Dallas Cowboys Insider
From the start, it seemed like a frustrating game to assess, and the Cowboys were all too happy to make that thought a reality.
It was a strange place to be – on the road, in the rain against a team that (surprisingly) had even less to play for than them. Despite the Tennessee Titans’ lesser record, the do-or-die nature of their Week 18 game in Jacksonville led them to seat several of their starters. As a result, a 27-13 win proved far more perplexing than they’d like – not that they give it back. “A win is a win any day of the week,” Dak Prescott said.
The reasoning should be obvious, as it has become a familiar refrain. For starters, they continue to struggle with rollovers, a problem that’s getting harder and harder to explain – and apparently even harder to stop.
It looked exactly like what you’d expect from watching most other Cowboy games. A perfect pass from Dak Prescott was juggled and popped towards the opposing defense for an interception. Moments later, a questionable Dak Prescott call was made by All-Pro safety Kevin Byard. “One was a drop, the other was a negative move,” echoed. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy.
Add a sloppy snap and the Cowboys had three turnovers in one quarter of football.
“I don’t like them,” McCarthy said. “Unfortunately you go through ups and downs in this league. That we don’t get style points is fine. We’re still 12 wins away.”
You cannot dispute the result, even if errors provide a break. For those scoring at home, Dallas has committed 12 turnovers in the past six games. They have returned the ball multiple times in three of their last four games. Ironically, their cleanest game in that regard, last week’s 40-34 win over Philadelphia, saw Prescott throwing a six pick that put them in an early 10-0 hole.
Remarkably, the issue still hasn’t hurt them as much as you might expect. Certainly, turnovers played a big role in the route losses to Green Bay and Jacksonville. And yet, the Cowboys have only been held under 27 points once since Prescott’s return. They’re averaging 35 points per game over the last 10, and they’re 8-2 over the same stretch.
It paid off again on Thursday night, as they bounced back from that sloppy second quarter to beat the Titans 17-7 down the stretch.
“They’re a resilient team,” Prescott said. “Coach McCarthy made it our mantra at the start of the year. Honestly, just taking the pain we had last year and using it to move forward this year.”
Does all of this make you feel any better, as a savvy fan? Probably not. These types of errors are often amplified in the playoffs, and it’s hard to imagine them beating an NFC contender with this style of play.
Then there is the injury factor. The Cowboys seemed to get away tonight with few real problems, but the most notable loss of the night could have serious ramifications. Tyler Biadasz left the game late in the third quarter with an apparent ankle injury. The problem forced some serious line shuffling, as Connor McGovern moved from left guard to center, with Jason Peters entering the game at left tackle and Tyler Smith moving to left guard.
Fortunately, the Cowboys find themselves in an advantageous situation. While there is still little hope of stealing the division title from Philadelphia, the Cowboys’ Week 18 game in Washington is hardly a do-or-die scenario, given that their playoff spot is secure. Still, with this group’s defensive losses showing up every week, it’s baffling to imagine facing a pass rush in the playoffs with an offensive line that’s not as healthy as it could be. At this point, it’s worth remembering that the Cowboys have amassed 361 yards, 27 points and converted 62 percent of their third downs against a team that could well win the AFC South next weekend.
This is the confusing conundrum the Cowboys find themselves in. Thursday night’s road win boosted their record to 12-4. They have now achieved consecutive 12-win seasons for the first time since 1994-95, when they were the undisputed lords of the sport.
At the same time, last year’s 12-win season evaporated in the first round of the playoffs. As a franchise, they haven’t chained a proper playoff series since that 1995 season – a mind-boggling fact after any intercepted throw or ankle twist. Is it right? Probably not. That doesn’t make it any less true, and that doesn’t mean it will change until the Cowboys realize it. That’s just another part of the charm of playing for Team USA – a challenge that Prescott and his teammates know very well and could just as well take on.
“When you play for this organization, there’s a lot of noise and a lot of things that really don’t matter when it comes to winning football games,” Prescott said. “So the brotherhood and the culture that we’ve built is something that we have to build on, something that we have to dial in and double down on. I think that’s what’s going to allow us to succeed.”
Top FOX Sports Stories:
David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. Previously, he spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in the production of “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” on quarterback time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter @davidhelman_.
Get more from the National Football League Follow your favorites for game insights, news and more