ARLINGTON, Texas – After sitting here in front of this laptop for about 20 minutes, I finally started to write something.
Usually, you kind of know what direction you want to take after a game. But this one completely baffled me – just like this team consistently does.
I guess I shouldn't apologize for the slow start to this column – we should be used to slow starts by now.
The Cowboys had another one Sunday night and I guess you could say it cost them. Not that they didn't have chances to overcome a scoreless first quarter and a 14-0 deficit. But we're seeing over and over that this team can't expect to just come back in the second half and win, especially against the good teams.
Maybe that's why they lost the game – wasted chances in the first quarter.
Maybe they lost it because they just couldn't run the ball at all. Couldn't believe the stat I saw after the game where the Cowboys didn't convert a single first down by rush. That's the third time in franchise history that happened and I'm pretty sure they didn't have the NFL's reigning rushing champ in the backfield previously.
Maybe they lost because the defense couldn't get off the field at times trying to stop Dalvin Cook, who is the currently the NFL rushing leader and we just found out why.
Maybe they lost because they put the ball in Ezekiel Elliott's hands in the final minute of play and got nowhere, failing to convert a first down despite driving the ball the length of the field to the 11-yard line.
That's a lot of maybes. But that's what this season has become. Maybe the Cowboys are good. Maybe they're just not.
Or maybe, and we've seen this before, maybe they are just an average team that can not only beat most of the poor teams, but blow them out. But then against the teams that are competitive to good, the Cowboys just can't get over the hump.
They can play with the Saints, Packers and Vikings. They just haven't showed that they can win.
Five wins by a combined 99 points.
Four losses by a combined 18 points.
Then again, other than the Jets, the three losses they have are to teams who will likely be in the playoffs or at least competing for spots at the end of the year.
The five wins are against teams that are probably competing for top picks in the draft – other than the Eagles, the team the Cowboys beat by 27 points and will be battling for the division lead all year long.
This team is exactly like this game the Cowboys just played.
The offense moves the ball up and down the field – racks up 443 yards of offense. Yet, all we're going to be talking about this week is how they couldn't run the ball when they needed to and took the ball out of Dak Prescott's hands at the end.
Personally, I liked the run on second down to Zeke to try and get the first down. But when that didn't work, I would've tried to throw it to one of the three receivers who were making plays. And then on fourth down, I'm not throwing a designed play to Zeke, who is the worst route-runner on the field at that point. But obviously, we can second-guess these red-zone calls all day long – and we will.
What about the defense? They couldn't stop the Vikings early on, but found a way to get off the field in the second quarter, only to let Minnesota get a big field goal just before the half. Then Dalvin Cook goes off in the third quarter, but the Cowboys turned it up in the fourth.
Is this rollercoaster making you dizzy yet? Again, this game was a microcosm of the season.
But after nine games, we should know. When you get past the midway point in any season, you should have a relatively good idea what we're dealing with.
Sorry, consider me clueless about this team.
I guess you could say they're just a little better than average. You wouldn't be wrong because the Cowboys are now sitting at 5-4 and tied with the Eagles for first place in the division. Sure, they're mathematically ahead but we all know they've got to go up to Philly and beat them again.
That's a long way from now and obviously there's a lot of football to play between now and then.
Hopefully, by December we will have a better idea about this Cowboys team, but right now we aren't there.