It’s probably unfair to pick on cornerback Anthony Brown, who was a surprise just to make the roster as a sixth-round pick in 2016. He is not paid or expected to make big plays.
But he did typify the sorry state of the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday’s 37-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Surprisingly leading 9-7 late in the first half, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz gifted him a seemingly surefire interception and return for a touchdown with 21 seconds to go.
Of course, a wide-open Brown fought the ball and dropped it.
Playing without suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott for the second of six consecutive weeks and other injured starters in left tackle Tyron Smith and linebacker Sean Lee, the Cowboys needed someone to make a play to give them a chance against the Eagles, who are arguably the best team in the NFL with a 9-1 record and a runaway lead in the NFC East.
But this is where the Cowboys are.
They can’t make a play when it’s gifted to them.
And given the drops by receivers Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant and the bad throws by quarterback Dak Prescott, in what was arguably the worst performance of his career, the Cowboys don’t appear to have anyone to make plays at all.
Prescott completed 18 of 31 passes for 145 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. It was the first three-interception game of his career. Alfred Morris had 91 rushing yards on 17 carries, but they proved inconsequential with the offense unable to convert first downs and get into the end zone.
Prescott’s first interception bounced off Williams. The second one was a forced throw to Bryant and the third one was Prescott desperately trying to make a play and miscomunicating with receiver Brice Butler.
But all eyes and expectations on him to carry the load on offense without Elliott failed miserably in showdown with Wentz, the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft who is now outpacing Prescott,. Prescott was the 2016 NFL rookie of the year after going in the fourth round to the Cowboys.
“Consciously, I’m not trying to carry the whole team,” Prescott said. “I’m not trying to do that. I’m not putting more on myself. I simply have to play better. It’s a tough one. Thankfully, I’ll watch this a couple of times and forget about it. I would play tomorrow if I could.”
Prescott didn’t play well in the first or second half.
And when the dam broke for Wentz and the Eagles in the third quarter, the Cowboys quickly got swept away in a flood of points in what was the worst home loss since AT&T Stadium opened in 2009.
The Eagles scored on three consecutive possessions to open the second half and then added a 37-yard fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Nigel Bradham following a Prescott sack.
Bradham’s touchdown capped a second-half scoring surge that included Wentz touchdown passes of 11 yards to Torrey Smith and 17 yards to Alshon Jeffery. Corey Clement also had an 11-yard touchdown run.
Making matters worse, the Eagles lost their kicker in the first quarter but succeeded on three of four two-point conversion attempts as the Cowboys offered little resistance.
The Eagles mainly had their way on the ground, too, finishing with 215 yards, the most rushing yards given up the Cowboys defense since 2015.
It was the second consecutive blowout loss after three consecutive victories and has made any ideas of them holding on and staying in playoff contention until Elliott returns Dec. 24 wishful thinking at best.
“Yes. Yes, I am,” owner Jerry Jones said while also admitted he was trying to be positive. “I like our team and I like our _ I can see that certainly we’d like to not have some of these injuries, but everybody’s dealing with them and working through them. Now the problem is between injuries and potentially not having players for other reasons, you’ve got to hang in there and get a win when maybe the personnel doesn’t look like you can do it, and you’ve got to stay eligible to get in that playoff. We’re not doing that right now.”
The Cowboys have had 23 drives the past two games and scored just one touchdown. Sunday was the first they have failed to score a touchdown in a game since 2015.
The Cowboys (5-5) have lost their past two games by a combined score of 64-16, including last week’s 27-7 setback to the Atlanta Falcons. The past two games have come without Smith and Lee as well as Elliott, which again proves their inability to compete without their best weapon, their best lineman and their best linebacker.
“Obviously we haven’t been good enough,” coach Jason Garrett said of the offensive woes. “We haven’t been able to be consistent running the football, consistent throwing the football, I don’t think our pass protection has been as good as it needs to be. We just haven’t been able to attack the defenses different ways like we’re capable of doing and like we have been doing at different points this year. It’s not good enough. We’re going to continue to work to put our players in the best position possible to make first downs, drive the ball and score points.
“Guys get hurt. Guys get out of the lineup for different reasons. You just have to keep moving on and we haven’t done a good enough job of that at this point over the last couple of weeks.”
With the Thanksgiving Day battle against the Los Angeles Chargers up next in four days, it’s likely the Cowboys will be without that trio again and could be staring at a three-game losing streak for the first time since going 4-12 in 2015.
More to the point, Garrett wondered aloud to the team in the postgame locker room about the possibly of winning out or losing out with six games to go in the season.
The former doesn’t look possible.
“Coach Garrett couldn’t put it in better words in giving our options all the way down from 11-5 to 5-11,” Prescott said. “It’s up to us to figure out what we want to do.”
On Sunday, it was no playmakers. Nobody able to make a play. No chance.
Dal—FG Nugent 48, 13:22.
Phi—Barner 4 run (Elliott kick), 9:03.
Dal—FG Nugent 27, 3:16.
Dal—FG Nugent 47, :55.
Phi—Clement 11 run (Clement run), 10:56.
Phi—To.Smith 11 pass from Wentz (Jeffery pass from Wentz), 5:40.
Phi—Jeffery 17 pass from Wentz (pass failed), 12:02.
Phi—Bradham 37 fumble return (Burton pass from Wentz), 10:43.
Total Net Yards
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Philadelphia, Ajayi 7-91, Blount 13-57, Clement 6-50, Wentz 6-13, Barner 1-4. Dallas, Morris 17-91, R.Smith 8-11, Prescott 2-10.
PASSING—Philadelphia, Wentz 14-27-0-168. Dallas, Prescott 18-31-3-145, Rush 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Philadelphia, Jeffery 4-67, To.Smith 3-28, Ertz 2-8, Celek 1-28, Barner 1-22, Ajayi 1-10, Hollins 1-7, Agholor 1-(minus 2). Dallas, Bryant 8-63, Williams 4-35, Butler 2-19, Beasley 2-7, N.Brown 1-14, Witten 1-7.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Philadelphia, Elliott 34.