After a great start to the season, the Dallas Cowboys failed their first true test and lost more than a game in New Orleans. Here’s what needs to be fixed.
The Dallas Cowboys lost their first game of the 2019 season. That statement is a fact. It’s just one game. That, too, is factual, if not slightly harder to accept.
The Cowboys reverted back to their old ways and, “as always” are not to be trusted. That is the irrational “reality” a lot of fans lived in Sunday night and probably most of Monday as well.
I give you these statements separately for a reason. That reasoning is that all of the above is true. It’s just the degrees of the truth that are different.
Look, no one is thrilled about going on Sunday Night Football and laying an egg. Putting ten points on the board when you went back-to-back-to-back 30+ to start the season is a tough pill to swallow. That is especially true considering the Saints defense will in no way make people forget about the ’85 Bears.
There are definitely things, which we will discuss, that need to be fixed. There was also more than just a game that was lost. Dealing with that will invariably be a tougher fix than what actually needs fixing.
The Cowboys will be without all-World left tackle Tyron Smith for at least one game and probably two due to a high ankle sprain suffered in the last feeble drive of the night. Smith’s presence, or lack thereof, is always big news.
Many remember the debacle this offense gave us in 2017 when running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended. A large part of that inability to resemble anything that would be considered professional was due to Smith missing three games as well.
The Dallas Cowboys scored 22 points … total, during that three-game stretch, losing all of them by 20+ points. This issue prompted the Cowboys to upgrade their backup tackle position. That move worked as Smith missed three games last season as well, all of which were won by Dallas.
If Smith misses two games, Dallas should at least win one as the New York Jets are the opponent the week after next. Green Bay comes to town next week with their own offensive line issues to deal with so both teams will have similar mountains to climb in Week 5.
Hopefully, the loss of Smith is not as potentially devastating as the regression in the offensive scheme was Sunday night. Part of the reason Dallas has been so offensively wonderful in 2019 is due to their acceptance of “new school” football. This team is still very much about running the football and playing with physical dominance.
This year, however, they have been much more willing to throw the ball, especially on first and second down. Sadly, that concept has trended downward since the inception of the 2019 campaign.
In the first game against the Giants, the Cowboys pass rate on first and/or second down was 69%. That dropped to 64% the next week, then 53% versus Miami and down to 50% in the Week 4 loss.
What is troubling is that that downward trend coincides with how the offense has looked. In the first two weeks, the offense was a thing of beauty. Against the Dolphins, it was good enough to beat a bad team. Sunday night, it was not good at all.
For whatever reason, not only did Dallas abandon their new innovations, they did not give the Saints enough to be concerned about whenever they did throw.
Gone were any screen passes or clever formations. At no point was rookie running back Tony Pollard involved. Any attempts to involve the running backs in the passing game at all were mostly out of necessity due to pressure as opposed to conventional means of attack. There was just one shot down the seam (which ironically was quite successful) and very, very few shots downfield (all of which were quite unsuccessful).
Is this because of missing personnel, namely receiver Michael Gallup? It should not be. Both Tavon Austin and Devin Smith have the necessary speed to threaten defenses vertically. Sadly, they collectively had just two targets the entire game.
Maybe the Dallas Cowboys game plan was to pound New Orleans into submission with Elliott. Maybe they chose not to or just flatly failed to adjust when it did not work.
Either way, it is just one game and I am confident changes will be made. I don’t believe that Dallas will further abandon their new schemes to be more modern, either. Hopefully, these beliefs are proven fact like the opening statements. We’ll find out in five short days.