When the Dallas Cowboys reported to training camp in July, storylines centered around several players involved in jurisprudence, a possible sophomore slump by quarterback Dak Prescott and the always-high expectations for a Super Bowl run.
Little was it known at that time that there would be more - much more - to come, making the 2017 season one of high drama.
There was controversy surrounding the national anthem that went all the way to the President of the United States, Ezekiel Elliott’s high-profile legal battle to fight a six-game NFL suspension, owner Jerry Jones being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Jones’ squabbles with Roger Goodell and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank over the commissioner’s contract extension.
The Cowboys rarely left the news cycle. Not just the sports cycle, the news cycle.
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While all the drama on and off the field made for must-see TV (social media too), the 2017 season still boils down to 9-7 and out of the playoffs.
“That’s an excuse we can’t make. We’re 9-7. We were in a lot of close football games that we could’ve won and put ourselves in the playoffs,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “We shouldn’t use that. We have to understand that, hey, if we want to get back on track we’ve got to win those close games and make those plays.”
Here’s a look back at the 2017 Dallas Cowboys:
Jones is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. His wife, Gene Jones, is his presenter. Jones’ gold Nike shoes almost overshadowed his passionate speech. For the record, the Cowboys won the Hall of Fame game 20-18 over Arizona.
Elliott is suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. It would be the beginning of a season-long fight that ended up in several courts.
Cowboys 19, New York Giants 3
For at least a week, the Super Bowl hype was alive as the Cowboys easily controlled the Giants and Eli Manning. Dallas limited the Giants to 233 total yards in the prime-time Sunday night season opener. New York was 4-of-12 on third downs and could only muster a field goal. It was their fewest point total against Dallas since 2003. DeMarcus Lawrence had two sacks, which would eventually set the tone for his play the rest of the season.
Denver 42, Cowboys 17
When the Broncos stuffed the Cowboys’ run, they basically stuffed the Cowboys. The Broncos held the Cowboys’ rushing game to 40 yards on 14 carries, including only eight yards by Elliott, to dominate from start to finish. Cornerback Aquib Talib returned an interception 103 yards for a touchdown to cap the day. The game was stopped with 33 seconds left in the first quarter due to lightning, a delay lasting little more than an hour.
Cowboys 28, Arizona 17
With the national anthem debate reaching its pinnacle with the NFL and extending to President Donald Trump (through Twitter) and a nationally-televised audience on Monday Night Football, the Cowboys, including Jones, linked arms and took a knee before the anthem was played as a sign of solidarity and unity. The team kneeling was a lasting image, as was Prescott getting flipped into the end zone on a second-quarter touchdown run. Prescott threw two touchdowns in addition to running for another.
Los Angeles Rams 35, Cowboys 30
The Rams had shown flashes of possibly being good early in the season. They got the league’s attention when they beat the Cowboys. A slow start and bevy of dropped passes limited the Cowboys play, but the Rams had no turnovers and Jared Goff passed for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Todd Gurley had 121 rushing yards. Greg Zuerlein had seven field goals as the Rams took advantage of their field position. Zuerlein made kicks from 49, 44, 44, 30, 28, 43 and 33 yards.
Green Bay 35, Cowboys 31
He did it again. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a 12-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left in the game in front of a 93,273, the largest home crowd of the season. The Cowboys had taken a lead on Prescott’s 11-yard touchdown run. But the 1 minute, 13 seconds left proved more than enough time for another comeback by the Packers, who knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs last season in similar fashion.
Cowboys 40, San Francisco 10
It was total domination that required some adjustments in the kicking game. The defense limited the 49ers to 20 total yards and had five sacks. Elliott scored two touchdowns. Prescott threw three touchdowns. It was 20-3 at halftime and 33-3 going into the fourth quarter. Because of a groin injury to Dan Bailey, safety Jeff Heath handled the kicking in the final three quarters. He made two of three extra points and handled kickoffs. He was the first non-kicker or punter to make at least two PATS in a game in 37 years. Jones’ hardline stance on the national anthem and threat that he was bench any member of his team who disrespects was a heavy pre-game storyline. The kneeling during the national anthem because of racial injustice began in San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick a year ago.
