FRISCO, Texas – Three quick topics with Thanksgiving upon us and, as Zeke Elliott said this week, "crunch time" arriving for the Cowboys on the heels of another close loss:
- Running QB
- Margin For Error
new destinations have worked out well for Randall Cobb and Cole Beasley.
Beasley, the Cowboys' slot receiver for the better part of seven seasons, seems happy in his first season of a four-year, $29 million deal with the Bills. He told Buffalo-area reporters this week there's "no ill will" with his old team after leaving in free agency in March.
"I still think I made the right decision and what was best for me and I don't regret it one bit," he said.
A week after Beasley's departure, the Cowboys signed Cobb to a one-year deal. As good as Robert Quinn has been on defense – 9.5 sacks in 9 games – one can argue Cobb was the Cowboys' most important offseason addition because of what Beasley meant to the offense – specifically, to quarterback Dak Prescott in key situations.
In many ways, Beasley was a safety valve for Prescott in the slot. He caught 65 passes for the Cowboys last season. A team-high 17 of his catches were third-down conversions.
Like Beasley, Cobb has been a quarterback-friendly receiver his entire career – first for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, now Prescott in Dallas. He has replaced Beasley as the Cowboys' leader in third-down conversion catches (12). He's also a big-play option from the slot, leading the Cowboys' receiving group with 240 yards after catch.
"You want to be a guy the quarterbacks want to throw the football to," head coach Jason Garrett said. "And you have to have the physical traits to be able to win and man-to-man coverage and also a feel for how to get yourself open in zone and just kind of that clock in your head or just that awareness and instinct that the really good ones have."
Beasley still has that for Buffalo. So does Cobb. His numbers have risen since the bye week, with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games for the first time since 2014 and a 59-yard catch-and-run against the Pats that put the Cowboys in rare red zone position on that rain-soaked Sunday.
the Detroit game was a Thanksgiving preview in this regard.
Lions quarterback Jeff Driskel's mobility was a challenge in the Cowboys' Nov. 17 win at Detroit. He gained 51 yards on eight carries, including a touchdown on a zone-read from the 2-yard line.
Bills second-year quarterback Josh Allen presents a similar matchup issue. The 6-5, 240-pounder gained 631 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns as a rookie on designed runs and scrambles. This year he has 387 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. He has made a run of at least 10 yards in seven of 11 games this season.
Throw in the Bills' efficient running tandem of Frank Gore and Devin Singletary, and the Cowboys' tackling must be on point Thursday.
I Have No Idea…
why some want to compare this year's team to last – every season is a completely different entity – but there's one glaring difference.
The 2018 Cowboys won a ton of close games. They were 9-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less and 5-2 in games decided by a field goal or less. This year, they've lost five games by a combined 22 points, making them 0-4 in games decided by a touchdown or less.
This isn't a two-year thing, either.
In 2016, that magical 13-win season with Prescott and Elliott as rookies, they went 7-2 in games within a touchdown or less. In 2015, reeling without Tony Romo, they went 2-6 in those games on their way to a 4-12 season.
Is it simply the law of averages this year? If you go back at look at each of the five losses, they got off to slow starts and didn't make enough plays at the end. You call it coaching, or execution, or both. The bottom line is, the Cowboys are a few plays away from being 8-3. Maybe 9-2.
Then again, as Jason Witten reminded Tuesday, you are what your record says you are.
There's no panic in this group, but there is urgency to find that consistency.