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Spagnola: No Excuses, Just Not Near Good Enough


KANSAS CTTY, Mo. – If you would have told me the Cowboys defense would hold the Kansas City Chiefs to 19 points here on Sunday afternoon, I would have sworn the Cowboys would have won.

If you would have told me the Cowboys would limit the Chiefs to a mere two touchdowns, I would have told you the Cowboys would have been 8-2 today, the second-best record in the NFL to only the 9-2 Arizona Cardinals.

If you had told me the Cowboys would hold Patrick Mahomes to 260 yards passing, no touchdowns, intercept him once, sack him three times and he'd finish with a 71.9 QB rating, I would have told you the Cowboys had creamed the Chiefs.

And if you had told me quarterback Dak Prescott would throw for only 216 yards, complete less than 60 percent of his passes and finish with a QB rating of 57.9, or the Cowboys would fail to score a touchdown for the first time in 27 games here on Sunday, I would have said you had lost your marbles.

Not the NFL's No. 1 offense. Not the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense. Not the team that after nine games left us proclaiming, "In Offense We Trust."

Say it ain't so, the Chiefs a mere 19, the Cowboys an anemic 9, the Preston Road Trophy going back to the Hunts.

And this was no fluke, not just one of those things that is bound to happen, like the loss to Denver two weeks ago.

Nope, this was simply stamped NOT GOOD ENOUGH, definitely not near good enough before 73,494 at Arrowhead Stadium and a national TV audience to witness. Not on this Sunday before Thanksgiving.

The Cowboys really didn't know what to say.

"We're not discouraged, but we didn't win the game," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said.

"Our offense didn't hold up our end of the bargain," Zack Martin said, somewhat exasperated.

"Pissed off. Pissed when I don't play well, the team doesn't play well," QB 1 Dak said.

But maybe we need Chiefs veteran head coach Andy Reid to explain this up the down staircase NFL season where common sense is taking a beating and week to week results are slathered with the consistency of expired mayo.

"Every week is crazy in this league, so I'm not sure there are any statements," Reid said after his team moved to 7-4 and into first place in the AFC West. "There's not a lot of consistency going on right now amongst the NFL here. Every week is a big-time challenge. I'm talking about wins and losses haven't been consistent. There are these ups and downs, and teams are favored and then they get beat.

"I mean, it's crazy."

How well the Cowboys know, now having lost two of the past three games following that six-game winning streak, dropping them to 7-3 and their lead in the NFC East now just 2.5 games over Philly.

But having said all that, let's be real. This next man up bravado only goes so far. Face it, there is a reason these backups are the next man up. That's because they aren't the man.

So offensively, the Cowboys were without their lead receiver Amari Cooper, and they didn't find that out until Friday morning when he tested positive for COVID-19.

Then right before halftime CeeDee Lamb suffered a concussion when banging his head on the turf and didn't return to the game. Now the Cowboys were without their two lead receivers, and potentially for the Thanksgiving Day game against the Raiders as well.

Saturday the Cowboys decided starting left tackle Tyron Smith still wasn't ready to play with those bothersome ankle bone spurs, again having to rely on the inexperienced Terence Steele at left tackle. And that compounded the inexperience on the left side after committing earlier in the week to starting Connor McGovern in place of Connor Williams for the first time at left guard.

And on top of all that, Ezekiel Elliott continued trying to play with a sprained knee, meaning they relied more on Tony Pollard, who had one carry for 31 yards and then six carries for 19 yards.

No wonder Dak was sacked five times, hit eight times and had nine passes defensed.

Even Martin felt culpable, saying, "I don't think we did a great job of giving Dak time and getting comfortable back there. That's on us."

That then is what happens when you don't run the ball well, getting themselves in too many second-and-longs, third-and-longs, inviting a bevy of Chiefs blitzes. And that's a no-no, knowing you would still have to deal with versatile D-lineman Chris Jones, who finished with an AFC Defensive Player of the Week performance laced with five tackles, 3.5 sacks, two tackles for losses, three QB hits, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Though all pretty predictable with the Cowboys offensive line littered with inexperience.

Then there were missed opportunities. Check this out:

On the game's very first play from scrimmage from the 25-yard line, wideout Michael Gallup smoked Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward. But Dak overshot him badly, missing out on a 75-yard touchdown.

Then on the Cowboys' third possession, already down 9-0, they were first-and-10 at the KC 15-yard line. The Cowboys ended up with a Greg Zuerlein 33-yard field goal, meaning they had not moved the ball an inch.

Next, Dak went for it, first-and-10 at the Kansas City 28-yard line with 21 seconds left in the first half. He was short on his pass to Lamb, Ward intercepting in the end zone and Lamb coming down banging his head on the ground, leaving his status for Thursday's game against the Raiders somewhat questionable.

And there was more.

First-and-10 at the Kansas City 17, 10:06 left in the third, down just 16-3 and a touchdown away from making it a one-score game. But, no, having to settle for a 30-yard Zuerlein field goal from the 12.

Then on the first play of the fourth quarter, now down 19-6, the Cowboys were first-and-10 at the KC 21-yard line. They went backwards 9 yards to the 30, Zuerlein this time hitting from 48 yards.

And if all that were not enough, with 1:07 to play and still a touchdown away from making it a one-score game, on first-and-10 at the Chiefs' 20-yard line, Dak is intercepted again, this time trying to hit receiver Malik Turner on a slant route that cornerback L'Jarius Sneed picked off.

Ball game.

And even though the Cowboys only gave up 19 points, the fourth time in six games allowing no more than 20, and even though Micah Parsons, forced to play defensive end, finished with two sacks, two tackles for loss, three QB hits and a forced fumble, that was not near enough to compensate for their offensive inadequacies.

And to think on the defensive side of the ball the Cowboys still were without defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore. And with Parsons playing well at defensive end, they missed him badly at linebacker, the Chiefs speed overwhelming the Cowboys.

"Again, our offense didn't hold up our end of the bargain," Martin said. "I think if you would have told us that our defense held them to 19 points, we would have felt pretty damn good about that."

Good enough to win.

See what I mean?

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