After Seattle, Cowboys Fans Should Be Bothered By 'What They Are'

Mike Fisher
September 24, 2018 - 9:41 am
Dak Prescott

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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SEATTLE (105.3 The Fan) - I think we've got our reaction to Sunday's Week 3 result -- Seattle Seahawks 24, Dallas Cowboys 13 -- all wrong.

Cowboys Nation is angered and bothered by what they did ... when in fact, you should be angered and bothered by what they are.

This is, by nature of its personnel and its philosophy, a Cowboys team that is going to need to win close, low-scoring contests.

You can ask the offense to a) be more creative or to b) be more explosive or to c) be more exciting but ... this is what they are. The margin of error, given this offense's limitations, is slim. So when an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown reception is called back because he stepped out of bounds before catching the ball -- and I mean, he barely stepped out of bounds, clearly illustrating in literal form "the slim margin for error'' -- your team loses the game.

Should Dallas have thrown more often to Elliott? That non-TD is an example of a play-call that was just fine ... until it wasn't. Should Dallas have manufactured ways for QB Dak Prescott to do the only thing he truly does extremely well right now, which is to he himself run the football? Sure, but understand that Seattle's defense knows full-well the Dallas limitations and was likely a factor in taking away the run-pass option stuff. Meanwhile, the running game, standing alone statistically, wasn't the issue. Hey, Zeke's fourth-quarter 26-yard run was sweet (and contributed to his 16-carries/127-yards total on the ground) ... but he fumbled at the end of it. So it was, in reality, 26 yards of sweet nothings.

"I had a poor performance today," Elliott said. "Did well in the run game, but overall, I dropped the ball. That loss is on me."

Should the Dallas offense score 40 points in a game? No. Not realistically, it shouldn't. It shouldn't fumble in the open field, or step out of bounds on pass routes, or have potential receptions bounce off multiple guys' hands, or have enough errant throws for the QB to end up just 19 of 34 for 168 yards and two picks. But this isn't a "scoring offense.'' It just isn't.

I asked Cowboys owner Jerry Jones questions about play-calling.

"I don’t stand here and question our play-calling,'' he said. "We tried everything ... and knew what our preparation was. We’ve got to try some of all of it and just wasn’t able to execute.''

I tried again, with the question from another angle. Are the Cowboys limited in offensive production because, well, they are limited in offensive producers? 

"All day long we were disjointed,’ Jones said, not conceding what I think is reality. "Just couldn’t make it happen.''

So what it left is for the Cowboys defense to dominate, and hey, in this first three weeks, despite what is now a 1-2 record, the Dallas D and its "Hot Boyz'' had experienced some moments when it has been pretty close to that. It allowed 16 points in Week 1 at Carolina and it allowed 13 points in Week 2 vs. the Giants and for a while, in this one, it looked like it was going to lose by allowing 17 points. Alas, now after all four of these quarters are in the books, it's averaging 17 points allowed per week. That's still good enough to win -- unless you register too few takeaways, and indeed, Dallas is now just one of two teams (joining the Niners) to be three weeks in with zero interceptions.

That's almost good enough to win ... unless crafty Seattle QB Russell Wilson twice finds pass-catchers slipping behind your secondary, just twice, for a pair of TD receptions, in which case the defense must shoulder responsibility, too. How many defensive breakdowns did Dallas suffer in this game? I'm not saying it was only two ...

But in this margin-of-error dilemma Dallas finds itself in, two defense mistakes might be all it takes to lead to a loss. Toss in linebacker Sean Lee re-aggravating his hamstring, and that paper-thin margin got stuffed into the shredder.

I predicted going in that Seattle wasn't going to sustain three consecutive losses to start the season, that the final score here would be Seattle 20, Dallas 17. That program is too good to start 0-3, I reasoned, and its coach, Pete Carroll, came in with a record of 12-0 in NFL home-openers, so he's too good, too. Seattle was, therefore, a one-point favorite coming into the game, despite the Cowboys' edge of having ex-Seattle coordinator Kris Richard helping the good guys, and despite the bizarre circumstance of Seahawks star safety Earl Thomas apparently not sure which team he wanted to help ... until he engineered a nifty early-game takeaway that was exactly the sort of play that could've helped the Cowboys up and over the top of their own limitations. ... And then at the end of the game, got his hands on the football again, capping what I am telling you is one of the greatest put-up-or-shut-up performances I have ever seen.

I believe the Joneses will re-evaluate their "play-calling is fine'' evaluation on Monday morning. I also think they'll ask around and find that Thomas' claim that Cowboys coaches approached him during pregame to discuss him being traded here on Monday was meant to be yet another drama-queen'y attention-getter by the new-contract-desirous player.

With or without Earl, though, by the time this NFL week is through, the Cowboys might remain highly-ranked and highly-regarded defensively. But on offense, where Prescott is the triggerman of a team that's thrown for a modest 498 yards (that's 166 per), they will remain lowly-ranked and smartly-regarded a group that is what it is: A well-earned, no-margin-for-error 1-2.