 50-something insurance salesman, they aren’t going to go stride-for-stride with any NFL player, let alone a reasonably mobile quarterback half his age. Obviously, every second it takes for somebody’s grandfather to catch up to you is another click off the clock.
But it’s the third mistake which is the a) the worst and b) led to the other two. I watched that final play several times, and I’m convinced that Prescott did what he did because he either a) didn’t know or b) forgot about the difference how first downs are handled between college football and the NFL. If you can, go watch that play again and pay particular attention to the look on Prescott’s face. As he’s getting up, there’s a split-second where he looks genuinely surprised that the clock is still running. In other words, I’m convinced he ran the last three seconds of that play under the belief the clock stops on first downs…as it does only in college football.
Now, I have no way of proving that, and Prescott will never admit it, but give it a bit of thought. It’s the only thing that explains the first two huge mistakes. Again, in the post-game presser, it’s clear from his explanation of that last play Prescott was painfully aware of the amount of time remaining.
Not to mention, everything Prescott said explaining that final play sounds exactly like a guy pointing the finger everywhere he could rather than admit he “screwed the pooch.” The best was blaming the umpire for “getting in the way.”
Quiz time Cowboy fans: Do you know what would have happened if the Cowboys had snapped the ball and spiked it before the umpire had spotted the ball?
The snapper may not snap the ball after it is ready for play until all of the officials have had a~ NFL Rule Book, Article 3, Sub-Section (C): Restrictions for Snapper
reasonable time to assume their normal stances. If this occurs, the ball remains dead, and no penalty
is assessed unless it is a repeated act after a warning (delay of game).
Keep that rule in mind and think about how much time it takes to get all that done at the end of one play? It is obviously more than the two seconds Prescott allowed, which can only mean two things. He either doesn’t know the rules or he choked at the moment of truth (again).
Actually, that could be the key word for this piece. Again, the Cowboys are a soap opera, because again Cowboys’ fans had over-ambitious expectations. Again, their team didn’t live up to them. Again, both the Cowboys and their fans are placing blame every except where it belongs because again, they don’t want to admit Dak Prescott isn’t the quarterback who is going to get them to a Super Bowl.
The Cowboys blew it on the big stage again. The Cowboys and their fans can conjure all the excuses they want, but what it all boils down to is a season with disappointing ending again and the “wait until next season” mantra…again. The odds are we’ll be having this conversation again next year because under “Jerrah” Jones, this is who the Dallas Cowboys are and this is what they do…again and again.