By Shawn S. Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys had a chance to remain in the playoff race, even with only four wins. When the Philadelphia Eagles won and then the Washington Redskins pulled off an upset, it made it harder. However, the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t remain in contention because their offense couldn’t move the ball against the Green Bay Packers, and fell to their NFC rivals, 28-7. With that, the Cowboys really have nothing more to do than play out the season and see where they pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
In a season where Dallas’ offense was abysmal, this was a game where they did something right. In 2014, the Cowboys went through a season where they won a lot of games by running the ball to set up the pass. In this game, it looked like they might be on the road to doing that again. Darren McFadden had two giant runs in the game and finished with 111 yards on nine carries. Robert Turbin added 51 yards on seven carries, and the Cowboys’ only touchdown of the game. They were finally running hard, but the Cowboys only ran the ball 16 total times between the two players.
The passing game was horrible once again. Matt Cassel threw the ball 29 times, but only completed 13 passes for a very bad 44 percent completion rate. He also only threw the ball for 114 yards and tossed one interception in the game. The biggest sin was that Dez Bryant only had one reception for nine yards. He almost caught another huge pass, but the referees reversed the call and then he tipped the ball that was eventually intercepted.
Jason Witten led the team with five receptions for 40 yards in the game while Terrance Williams ranked second with three receptions for 38 yards. Even Cole Beasley had more receptions, catching three for 25 yards. However, part of the problem was Bryant, as he had the ball thrown to him six times and only caught one of them. If Bryant is not involved, the Cowboys will have trouble winning games.
This season, the Dallas Cowboys offense couldn’t score, but their defense kept almost every game close. However, much like the losses to the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers, the offensive woes held down a Cowboys defense that started to falter. One of the Cowboys strengths this season was stepping the run. That didn’t happen against Green Bay. Normally, it is the arm of Aaron Rodgers that leads the Packers to victory, but in a rainy day game with Dallas, it was the rushing attack that doomed Dallas.
Eddie Lacy ran for 124 yards one week after only rushing for 27 against the St. Louis Rams, while James Starks added 71 yards of his own. Both men ran for a touchdown as the Packers ran for 230 yards against Dallas, the most yards any team has run against them this year. Aaron Rodgers was efficient, with 218 passes and two touchdowns on the day. Dallas did record two sacks, as their team continues to improve on that stat after struggle last season, but it wasn’t enough as the Packers ran all over them.
Barry Church, Rolando McClain and Sean Lee tied for the team lead with 11 tackles each. Lee has now eclipsed 100 tackles on the season, one of the biggest candidates for the 2015 Comeback Player of the Year award. DeMarcus Lawrence and Greg Hardy each recorded a sack, but Dallas didn’t force one turnover, as the remain at the bottom of the turnover ratio differential in the NFL.
Special Teams: C
After a huge game on special teams last week, Lucky Whitehead struggled against the Packers. He returned his one kickoff 22 yards, but on punt returns, he had negative six yards on three returns, about as bad as he can get. To make things worse, not only did Dallas not score more than one touchdown, but they also failed to get in field goal range for Dan Bailey, who didn’t make one field goal attempt in the game. For punting, which Dallas had to do seven times, Chris Jones did average a nice 46 yards per punt and pinned them inside the 20 three time.
At halftime, the Green Bay Packers led the game 14-0. After three quarters, the score was 14-7. Despite the close score, and no matter how good Darren McFadden and Robert Turbin were playing, Dallas continued to put the game in the hands of Matt Cassel. The running backs only carried the ball 16 times, yet accounted for 60 percent of the team’s offensive yards. Dallas just wasn’t allowing their running backs to move the chains. They also couldn’t convert third downs, only converting one of 11 attempts. The offense wasn’t playing well and the coaches weren’t trusting the running backs.
With this loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys have three tough games left, all against teams that have playoff hopes. With the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, and Washington Redskins left on the schedule, there is a good chance that Dallas finishes up the season with a 4-12 record and a top five pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.