What do you do when you don’t have anything nice to say?
Etiquette says to keep your mouth closed.
Well, that’s an impossible task when charged with grading the Dallas Cowboys performances on a weekly basis and even tougher following an abysmally abject show as they put on in Sunday’s 42-17 blowout loss to the Denver Broncos.
It was failure across the board.
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RUN OFFENSE: F Ezekiel Elliott had the worst rushing performance of his life going all the way back to Pop Warner, gaining 8 yards on nine attempts. The Cowboys didn’t run it enough. But he also didn’t gain any yards when he did against a defense solely focused on stopping the run. The offensive line got no push. Elliott ran nowhere.
PASS OFFENSE: F The Broncos dared the Cowboys to beat them through the air. Dak Prescott had the worst performance of his NFL career. He didn’t get much help from the offensive line, which didn’t provide much time for his receivers. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Brice Butler dropped passes. Bryant didn’t win on the outside against Aquib Talib. But Prescott needed to be sharp and make pinpoint throws in tight windows. He didn’t. That could be a problem as opponents will try to copy the blueprint.
RUN DEFENSE: F The Cowboys offered little resistance to the Broncos’ run game. Denver rushed for 178 yards on 39 carries. C.J. Anderson led the way with 25 for 118. They missed tackles galore. Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee had 10 and nine tackles respectively. They were low-impact plays, largely down the field. The Cowboys allowed more than 100 yards in just four games last year, with the high of 114 on 30 carries in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.
PASS DEFENSE: F Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence had two sacks and rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis had an interception. Outside of that, the Cowboys’ pass defense was a dumpster fire. Quarterback Trevor Siemian looked like Peyton Manning, passing for 231 yards and four touchdowns. He completed passes to nine receivers. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas did most of the damage against a secondary that finished the game with just two healthy cornerbacks. Orlando Scandrick was inactive with a a fractured bone in his hand. The Cowboys had four active for the game and lost Chido Awuzie to a hamstring in the first quarter and Nolan Carroll to a concussion in the second, leaving only Anthony Brown and Lewis. Rookie Xavier Woods had to play nickel corner, covering the slot.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F Xavier Woods failed to down a punt inside the 5 when he was in perfect position to do so. Denver turned 3 points into 7 when Lawrence was flagged for leverage on a field goal. It gave the Broncos a first down and they made it count with a touchdown. Instead the Cowboys being down 10-7, it was 14-7 en route to 21-10, 35-10 and 42-17. It was a big momentum swing.
COACHING: F The Cowboys were outcoached and outplayed from the opening kickoff. The Broncos came out with more energy. That’s on the coaches. So was the decision to abandon the run. The biggest mistake was the go with six receivers and four cornerbacks in the game. The Cowboys had rookie Noah Brown active because of injury concerns with Terrance Williams and Brice Butler. They went short at cornerback, leaving the healthy Ben Benwikere in street clothes. It was a regrettable decision. Never go short at cornerback.