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The Vent: Worse than defeat, Cowboys lack heart in 25-3 loss to Washington

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t see any improvements on Sunday in Washington, and, worse yet, they didn’t seem to be looking for them as they fell 25-3 in Week 7.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) recovering a loose football during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

It was another brutally bad Sunday for the 2-5 Dallas Cowboys, who this time were manhandled by the Washington Football Team in a 25-3 loss. 

They lost the physical game, they lost the mental game, and even worse, they were bullied and didn’t bother fighting back. For a team that came into the season with deep playoff-run aspirations, the Week 7 outcome was unconscionable.

Football is a game of toughness, perceived or otherwise, and the Cowboys lacked it in a loss to their rivals that saw them drop from first place to third in a terrible NFC East. It’s one thing to get beat on the field by better players, it’s quite another to not show any desire once challenged to rise to the occasion.

The most disappointing thing about the Cowboys this go-round wasn’t that they got blown out, it was the lack of backbone they showed when quarterback Andy Dalton was knocked out of the game on a dirty hit by Washington linebacker Jon Bostic.

A few players went to check on Dalton, but no one came to their quarterback’s defense. No one made it clear to Washington or Bostic that such a play was unacceptable. It was a disgusting play that got Bostic ejected, yet no Cowboy seemed bothered by it. 

Instead, they all appeared resigned to another blow.

The only person it did anger was head coach Mike McCarthy, who let it be known that he wasn’t happy with the team’s lack of a response

Ironically, one could argue that the team’s response is a reflection of what the players are getting from their coaching staff’s message, or at least their opinion of what is required of them by the coaching staff.

In a season of lows, this was the lowest point for the Cowboys. We’re seven games into the season, and Dallas appears to have lost all its resolve. It also makes you wonder if the reaction would have been the same if Dak Prescott had been the one laid out.

If it wasn’t clear last week, it became clear in their play against the Washington Football Team. To put it frankly, there isn’t enough fight in this team without Prescott. With Prescott, even though the team got behind each week, they at least fought back and made games close at a bare minimum.

Dallas eventually folded like a cheap pool toy on Sunday, but it didn’t begin that way. The Cowboys produced a goal line stand in the game’s opening drive to show signs of life. However, it took just five plays on offense to end those positive feelings.

Considering the list of injuries, this was always going to be a difficult matchup against the stout Washington defensive front, and Dallas was not up to the challenge as they ultimately surrendered six sacks. The biggest one came on Dallas’ first chance on offense.

Working behind a makeshift offensive line with the ball deep in Washington territory, Dalton was rolling right when he was sacked by Landon Collins on a third down pass attempt. 

Dalton fumbled and the ball rolled into the end zone where tight end Dalton Schultz recovered, but couldn’t escape.

The safety in the first quarter was the key play in the game as it essentially acted as a turnover and the Cowboys never recovered. Before the offense got the ball a second time, the score was 9-0 as Washington drove down the field and scored on their free possession.

This was the first game this season where the Cowboys didn’t score a touchdown. The offense mustered only three points and gained a paltry 142 yards behind Dalton in the first half and did next to nothing behind rookie backup QB Ben DiNucci for most of the second half.

Perhaps you could say that the defense was a plus since they only allowed 25 points after averaging 36.5 points allowed per game through the first six weeks of the season, but Washington had taken their foot off the gas once it became apparent that Dallas had given up after surrendering 22 points in the first half.

There was another blown assignment from rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs that led to a big score, and the defense as a whole once again lacked anything resembling physicality. 

Jaylon Smith continued his lackluster season when he couldn’t bring down tight end Logan Thomas, leading to Washington’s final touchdown of the first half, which served as the nail in the coffin.

For the second week in a row, and the third time in four games, the defense allowed over 200 yards rushing. That seemed like an impossible feat coming into the game with Washington ranking dead last in the league in rushing. 

Nevertheless, they surpassed their yearly average in the first half alone.

The Cowboys also allowed Washington to gain their most total yards this season at 397 – and their most since totaling 398 yards in Week 1 of the 2019 season – a trend that continues when teams face Dallas.

Washington stopped scoring points because they knew they didn’t need them. Make no mistake, though, the Dallas defense was bad once again. They were bullied and pushed around by a bad offense and their demeanor appeared to be a collective shrug.

When things got tough, the Cowboys wilted. When their quarterback got hammered with a cheap shot that knocked him out of the game, they ignored it.

The season was already slipping away from the Dallas Cowboys, and there were only two options on Sunday. They could fight for their season and take charge of the NFC East, or they could fold the moment adversity struck. 

They emphatically chose to fold, and that turned out to be worse than the humiliation on the scoreboard.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys will be able to pull themselves out of their funk in time to take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.