Another NFL season ends in disappointment for the Dallas Cowboys after falling to the San Francisco 49ers, 19-12, in the divisional round. Following big losses, we always want to know who gets the most blame. You surely can’t blame Dallas’ defense, as they held a hot Niners offense under 20 points. This game was there for the Cowboys to take control, but it came down to Dak Prescott and the offense’s inability to come through in the clutch.
This game was tight all the way through, but Dallas ultimately bumped their head against that ceiling they repeatedly hit. The Cowboys failed to live up to the hype once again, whether it’s the quarterback, coaching staff, or the owner’s fault. There was so much excitement last week after Dallas demolished a barely-standing Tampa Bay team in the Wild Card round. Sunday against the Niners, the Cowboys’ offense looked like a completely different team.
Losing running back Tony Pollard in the second quarter to a fractured fibula certainly hampered Dallas for the second half, making them much more predictable. Without Pollard in the backfield, the Cowboys lack that big playmaker who gives the offense that explosiveness that Ezekiel Elliot hasn’t been able to provide in years. In the days leading up to this playoff game, a sports radio personality on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas wished for an injury to befall Christian McCaffrey. He probably won’t be doing that in the future.
Once Pollard was ruled out for the remainder of the game, the 49ers and everyone else knew it was all on the shoulders of one Rayne Dakota Prescott. Even when plays were there for Dak, he couldn’t hit targets consistently. Dallas was the No. 4 scoring offense in the regular season averaging 27.5 points per game. They scored six points in each half against San Francisco. The Niners gave up 16ppg this year, and Prescott and the offense couldn’t get there. Yet, for some reason, many continue to buy into the hype about Dallas every year. Prescott is good, not great, and he’s far from the elite of the NFL. It’s past time to face that fact.
San Francisco’s offense wasn’t much to write home about either, but that’s because Dallas’ defense played its ass off but got very little from the other side of the ball. Talk about no help whatsoever; this Cowboys defense, led by Micah Parsons, only gave up 19 points to a Niners offense averaging 30 ppg during an 11-game winning streak entering this matchup. Dallas bottled up Christian McCaffrey for most of the game, holding him to 57 total yards, although he scored a touchdown.
If you’re the Cowboys, your offense must find a way to win a game like this. Your $160 million-dollar QB has to do a better job converting on third down. The Cowboys were 5 of 15 on third down in the game, and too many were third and long situations. People got upset when Jerry Jones claimed he “overpaid” for Prescott in the press conference following Dak’s enormous extension signing a couple of years ago. Jones downplayed his words and transformed that into a halfhearted compliment, but with every playoff failure following that deal, those words will indeed cross his mind. And once Jones learns that Prescott is the first Cowboys QB to throw multiple interceptions in a playoff game since Troy Aikman in 1998 he’ll probably lose his lunch. But at least Dak’s in good company. Tony Romo can’t even say that.
Another great example of art imitating life. We pay so much attention to what’s flashy yet has no substance, like the Cowboys for nearly 30 years, and overlook a team like the Cincinnati Bengals, who will play in their second straight AFC championship game. Joe Burrow is even overshadowed by Josh Allen, whom he outplayed in their divisional round game Sunday. We constantly hear more about Dallas in a day than we do about Cincy in two weeks. Burrow has accomplished more in three years in the NFL than Prescott has in seven. Two AFC title games and a Super Bowl appearance for Burrow. Prescott has none of the above.
It’s long past time that Cowboys fans realize this is who they are. All this team does is tease and make you think they’re finally ready to make a run to the Super Bowl. In the same way fans had to face facts about Romo and his ability to win big games, it’s time to face that reality with Dak. It’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
Now the Cowboys head into another offseason wondering what happened. Aside from being stuck with Prescott, Mike McCarthy has likely overstayed his welcome. Sean Payton ain’t walking into that locker room. A head coaching swap might be the best way to improve this team past that mental roadblock. But, knowing Jones, that probably won’t happen after back-to-back 12-win seasons. Dallas is stuck in the mud with no apparent way out.