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On 2nd Thought

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On 2nd Thought: Cowboys Generosity Is Dangerous


You don't get style points for NFL wins, so there is nothing the Dallas Cowboys have to be sorry about as they move to 12-4 on the season, the second consecutive 12-win campaign in only three seasons under Mike McCarthy. But if they want to take the next step, i.e., a run at the Super Bowl, they'll have to fix some items that again reared their ugly head in Nashville.

The Verdikt — In no version of the multiverse is anyone obligated to apologize for being victorious in sports, so don't expect it here on Earth 1, either. It's also true, however, that the Cowboys could've and should've dogwalked the Titans right out of Nissan Stadium on Thursday night, instead suffering a disastrous list of self-inflicted wounds in the second quarter to make the 27-13 game closer than it even remotely had to be. And, with that, we continue to wonder if the Cowboys can find the consistency to be the same time, weekly, that marched into Minneapolis and delivered Ragnarok to Kirk Cousins and the Vikings.

I contend, endlessly, that the only team in the NFL that can defeat the Cowboys in 2022 is the team wearing a Star on its helmet, and nothing I'm seeing has uprooted that take. It'll be interesting to see if they can bury the Commanders in the regular season finale, assuming that game still matters, but the biggest thing now for Dallas is making sure they've finally learned one simple, repetitive lesson as the playoffs approach: stop giving the ball away.

Unsung Hero – Speaking of the second quarter, one that saw a botched snap/fumble, dropped receptions, two interceptions given to the Titans, a dropped pick-six by the usually sure handed Trevon Diggs and more, it was what Dalton Schultz provided in the second half that helped right the ship in the second half — effectively deleting the aforementioned errors and helping to stabilize the Cowboys offense in much-needed fashion. His two touchdowns answered two scoring drives by the Titans to keep pressure on Joshua Dobbs to match serve.

In the end, Dobbs couldn't, in the face of relentless pressure from the Cowboys pass rush. So on a day that saw CeeDee Lamb rack up another 100 yards and T.Y. Hilton reel in critical possession receptions, it was ultimately Schultz who accounted for two-thirds of the offensive production and, as such, earns honors as the unsung hero for Week 17.

Milestone Moment – For just the third time in Cowboys history, we have a 100-catch receiver in a season. CeeDee Lamb caught 11 passes on Sunday to get his season total to 102 receptions, the third-most in franchise history behind Michael Irvin (111 in 1995) and Jason Witten (110 in 2012). With the Cowboys playing in Washington next weekend, it's unclear whether Lamb will be available or if the team decides to rest most players heading into the playoffs.

Stat of the Game — The Cowboys converted 8-of-13 on third-down attempts, marking the seventh straight game of third-down rate over 50 percent. The last time the Cowboys went seven straight games averaging over 50 percent from third-down was in 2014, another season that resulted in a 12-4 record.

Kustodian's Kloset — Penalties have seemingly been cleaned up, and in a big way, but it appears one red flag (or rather, yellow, in that regard) has been replaced by another: giveaways. It's incumbent upon the Cowboys to win the turnover margin to help their chances for a making a possible playoff run because, in the tournament, you won't see quarterbacks like Joshua Dobbs, Matt Ryan or whomever the Texans decide they like on any given snap. You'll be met with Jalen Hurts, Kirk Cousins (I know, I know) and possibly Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers; and giving them added possessions is a death sentence. It's the easiest problem of all to solve, so solve it, before it's too late.

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