FRISCO, Texas — Instead of gearing up for an NFC Championship Game on Sunday afternoon in Santa Clara, the Dallas Cowboys are now hitting their offseason stride after an early playoff bounce by the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round.
The focus now shifts to the offseason where big decisions will have to be made after falling short of playoff expectations once again.
Before the offseason kicks into high gear, let's take a look back at the season with a monthly recap of what went right and what went wrong for the Cowboys. Today, we take a look at November.
Employee of the Month: It's hard to choose the best player from the month of November when two players win conference player of the month awards, but I'm giving this honor to Dak Prescott. After facing early criticism for his play in the beginning of the season, Prescott would rattle off a stretch of games in the middle-to-back third of the season that would serve as a launchpad for his MVP candidacy. In leading the Cowboys to a 4-1 record, Prescott threw for 1,597 yards and 17 touchdowns to just one interception. The offense got in its biggest groove of the season in this stretch, and it was in big part to Prescott's MVP-level play.
They Looked Like Contenders When: Oddly enough, they looked like contenders when they lost to the Eagles. After suffering a blowout loss to the 49ers in their previous big road test, Dallas went up to Philadelphia and played the Eagles to the very last snap – and should have won the game in its final stages. Confidence radiated in the locker room after the game about the team's ability to win the next time those two lined up. At that time, the Eagles were viewed as the clear frontrunners in the NFC after an 8-1 start. What would end up happening down the stretch would disprove that notion, but the confidence built in that narrow road loss to the Eagles carried with the team throughout what would follow – a five-game winning streak.
Reaching for the Panic Button When: After a run out of the bye week that saw the Cowboys stack big wins and build confidence on both sides of the ball, big questions started to rise on the defensive side of the ball after giving up 35 points and 406 total yards to the Seahawks. Additionally, nine penalties for 127 yards emphasized discipline issues that would end up lingering all year.
Something to Remember: Arguably the most memorable moment of the season came on Thanksgiving Day when late in the Cowboys' blowout win, DaRon Bland put an exclamation on not only the win, but a record-breaking achievement that had never been seen before in NFL history. On a second down pass with under five minutes to go around midfield, Commanders quarterback Sam Howell underthrew his intended receiver to the left side and put it into the hands of Bland who ran it back for a 63-yard interception return touchdown – his NFL record-breaking fifth pick-six of the season. The AT&T Stadium crowd erupted and Jim Nantz offered a legendary broadcast call that left Cowboys fans with chills in what will end up being a legendary moment for the franchise in the modern era. Jerry Jones would end up saying postgame that the win and celebration was one of the best days of his life.
Something to Forget: While typically a 23-point win on the road would offer more confidence than pessimism, sloppy play on the offensive side of the ball dictated the Cowboys' win over the Panthers. Entering the fourth quarter, the Cowboys held a minimal 17-10 lead over the worst team in the NFL and had not found any offensive consistency. A DaRon Bland pick-six in the fourth quarter would end up making the final score much more digestible, but in a stretch of wins in November, this one was easily the most forgettable.