DALLAS — A sluggish performance was not the result that the Dallas Cowboys were selling when they headed to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. After waxing the Atlanta Falcons 40-3 in Week 10, the feeling was that the Cowboys were going to compete with the streaking Chiefs.
No starting left tackle with Tyron Smith out again because of an ankle issue? No problem. Terence Steele would step up again. No starting wide receiver with Amari Cooper out because of COVID-19? No problem. Dallas had recently seen the return of Michael Gallup and the depth at wide receiver had been a plus. No defensive end stalwarts DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory? No problem. Dallas had made do without them before.
There were no excuses coming into the game, yet everything compounded to become an issue. And there were big problems all around as the Cowboys turned in a lethargic performance in the 19-9 Week 11 loss in KC.
Ultimately, it feels like someone forgot to tell the Cowboys to show up and play the game.
The loss itself wasn’t surprising. It’s a tough task to win on the road against one of the better teams in the league. Nevertheless, Dallas had been competitive in every game this season, except for the loss to the Denver Broncos two weeks ago that had been written off as a one-time misstep.
The Denver game was chalked up as one of those off games that good teams can have on any given Sunday in the NFL. However, the loss against the Chiefs proved that the Broncos debacle wasn’t a one-and-done case and the Cowboys still have a long way to go to be considered a Super Bowl contender.
Perhaps most surprising is that Sunday’s game featured a putrid performance by the offense in all facets. The offensive line couldn’t open any holes for the running game, paving the way for just 82 yards on the ground, a large portion of which came on a 31-yard run by Tony Pollard.
The passing game was a much bigger disaster. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw for just 216 yards and two interceptions in another bad performance, his second in three games. The first play of the game was a sign of things to come, Prescott missed a wide open Michael Gallup on a pass that could’ve been a big play. Prescott never made up for the mistake, underthrowing on several passes, including another open receiver for a would-be touchdown in the third quarter.
However, not all the issues in the passing game could be pinned on Prescott. The receivers did their quarterback no favors with five drops, some of which halted promising drives. WR Noah Brown, who was thrust into a larger role because of Cooper’s absence, had two drops, and fellow WR Cedrick Wilson had a big one as well. It’s hard to win on the road when your pass catchers don’t catch the passes that hit their hands.
The offensive line may have been the biggest culprit in the Cowboys’ offensive woes. The unit had a horrific showing, giving up five sacks and allowing the Chiefs to harass Prescott for 60 minutes.
The move to replace left guard Connor Williams with Connor McGovern especially didn’t pay off.
McGovern struggled all game on the interior and both tackles had problems keeping the Kansas City defensive line off Prescott, who was hit eight times.
Even when the Cowboys did manage to put together a drive, they couldn’t cash in. Kellen Moore’s offense was 0-for-2 in the red zone, settling for field goals and six points, rather than scoring touchdowns.
It’s hard enough to beat the Chiefs on the road when you’re not playing well and missing some of your best players, but kicking field goals instead of converting red zone trips into touchdowns is a recipe for disaster and it burned the Cowboys.
Sunday’s showing was a rough day for Moore calling the plays. The game plan featured too many first down runs or runs on second and long. There was also an inordinate amount of receiver screens or passes behind the line of scrimmage that were never close to being successful. Moore never adjusted his play calling or gave the offense a chance.
It’s ironic that Dallas’ offense didn’t come to play because the defense did their job against the high-powered Chiefs. After allowing a score on Kansas City’s opening drive, the Cowboys held the Chiefs to just 13 more points, forced two turnovers and pinned one of the better offenses in the league to just 33% on third downs.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s unit – led by rookie sensation Micah Parsons – gave up just three points in the second half, giving the Cowboys a chance. Parsons had two sacks and a forced fumble to give the team life.
The defensive gut check performance just wasn’t enough. In a twist that no one saw coming, it was the offense for the Cowboys that didn't pull their weight. Prescott, Moore and company looked like a deer in headlights and couldn’t capitalize on the chances that the defense was giving them to complete a comeback.
If this was a measuring stick game, Dallas did not measure up.
If this was a test to see if the Cowboys could hang with a good team without some of their best on the field, they failed.
It’s back to the drawing board for the Cowboys, who don’t have much time to get it right with their annual Thanksgiving game coming up in just four days.
This wasn’t the Game of the Year as billed for the Cowboys, it was a game to forget. A dud from start to finish.
Do you think the Cowboys will be able to bounce back for their game on Thanksgiving? Vent with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.