ARLINGTON, Texas – For the second straight week, the Cowboys lost a game they seemingly could've won.
On the peripheral, it just seemed like they ran out of time here Sunday against the Packers with a comeback falling short. Same thing last week in New Orleans when they didn't have enough seconds to drive for a winning field goal.
But really, the Cowboys lost another game in the first quarter. In fact, how about the first offensive drive of the night.
Last week it was against the Saints, when Dak Prescott missed Randall Cobb in the end zone and had to settle for a field goal in an eventual two-point loss.
This week, it was Amari Cooper's crucial drop over the middle that led to an interception.
Yeah, you might think it was just a missed opportunity early in a scoreless game, but I think everyone in the press box sort of knew how big that was. The Cowboys were on the move, and don't forget they had just stopped Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on their first drive. Not sure if people really remember that because it seemed like Green Bay did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. But they were stopped on the first drive and punted to the Cowboys, who were ripping up the field and it looked like Cooper was about to get a big gain down inside the red zone, if not closer.
But he dropped the ball. Even worse, it was picked off. And worse than that, Jaire Alexander returned it 37 yards to the Cowboys' 47. And yes, it got worse, as the Packers scored a touchdown from that turnover and cruised to a 24-0 lead.
But back to the pick. It was a play the Cowboys absolutely had to have. Say what you want about the throw, but it has to be caught by Cooper. Sure, it'd be nice if it was out there a little more and Cooper could keep running – perhaps to the end zone.
But in the history of the NFL, there has never been a run-after-catch, on a play that wasn't a catch! Cooper has to slow himself down enough to make the catch and then try to get more yards after that.
At least Cooper manned up to that and blamed himself – only – for that drop. He also did his best to redeem himself, recording a career-high 226 yards, even flirting with Miles Austin's single-game record of 250 yards. In fact, Cooper became the first player in franchise history to record two 200-yard receiving games with the Cowboys. And to think, he hasn't even played 16 games with the team yet.
However, it really doesn't take away the significance of that first-quarter drop.
The Cowboys go down the field and score a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead, I do think it's a completely different game. Obviously it's not going to be 24-0 in the third quarter but I really don't think it would've been 24-7.
And it wasn't just that first drive that hurt the team. How about the second possession, where the Cowboys again got to the Packers' 34-yard line after a big pass play to Cooper. But a 3-yard run by Dak, followed by a no gain by Ezekiel Elliott and then a 10-yard loss on a sack from Dak, who held on to the ball too long, and the Cowboys couldn't even attempt a field goal by Brett Maher. Who knows if he would've made it – and yes, I think this has now officially become an issue – but at least the Cowboys would've had a shot to get points early.
Instead, it's 14-0 before they knew it, and the rest of the game was playing catch-up.
I really think this game was very similar to last week's loss to the Saints. The only difference was, and get this, Teddy Bridgewater is not Aaron Rodgers. I really don't know who is Aaron Rodgers right now, but certainly not the Saints' backup, who wasn't able to get his offense into the end zone.
That kept the Cowboys in the game despite their first-half issues of missing open receivers and then fumbles by Jason Witten and Zeke. At least last week the defense kept them in the game.
But it didn't happen this time around. This time the Cowboys dug themselves into a huge hole and couldn't recover.
Yeah, we're going to talk on Monday about questionable calls from the officials, such as flagging Jason Garrett for his sideline spike, a missed pass interference call that resulted in an interception, the fact the Cowboys couldn't stop the run and, of course, Maher's missed kick after a penalty.
But the Cowboys lost this one on the first drive of the game … again.