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3 & Out: The Bottom Line About December


FRISCO, Texas – Three quick topics as the Cowboys ready for Soldier Field in Chicago:

  • Seeing red
  • Mirror images
  • An important message

I Know…
more defensive takeaways will add more possessions, but the offense has had its scoring chances – they just have to capitalize.

In the Cowboys' six losses, they've scored touchdowns on only 7 of 18 red zone trips. That's only 38.9 percent. That would rank 28th in the league over the entire season.

They were 2-for-6 on trips inside the 20-yard line against the Patriots and Bills.

"In these types of games and this time of the season, it's important to have red zone efficiency and put points on the board when you're in the red zone, and touchdowns," wide receiver Randall Cobb said. "It's hard to win ball games when we have to continue to kick field goals. We have to be better in the red zone and we have to be better on third down."

Over the entire season they've been much better inside the 20 (54.8 percent). There's not one specific reason why. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said he'll continue to look at ways he can get the offense in better spots. As tight end Jason Witten pointed out, down and distance has been an issue at times due to short gains or minus plays.

"We've bogged down too many times when we've gotten to that area of the field," Witten said. "The field gets tight, you have to be on the screws at that point, and one play can set you up or break you when you get down in that area. We haven't been able to stay ahead of the chains as well as we should have if you want to be an efficient offense in the red zone."

I Think…
the Cowboys could see a lot of themselves in their upcoming opponents.

At 6-6, the players acknowledge they have not played to their own standards. Fans are frustrated. They are, too. After a magical run to the NFC East title a year ago, winning seven of their final eight games, they've expected more from themselves.

And yet, this is often part of life in the NFL. Sustained success is, in some ways, like beating the system.

Starting Thursday in Chicago, the Cowboys' next three opponents are also 2018 playoff teams that, one year later, have found little week to week consistency.

The equally 6-6 Bears hope to build on last week's 338-yard, three-touchdown performance from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on against Detroit.

After Chicago, Dallas has a rematch from last year's divisional round loss to the Rams, who rank third in the NFC West at 7-5 just 10 months removed from a Super Bowl appearance.

Then Dec. 22 it's on to Philadelphia to face the Eagles, who fell to 5-7 last Sunday with a shocking loss to the Dolphins.

But the sole focus, as Cobb said after the Bills game, "is the first one." You can't get win four straight games on Thursday.

In the NFL, free agency and a hard salary cap are designed to level the playing field. Since 2010, only five teams in the NFC have been to the playoffs more than two straight seasons.

This does not explain away the Cowboys' season. They are capable of more.

But, with a month to go, they still have an opportunity to be the first team since Philly in 2004 to repeat as division champs.

I Have No Idea…
why reports of Michael Bennett speaking up in the locker room after the Thanksgiving loss surprised so many people outside the building.

Bennett is an 11-year veteran. He's a winner. By all accounts, he has fit in well with the team. He's got every right to give his two cents, even if he's only been here just over a month. And the constructive message was well received by teammates.

Tuesday, Bennett didn't want to speak about what he said to the team. But, his last comment to reporters summarizes, I think, how the entire group feels about where they are and what they have to do.

"I think we've got some of the best players in the league," Bennett said. "It's just us putting it together and going out there and winning."

On to Thursday.