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Back To The Future: Recapping Closest Loss, Largest Blowout Win Of 2017
(Editor’s Note: The 2017 Cowboys finished with a winning record, but they fell out of the playoffs in a disappointing follow-up to a 13-3 season. As the team seeks to find a way back to the postseason, the writers of DallasCowboys.com will look back at last year, picking a positive and a negative from all 16 games that might be something to either build on or correct as we head into the 2018 season.)Read
Game 5: Packers 35, Cowboys 31
For the second time in nine months, the Cowboys played the Packers to a standstill in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium but left just enough time for Aaron Rodgers to rip the game from their fingers. First it was the 2016 Divisional Round. This time, it was a critical October matchup with a winning or losing record at stake before the bye week. With 1:02 left, Rodgers drove the Packers 75 yards for the deciding touchdown to drop Dallas to 2-3 after five games.
Encouraging: Over the first month, the running game had to grind out yards against four outstanding defensive fronts. The Packers were up to the challenge, too, but Ezekiel Elliott had his first real breakout of the season. He rushed for a season-best 116 yards, including 85 yards in the fourth quarter, where he converted a key fourth-and-1 conversion at the Packers’ 20 on the Cowboys’ final touchdown drive to take the lead … temporarily. Moving forward, it was a positive sign that Elliott found a rhythm behind a revamped offensive line with two new starters (Jonathan Cooper, La’el Collins). The run game would only get better in the weeks to follow.
Discouraging: For the second straight week, the Cowboys lost a fourth-quarter lead at home. The Rams and Packers beat them by a combined nine points, two narrow defeats that ultimately cost Dallas a playoff spot by season’s end. In 2016, the Cowboys went 13-3 and posted a 7-2 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. It’s truly a game of inches.Read
Game 6: Cowboys 40, 49ers 10
Fresh off a bye week, the Cowboys took care of business on the road against a struggling San Francisco team. The 40 points were a season high for the offense, and the defense held the 49ers to only 290 total yards. Kavon Frazier set up Dallas’ opening touchdown with a forced fumble and recovery on the punt coverage team. The Cowboys never looked back, improving to 3-3 on the season.
Encouraging: Heading into 2018, the passing-game rapport between quarterback Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant is an area for improvement. On this day, the duo was outstanding. Bryant caught a team-best 7 of 10 targets for 63 yards and a 2-yard touchdown that gave Dallas an insurmountable 40-3 lead in the fourth quarter. Prescott completed 64.0 percent of his passes and posted four total touchdowns – three passing and one rushing.
Discouraging: Kicker Dan Bailey suffered a groin injury in the second quarter while warming up on the sideline. Leading into the 49ers game, he had made his first 7 field goal attempts of the season. After returning healthy from his four-game absence, he went 8 of 13 over the final five games and missed the first two extra points of his career. Bailey acknowledged that the time off might have affected his rhythm. He’ll have the offseason to work on getting it back.