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Eatman: Hard to go anywhere "running" on empty


MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Last team to score wins.

That's usually how we would decide games out in the yard. And that's usually what matters the most – in those games and in these highly-visible NFL games. The last team to score, especially in the final seconds like this one, is the team that usually wins the game – and this was no exception.

But like it or not, the Cowboys lost the game because they weren't the first team to score.

Yeah, I know there 55 more minutes of football to be played after Dak Prescott and Hunter Luepke failed to make the hand-off exchange at the 1-yard line. But that fumble right there lost the game.

Check that, having a second-and-1 from the 2-yard line to open the game … and not scoring … lost the game.

Yes, the Cowboys eventually led later in the first quarter and somehow clawed back to take the lead, only to lose on the Dolphins' final drive. But to me, the psychological aspect of football is also a huge factor, and I think not scoring there was a massive blow to this team, especially when you consider the fact that they simply couldn't run the football.

Not scoring when you're inside the 2 is bad enough. But the failure to consistently run the ball cost this team the game. And it might eventually cost them more than that.

Let's be honest about this – a one-dimensional offense won't go far in the playoffs, especially if that dimension is passing the ball. We saw it last week when the weather was a major factor in the passing game, forcing both teams to stick to the ground game. The Bills had no problems adjusting, but the Cowboys simply couldn't and got beat by 21 points.

This game was different, as they all are, but still the Cowboys, time and time again, just couldn't run the ball. That is really my biggest takeaway from this game because I think it's the one thing that will hurt them the most in the playoffs.

No, I'm not focusing on the home vs. road. The Cowboys had chances to win; they just didn't. Not sure the road or home field mattered a lot in this one.

No, I'm not focusing as much on the defense because I thought they played solid against the highest-scoring offense in the league. Sure, you'd like for them to take a stand in the final three minutes of the game, but all in all, I don't put this on the defense.

The Cowboys just didn't score enough points, and too many times the problem was the offensive line, particularly in the running game.

Man, really hope Tyron Smith gets back soon. If not, the Cowboys might have to look at other options to get their best unit on the field. Really doesn't look like Chuma Edoga is among the best five when Tyron is out. He practiced all week, but there were just too many assignment breakdowns, many times leaving Bradley Chubb totally unblocked and teeing off on Dak.

I don't know, I always thought the guy that has around 10 sacks and is a former top-five draft pick is someone you'd like to block. Lord knows they never leave Micah Parsons free to rush the quarterback … rarely does he have just one guy blocking him. But no one touching Chubb as he gets off the line? That's a problem, and it was several times on Sunday.

But still, those passing situations happened way too much because the Cowboys just couldn't move the ball. Every time I looked up it was third-and-long, and that's because those inside runs to Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle just weren't working.

Here's a stat that tells the story: The Cowboys' three longest runs of the game were all by players who are not running backs. Dak had a 22-yard run and both CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks each had 9-yard runs.

But Pollard's best run was just 7 yards, despite 12 attempts. Dowdle had just two carries and only managed 4 yards. That's a problem, and one that I don't know is going to get fixed in time for the playoffs.

I say this because it's clear the Cowboys are well aware of their issues. You see them hand the ball on reverses to Lamb and Cooks and KaVontae Turpin. They're trying other things, such as Luepke, which looked like a good decision on the first drive until the play where he either he fumbled or Dak did. Who knows or cares? They didn't complete one of the most elementary plays in football – the quarterback-to-running back handoff.

But as bad as that was, I think the two plays before that were even more telling. Cooks is running on the edge and just needs to cut it back and he can probably walk in, but instead gets 9 yards and runs out of bounds. Then, on second down, Pollard seemingly has a clear lane to the end zone but can't lower his head and shoulder his way to the end zone, instead getting flipped around like a helicopter at the 1-yard line. OK, no problem because it's first down and the Cowboys have four chances to score … until they didn't.

Then later in the game, they have a first down inside the 1 again, and not only do they go against the run, but it's one of those "lets-not-block-Chubb" plays and he gets a free shot at Dak for a sack. That might have helped the Cowboys because since they can't run, it forced them to throw, and that's when Dak found Cooks for the go-ahead touchdown.

It worked out then, but it won't continue to work. Moving back from the 1-yard line to the 10 is a recipe for disaster. The Cowboys still scored, but as we all know, there was just too much time left for the Dolphins.

This Christmas Eve loss will be remembered for a lot of things, and probably most for the fact the Dolphins won on a walk-off field goal.

But the Cowboys lost because they couldn't execute a walk-in touchdown, wasting a golden opportunity to score in a game where they had trouble scoring.

It's all just a product of not being able to run the ball, something that hurt them Sunday and will hurt them in every game they play from here on out – whether it's home, away or that elusive neutral site.

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