New quarterback. Same old story.
Although the Dallas Cowboys received a shot in the arm with the NFL debut of Kellen Moore behind center, in the end the team again lost the turnover battle and couldn't hold a lead late in falling to the New York Jets, 19-16, in front of 90,345 fans.
Moore was inserted into the lineup midway through the second quarter after starting quarterback Matt Cassel struggled. Cassel completed just 3-of-8 pass attempts with one interception for a paltry 13.0 passer rating.
So into the game came Moore, the fourth quarterback used by the Cowboys this season, which is the most since the 5-11 campaign of 2001. As could probably be expected, he had his struggles, throwing three interceptions, although the last was a desperation jump ball with only seconds remaining.
But, Moore also showed some spark and brought back more of an aerial threat to the Cowboys offense. Of Cassel's three completions, one went to a running back and the other two to tight ends, a continuing theme for him this year. By comparison, of his 15 completions, Moore threw 10 to wide receivers, including four passes for 50 yards and a touchdown to Dez Bryant.
And Moore had a little help, as Darren McFadden, despite facing one of the top run defenses in the NFL this year, rushed for 100 yards, the fifth time this season he has done so. Overall, Dallas had 309 yards of total offense.
In fact, the Cowboys opened up the playbook a little to start the game, using a misdirection pass to Jason Witten to pick up 15 yards on the opening snap, and then two plays later, running a reverse to Lucky Whitehead who went around the left end for a 33-yard gain. But although they had first-and-10 at the Jets' 15-yard line, the drive stalled in the red zone, Dallas settling for a 27-yard field goal from reliable Dan Bailey.
But plays that have seemingly defined this 2015 season for the Cowboys once again came back to haunt the team. First a lengthy gain off a short pass to McFadden was called back due to a penalty. Then on the very next snap, Cassel stumbled before blindly trying to throw the ball away in one of the more ridiculous plays you'll ever see. The ball was instead picked off by Darrelle Revis, a rarity that saw Cassel get called for intentional grounding and throw an interception on the same play.
While the Dallas defense came up big then, stopping New York on fourth-and-1 at the Cowboys' 3-yard line, the Jets were able to reach the end zone on their next series. But they did so only after safety J.J. Wilcox had two chances to potentially pick off a pass himself and Barry Church appeared to have recovered a fumble, only to have the receiver ruled down before the ball came loose.
That's just the way it's gone for the team this year.
Unable to once again get the turnover, Dallas then gave up the touchdown, running back Bilal Powell capping off the drive with a 12-yard run up the middle, the Jets taking a 6-3 lead after the extra point went wide right.
After Cassel then went three-and-out on his next possession, which included a sack that lost 19 yards, that's when Moore took the field to a round of cheers. Unfortunately, his second career pass attempt was thrown deep into double coverage, intended for Terrance Williams.
Instead, Jets safety Marcus Gilchrist leaped to make the interception, New York taking over at the Dallas 24-yard line. Fortunately, though, the Dallas defense did its part, limiting the damage to a 36-yard field goal, the Jets up 9-3.
But then seemingly out of the ashes, Moore rose up to put together one of the prettiest drives the Cowboys have had this season. With just under two minutes left in the half, he hit Williams for 14 yards with a 15-yard horse-collar tackle tacked on, then found Brice Butler for 16 yards on the left sideline before then going back to the left side, this time to Bryant, who powered his way in for the score.
Dallas actually went into the break with a 10-9 lead, its first since the Nov. 22 game at Miami. This came thanks to a penalty on the Jets that negated what would have been a successful 40-yard field goal with only seconds remaining. On the ensuing try, Jets kicker Randy Bullock kicked it wide right, no good.
Coming out for the third quarter, Moore picked up right where he left off, as on the Cowboys' first possession, he took the team from its own 18-yard line down to the New York 6. But on second-and goal, he tried to thread a pass into Bryant across the middle of the end zone, only to have safety Calvin Pryor step in front for the Jets' third interception of the night.
The Cowboys, however, returned the favor, and from a most unexpected source. Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, a rookie playing in his first career game for Dallas, hauled in his own interception, the first of his career. That pick was the first by a Cowboys cornerback since Dec. 4, 2014, when Orlando Scandrick turned the trick against the Bears.
Set up at the Jets' 21-yard line, Dallas wasn't able to reach the end zone, but did put three more points on the board after Bailey was good from 38 yards out, the Cowboys' 13-9 advantage carrying into the fourth quarter.
But once again, the Dallas defense, which had played so well throughout the night, couldn't get the stops when the team needed them most and couldn't close out the game.
New York first went on nine-play 70-yard drive that included a third-and-14 that saw the Cowboys allow a completion for 24 yards and a first down. Just two plays after that, Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick found receiver Eric Decker on the left side of the end zone to give New York a 16-13 lead.
And then, after Moore marched the Cowboys right back down to set up Bailey for a 50-yard field goal to tie the game at 16-16, Dallas needed to hold off the visitors for only the final 1:55 of regulation to force the game into overtime. They couldn't do it.
Fitzpatrick needed just 1:19 to drive his team 58 yards, the big blow coming when the Jets quarterback found wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins down the right sideline behind rookie cornerback Byron Jones for a 43-yard gain. That led to the winning field goal, this time Bullock good from 40 yards out to give New York a 19-16 victory.
With the loss, the Cowboys fall to 4-10, the team now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They'll close out the season, presumably with Moore taking the snaps, finishing at Buffalo and then home to perhaps play the spoiler against the rival Washington Redskins.