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Sullivan: What Has Happened In Last Three Games Just Doesn't Make Sense

The 1960 Dallas Cowboys weren't supposed to play a game. The league made the decision so late in the process, in the hopes of not allowing the AFL's Dallas Texans a year's head start with fans, that the draft had already taken place. Thus, the expansion Cowboys were at even more of a disadvantage.

Not surprisingly, the Cowboys finished last in the league in scoring and turned the ball over 50 times in 12 games. They also allowed the most points in the NFL. Since World War II, three teams have gone winless in a non-strike shortened season: the 1960 Cowboys, the 1976 Buccaneers and the 2008 Lions.

Yet, that Dallas team never went three straight weeks not scoring double-digits. In fact, no Cowboys team ever had until Thanksgiving.

I can't explain why, either. I know, I know, that's what we're supposed to do in the media, pretend we have all the answers, second-guess and more times than not, demand someone be fired.

This makes utterly no sense. This team was 5-3 and some of the players on the Chiefs were calling them the best team in football. That was Nov. 5, or 22 days ago.

Know what? Don't want to hear about injuries or the Ezekiel Elliott suspension. That feels like such a lazy excuse. Every team suffers injuries and finds a way to still compete. The Cowboys are not competing.

Wait, that's wrong. I feel like the team is still playing hard. This team just hasn't been competitive. There's a difference.

Seems like no one can talk about this three-game slide without mentioning Zeke. I feel like I'm missing something. Alfred Morris and Rod Smith have combined for 246 rushing yards at 4.3 yards per attempt. Elliott is averaging 4.1 for the season. So why is this all about Zeke? The running game certainly hasn't been dominant in his absence, but it's been serviceable.

The bigger issue is the inability to stretch the field, to find a receiver deeper than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Before this stretch, in his previous 17 games, Dak Prescott had 36 total touchdowns and six interceptions while averaging 7.47 yards per attempt. In the last three, he has one total TD, five picks and is averaging 5.68 yards per throw.

No one can convince me that's because of Zeke's absence. That just doesn't make sense. The backs are still picking up yards, so why has the passing game all but disappeared?

And what's going on with Dez Bryant? He just turned 29 years old, has been healthy, looked ridiculously ready coming out of the preseason and is on pace for 840 yards and six touchdowns. He's currently tied for 34th in the league with 578 receiving yards.

For the last six years now, Dez has been mentioned – and paid – like an elite No. 1 wideout. Yet guys like Antonio Brown and Julio Jones have already cracked 1,000 yards, Keenan Allen was running around the Cowboys like a pinball machine and DeAndre Hopkins has nine touchdown catches in 11 games, including two the last three weeks with Tom Savage throwing him the ball.

Again, this doesn't make sense. It's been more than a calendar year since Dez's last 100-yard game. At one point, over a 60-game stretch from Week 4 of 2012 through Week 9 of 2016, Dez tallied 17 100-yard performances.

On another note, not that anyone probably cares, the Cowboys caught three teams playing some pretty solid football. The Falcons have won four of their last five, the Eagles have won nine straight and the Chargers are 5-2 in their last seven.

So where does this leave us? The fan base is furious, and just about everyone outside of the team itself has chalked this season up as a lost cause. Some have even suggested tanking for a higher draft pick, which at 5-6 is beyond ridiculous, but it's the world we now live in.

The schedule certainly isn't getting much easier, Oakland and Seattle are battling for postseason berths, Washington comes in Thursday a desperate bunch, also at 5-6 and needing a win to have any wild-card hopes, and Philadelphia is just rolling through whoever the competition is.

At this point in time, there's no debate that this season ranks among the most disappointing in franchise history. Much like in 2015, this was a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. And they don't appear headed to even a .500 finish. That's not a crash and burn. That's dropping the sun on Pluto. And yes, I'm still upset with Pluto not being a planet.

As for what the answer is, again, there is really no explanation for what we've witnessed. I do think a three-game stretch, as historically bad as it has been, isn't enough to make decisions like starting from scratch/rebuilding or firing the coaching staff. This was the same team that didn't lose a game for a 35-day stretch earlier this season. Also, two plays go differently, and the Cowboys would have been 7-1 at the midway point. I know no one wants to hear that, but it's worth pointing out.

This is obviously a different team right now. Watching from the press box against the Chargers, even with them squandering several scoring opportunities in the first half, there was never the sense that the Cowboys would win the game. Yeah, there were some brutal calls by the officials, that didn't help, but there was never a momentum shift. San Diego was the better team from kickoff to the final ticks on the clock.

The lone bright spot for me was linebacker Jaylon Smith, who was the best player on either side of the ball for Dallas. He finished with a team-high eight tackles despite sitting out 30 of the 68 defensive snaps. Smith also added a tackle for loss and a pass deflection.

And maybe that's what these next five weeks should be about, looking for bright spots, because honestly I don't think anyone will ever make sense of what we've seen these last three games.

Follow Jeff Sullivan on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at

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