PHILADELPHIA – There are a lot of strange takeaways from a game as ugly as that.
But in a game full of bad sequences, one of the lasting images will be what Amari Cooper did on fourth down. Or rather, what he didn't do.
The setting was simple enough. The Cowboys trailed, 17-9, and had driven to the Philadelphia 23-yard line with 1:26 to play. On a must-have third down, Dak Prescott looked for Cooper down the left sideline but was incomplete.
And then, with fourth down upcoming, Cooper jogged to the sideline.
"The coaches took me out," Cooper said. "I just ran a deep ball and they took me out."
Prescott's fourth down pass to Michael Gallup was batted away in the end zone. But even had it been complete, it's strange to think that Cooper – and Randall Cobb, for that matter – were both on the sideline for the biggest play of the game.
"Those guys ran a lot of plays in a row," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "Each of those guys, particularly Randall, came up big at different times. We had a great matchup outside, but unfortunately we weren't able to cash in on it."
Fatigue may have been a factor, but the Cowboys possessed all three of their timeouts in that situation. They could have called one to give Cooper and Cobb a chance to get onto the field. Garrett said the priority was to keep those in case they failed to convert, rather than use one on offense.
"We wanted to keep the timeouts," Garrett said. "We felt good about what we had called, we felt good about what the matchup was. MG has made a lot of plays for us on that particular play down the field."
It wasn't just the fourth down call, though. Cooper subbed on and off at different times during the second half, including one period for several plays in a row. Not that it needed to be said, but it contributed to a day that was visibly frustrating for the veteran receiver.
"When things aren't clicking in an important game like this and you look at the scoreboard and you're not winning, you're actually losing – yeah, it's frustrating," Cooper said.
It's not an exaggeration to call this one of the worst games of his Cowboys career. He was targeted 12 times on the night, and he finished with just four catches for 24 yards. He couldn't seem to get on the same page as Prescott, and even when he did the results weren't great.
"You play in important games like this, everybody has to bring their A-game if we really want to win. I don't think we did that tonight," Cooper said.
He added: "On my behalf, I know I didn't play my best game at all. Terrible."
Injuries have been a consistent problem for Cooper dating all the way back to training camp, but he didn't blame Sunday's struggles on health. Despite fighting through injuries for most of the season, he actually wasn't even listed on the Cowboys' injury report this week.
"My body is ok," he said. "You have nicks and bruises at this point in the season, but in terms of anything limiting me – nah."
On a night when seemingly everything went wrong, it wasn't the only reason why the Cowboys lost. But it was a puzzling development on a frustrating night – for everyone involved.