Cowboys 33, Washington 19
Mike Nugent, who signed earlier in the week after Dan Bailey was sidelined with a groin injury, made 4-of-5 field goals in a steady rain. Nugent notched three of his field goals in the third quarter as the Cowboys slowly pulled away. Elliott had 33 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns. The defense kept the Redskins in check with four sacks, three fumble recoveries and a fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown by Byron Jones. David Irving had two of the sacks.
Cowboys 28, Kansas City 17
The win culminated a week of Tony Romo and Prescott comparisons as Romo returned to AT&T Stadium as a CBS broadcaster for the game. Prescott did his part with 247 yards and two touchdowns, both to Cole Beasley. One of the Chiefs’ touchdowns came on an unlikely “Hail Mary” play. Alex Smith threw a short pass to Tyreek Hill underneath the prevent defense and Hill weaved his way through defenders to complete a 56-yard touchdown on the final play of the first half.
Atlanta 27, Cowboys 7
Jones summed it up best. His team was “taken to the woodshed.” Prescott was sacked eight times, six by Adrian Clayborn. It was also the first game without Elliott, who ended his legal fight and began serving the first game of a six-game suspension. In another matter, Jones and Blank didn’t shake hands prior to the game because of fallout over the Goodell contract debate.
Philadelphia 37, Cowboys 9
The once-beaten Eagles had been flexing their muscle all season and this game was no different except they did it after losing kicker Jake Elliott to a head injury which resulted Philadelphia making three 2-point conversions. Carson Wentz threw two touchdowns to lead the Eagles, who scored 30 second-half points. The Cowboys unraveled with Prescott being intercepted three times and losing a fumble, which was returned for a touchdown.
Los Angeles Chargers 28, Cowboys 6
For the third consecutive game, the Cowboys suffered a lopsided loss. It marked the first time in franchise history the Cowboys scored 10 or fewer points in three consecutive games. Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers passed for 434 yards and three touchdowns in front of a surprised Thanksgiving crowd. The Chargers led 3-0 at halftime. Rod Smith scored the Cowboys only points and Prescott had a potential momentum-shifting, 34-yard touchdown run nullified by a penalty.
Cowboys 38, Washington 14
Cowboys snap a three-game losing streak. Rookie Ryan Switzer had an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown. Alfred Morris rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown. Dez Bryant set a franchise record with his 72nd career touchdown. The Cowboys forced four turnovers. Jason Witten, who was rumored to be a head coach candidate at the University of Tennessee earlier in the week, also had a touchdown grab.
Cowboys 30, New York Giants 10
Rod Smith had a breakout game and sparked a 20-point fourth quarter. Smith had 160 scrimmage yards and scored twice. He scored on an 81-reception and a 15-yard run. The downtrodden Giants fired their coach and general manager earlier in the week, but were tied with the Cowboys going into the fourth quarter before a Sean Lee interception jump-started Dallas. The Cowboys wore their first-ever color combination of navy jersey and white pants.
Cowboys 20, Oakland 17
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr fumbled out of the end zone after being pushed by safety Jeff Heath with 31 seconds left in the game. With the score tied 17-17, the game will forever be remembered for a fourth-down measurement in the fourth quarter when NFL umpire Gene Steratore took out a folded piece of paper and stuck it between the football and the yardstick to determine a Cowboys’ first down. The Cowboys ended the drive with a field goal, which proved to be the game-winner after Carr’s late fumble.
Seattle 21, Cowboys 12
The Seahawks knocked the turnover-prone Cowboys out of the playoffs. The Cowboys were intercepted twice, lost a fumble and missed two fourth-quarter field goals. Elliott made his return from a six-game suspension and rushed for 97 yards. Jones reiterates after the game that he supports keeping Garrett as coach.
Cowboys 6, Eagles 0
On a frigid New Year’s Eve, the Cowboys shut out the Eagles to finish the season 9-7. The offense and special teams struggled, but Prescott’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Brice Butler was enough to secure the victory. Ezekiel Elliott gained 103 yards on 27 carries, but fell short of 1,000 for the season with 983. The playoff-bound Eagles were missing a lot of starters, including a cameo appearance by Nick Foles. However, it didn’t take the shine off the shutout. It was their first shutout since the 2009 season and the first 6-0 game in Cowboys history. Rookie Chidobe Awuzie had his first NFL interception. Lee led all tacklers with eight.