Frustration mounts as Dallas put up a second-consecutive embarrassing performance in primetime
Written by: Greg Lehr | @greglehr3
The Dallas Cowboys were served a helping of Thanksgiving leftovers in Chicago on Thursday Night Football, losing in an eerily similar fashion as a week ago, 31-24. Just like the holiday matchup against Buffalo, the Cowboys got off to a fast start on their very first offensive possession of the game. Dallas received the opening kickoff and immediately marching down the field on a 17-play, 9-minute touchdown drive, capped off by an Ezekiel Elliott run for the score.
Despite a Jourdan Lewis interception on the ensuing Bears' possession, Dallas could not build on their early lead, going three-and-out after taking over possession inside their 1-yard line. Chicago's offense, outside of that one interception, was in large part efficient throughout the game, racking up 24 first downs on their way to 31 total points. Mitch Trubisky found Allen Robinson (5 rec, 48 yds, 2 TD) twice in the endzone during the second quarter, leading Chicago to a 17-7 halftime lead. The Bears scored once again to begin the third quarter (Trubisky to Anthony Miller) and ultimately put up 24 unanswered points en route to another primetime beatdown for the Cowboys.
Down 24-7 at the end of the third quarter, Dallas briefly showed some life when Elliott pummeled into the endzone on a 4th-and-1 from the 2-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter. Zeke’s second score of the game brought the Cowboys within 10, but Brett Maher’s ensuing kickoff bounced out of play, giving Chicago great field position at the 40-yard line. The Bears used that to their advantage, shutting the door on any sort of momentum swing by scoring another touchdown on a mere three plays. It was Trubisky's 23-yard touchdown run, his fourth score of the game (three passing, one rushing) that put the exclamation point on the Bears’ impressive offensive display.
Prescott (27/49, 334 yds, TD) was able to find Amari Cooper (6 rec, 83 yds, TD) down the left sideline for a 19-yard touchdown with just under five minutes to go in the game, but it was too little, too late for Dallas. A 31-yard field goal by Maher with 8 seconds remaining gave Dallas the chance to try to recover an onside kick and throw a Hail Mary, but they did not recover.
The final score of 31-24 was not indicative of how one-sided this game truly was – and everybody who watched the game knows it – especially Jerry Jones. While Prescott and the offense had their share of struggles during the middle quarters, it was once again defense and special teams that failed to keep Dallas in the game. Down 10-7, Maher missed a 42-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game, but instead the miss gave the Bears great field position as they took it and drove right down the field for a touchdown, putting the Cowboys in a double-digit deficit. It was Maher’s 10th missed field goal on the season (20/30), which leads the NFL, and is just 4/8 on field goals over the last three games. It would be a surprise to see him still on the roster next week against the LA Rams.
The defense continued to struggle without Leighton Vander Esch, as Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee were exposed all night long in coverage situations. Perhaps even more concerning, however, is the run defense, as the Cowboys were consistently gashed up the middle with relative ease. After firmly ranking in the top ten during the first half of the season, Dallas has fallen to a middling 17th in rush defense after giving up 151 yards in Chicago last night. Another major concern is the defensive line, which the Cowboys consider a strength and who was expected to come into this game with a great matchup against the Bears offensive line. To say they were underwhelming would be an understatement – and the days of the so-called 'Hot Boyz' are over and apparently not coming back this season – even after the midseason trade for Michael Bennett. Demarcus Lawrence twice jumped offsides on critical third downs, each time extending the Bears' drives leading to points, and as a group are only slightly above average in sacks this season with 34 (T-9).
After starting the season 3-0 against some of the weakest teams in the league, Dallas looked impressive enough that many hopped on the hype train of Super Bowl contenders (yup, myself included). Since then, they are 3-7 and have suffered four straight losses in front of national TV audiences (Vikings, Patriots, Bills, and Bears). As bad as it may appear to Cowboys fans around the country, they are (somehow) still in first place in the NFC East, despite their mediocre 6-7 record. What a weird, almost hollow, feeling it is.