In what we can’t consider as much of a surprise, the Dallas Cowboys lost their third consecutive do-or-die Week 17 game when they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles at home on Sunday Night Football. Unlike previous late-season failures, Cowboys’ fans cannot simply place the blame for this loss on quarterback Tony Romo, who was sidelined after undergoing back surgery on Friday. Instead, the blame went to backup quarterback Kyle Orton and what has to be considered an inept coaching staff.
Dallas stayed close throughout the game and put itself in a position for an opportunity to conduct a game-winning field goal drive late in the fourth quarter that would have put to rest the struggles of previous seasons. Orton played stellar football and Monte Kiffin’s defense put a lot of pressure on Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles. Overall, Dallas played a heck of a game without its franchise quarterback.
Like we have seen with multiple franchises around the NFL over the years, the players are not the only ones who decide the outcome of a game. As clear as day, it was readily apparent that first-year head coach Chip Kelly completely outfoxed his counterpart in the NFC East, Jason Garrett.
With a backup quarterback under center, many expected the Cowboys to rely heavily on running back DeMarco Murray, who came into the game with nearly 1,400 total yards and double-digit touchdowns. Considering that Philadelphia was allowing an average of 107.2 rushing yards per game, this made the most sense. Murray ended up fumbling on the Cowboys opening drive, but Garrett and Co. didn’t hesitate going back to its star running back. The Oklahoma product responded with tough runs and moved the chains on multiple occasions.
Then in an instant, Dallas went away from the run game.
After putting up 43 yards on 11 attempts in the first half, Murray attempted just six rushes in the second half. This despite the fact that the Cowboys and Eagles were in the midst of a one-score game for the majority of the night. One of the most horrendous play calls came on a fourth and one from inside Eagles territory in the fourth quarter. Instead of running it with Murray, who came into the game averaging five yards per rush, Dallas called a play action boot for Orton, who had the ball batted down by linebacker Connor Barwin.
If one play magnified the issues that Dallas has had as it relates to in-game adjustments and play calling, this was the play. Philadelphia would then drive 60 yards on 11 plays in the following drive for a touchdown and an eight-point lead. Where the Cowboys did come back to pull within two, that one play call may have very well cost them a playoff spot.
How in the world can the Cowboys allow backup quarterback Kyle Orton to throw the ball 46 times when Murray only touches it 17 times on the ground? How can Murray attempt just one run in the fourth quarter of a one-score game?
The Cowboys seem to lack an identity on both sides of the ball. They don’t have an sort of an idea what they are doing as it relates to a game plan on a consistent basis. They struggle making in-game adjustments. They are unable to dictate the tempo of the game. And they seem to be at a coaching disadvantage every single time they play.
For a franchise that has won a total of two playoff games since its 1995 Super Bowl championship, this seems to be more of a theme than anything else, and that has to be placed solely on owner/general manager Jerry Jones. While I respect the loyalty he has towards coaches, does anyone really envision Garrett being the guy to lead the Cowboys out of the doldrums? If not, isn’t it time to move on? If Jones doesn’t replace Garrett, it seems that he is okay with mediocrity and that’s not befitting to America’s Team.
At the very least, we will get an answer to this at some point in the not-so-distant future.