Spagnola: Cowboys Can't Win When You're Cut Off At The Pass In This League

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Said it once, said it a 1,000 times.

         Will say it until I'm blue in the face.

         If you can't pass the ball in this league, you can't win.

         Period. End of discussion.

And in the immortal words of Jerry Jones, fellas, this is not a debate. This is highly educational if you are willing to open your eyes and learn.

Sure, the Cowboys ran for 171 yards Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, the second highest total of the season and the first 100-yard performance in the past three games.

Sure, Darren McFadden rushed for 111 yards, his fourth 100-yard rushing effort in 2015.

McFadden actually has 798 yards rushing, ranked 11th in the NFL and for sure leading all NFC East runners, including you know who, who can't be any happier of a camper following his grand total of 11 carries for 34 yards Sunday for the Eagles, which gives him 603 for the season, 195 yards less than McFadden.

After not logging a rushing touchdown for five consecutive games, the Cowboys actually have run into the end zone in each of the past two, giving them eight for the season, although half of those still belonging to long-gone and team-leader Joe Randle.

Why, McFadden averaged 12.3 yards a carry against the Packers, and as a team, the Cowboys averaged 8.6.

Nevertheless, on a soggy Sunday here among 79,369 mostly soaking-wet Cheeseheads, we get Packers 28, Cowboys 7. All those rushing yards, and couldn't do anything about it, or prevent dropping to 4-9, assuring the Cowboys of a losing record for the first time since 2010 (6-10) as well as for the first time in Jason Garrett's five-and-a-half-season reign as head coach.

How come?

Try this:

Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel, making his sixth start in place of Tony Romo, completed just 13-of-29 passes for 114 yards, no touchdowns, one pick and two sacks for a woeful passer rating of 41.5. Heck, until completing three passes for 29 yards during the last two mostly inconsequential possessions, he was 10-of-26 for 85 yards. That's like 3.4 yards per attempt. That ain't going to get it.

"We weren't consistent enough in the passing game," Garrett said. "We weren't able to stay on the field enough to get into any rhythm, and Matt's a part of that. I thought he made some good throws in the game, but overall, we didn't throw the ball effectively enough, and he's certainly a part of that."

The Cowboys had nine third-down opportunities. One completion ended in a first down. The first opportunity was picked in the end zone on a high throw off Dez Bryant's hands in the face of a blitz. One ended on a sack. That means in the past two games, the Cowboys are 2-for-20 on third downs, dropping to 35 percent this season, 26th in the NFL. That ain't going to get it.

Bryant, after being held to just three fourth-quarter catches in last week's victory over the Redskins? Well, this time, uno, one catch for 9 yards, although he dropped two and had one spectacular-looking reception reversed by video replay here again. That ain't going to get it.

The Cowboys only had one pass play gain more than 12 yards, and that was Cassel's 19-yard completion to Terrance Williams after all was said and done, trailing 28-7 at the time with 2:20 to play. Five of Cassel's third-down completions failed to gain enough yardage for a first down. Yep, that ain't going to get it, either.

"So we just haven't been quite as efficient as we needed to be and cash in on the opportunities when we've had them. We had some openings here and opportunities that we missed on, and ultimately that hurt us in the ballgame."

That was Garrett before the game, like last week midweek.

Psychic?

Nope. He just knows football. He knows that in order to win games in this league you have to be able to throw the ball effectively. You have to be able to get some chunk plays down the field in the passing game.

The Cowboys got nary a one in this one, and remember, the Packers' top cornerback, Sam Shields, went out with a concussion at 7:06 of the second quarter. In fact, the Cowboys only have eight completions for at least 20 yards in the past five games. What's that, 1.6 a game?

So look, let's not continue to kid ourselves about why the Cowboys are sitting here at 4-9, essentially a loss away from being mathematically eliminated from the NFC East race with three games remaining if any of the other teams win one more; or if the Eagles (6-7) or Redskins (6-7) win two more; or if the Giants (5-7), at Miami Monday night, win three more.

Now, some after this loss will want to harp on the defense, giving up its most points on its own over four quarters since the Game 5, 30-6 loss to New England. But with 8:25 left in the third quarter, Dallas had trimmed the Green Bay lead to 14-7, and this after the Cowboys failed to score on that first possession when first-and-goal from the 3.

The game stayed 14-7 until 4:44 remained, when James Starks busted loose on his 30-yard touchdown jaunt. Ball game. Trailing by two touchdowns with so little time left, no way this struggling Cowboys offense was going to make a game of it, not when heading into Monday night's contest with the NFL's 28th-ranked offense.

After all, the Cowboys have now scored only one offensive touchdown in four of the past five games. They are 1-3 in those four one-TD affairs, beating the Redskins this last Monday, 19-16, although only having to travel 15 yards on that touchdown drive. And for the entire season, the Cowboys have failed to score more than one offensive touchdown in a game seven times – the reason they now rank 30th in total points scored.

This also is the fifth time in the past nine games that the Cowboys have failed to pass for more than 200 yards, which is a good reason why they are the NFL's 29th passing offense. They have now lost all five of those games.

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So don't go making stuff up. Don't try overthinking what's right in front of your nose. Don't go blaming it on this or that, or the Bossa Nova for that matter.

 If you don't have good quarterback play, if you don't have the threat of good quarterback play, if you can't throw the ball effectively down the field, threaten the back end of defenses, chances are you are the 2015, sad-sack Cowboys, 4-9, last in the NFC East – still two games back of at least two teams and possibly a third if the Giants win Monday night with just three games to go.

With one foot in the division grave and the other on a banana peel, the season slip-sliding away without Tony Romo, no matter what anyone says.

There, and now I'm blue in the face.

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