Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett spent much of Monday afternoon press conference stating the obvious. That’s no knock on Garrett, but the only thing left for him to do after the Cowboys’ season-opening thud against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The 16-8 loss is pinned squarely on an inept offense that took more than a half to show any semblance of rhythm and sustained ability to move the ball.
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“It wasn’t good enough on offense, really, from top to bottom. We didn’t run it well enough, we didn’t throw it well enough and Dak [Prescott] was certainly a part of that,” Garrett said.
Prescott’s inaccuracy cost the Cowboys at least four or five times but he wasn’t the only one struggling. The battered offensive line committed four of the Cowboys’ 10 penalties and allowed six sacks.
“There were a couple of situations where the offensive lineman got beat by a good defensive lineman and the quarterback got trapped in there,” Garrett said. “Overall, it just wasn’t as clean as it needed to be.”
The Cowboys had only 60 yards at the half, including a puny 22 yards rushing. That can be explained by playing behind the chains, which Garrett elaborated on in depth. When you’re facing 3rd and long, sending Ezekiel Elliott up the middle, especially against the Panthers’ substantial run defense, is probably not a recipe for success.
“We were behind the chains a lot, that got us into some bad down and distance situations where they could pin their ears back a little bit against us,” he said. “So all in all, the rhythm wasn’t very good early and it got better as the game wore on. Sacks and minus plays were a big part of that.”
The good news, if you’re desperate to find some, is that the Cowboys’ offense, when the penalties vanished in the second half, moved the ball. They finished with 232 yards.
“Now it’s our own doing. We just have to do a better job minimizing those penalties and certainly minimizing the negative plays both in the run game and particularly when we’re throwing the football,” Garrett said. “I think if we do that we’ll be able to maintain some rhythm and attack the defense the way we want to. I think you saw more of that in the second half. It wasn’t perfect by any means but we played with better balance, we played downhill at them a little bit more as the game went on.”
Garrett said the struggles weren’t the result of unimaginative play-calling by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Instead, he insisted, it was about a failure to execute. The scary problem for the Cowboys is the explanation behind Door No. 2. Perhaps it’s a combination of poor play-calling and lack of execution. A mix such as that will make for a long season and considerable rethinking of Dallas’ offensive direction going forward.
“I have a tremendous amount of faith in Scott. We just have to do a better job collectively as a staff and as an offensive unit to help us move the football and score some points,” Garrett reasoned. “That starts with basic execution, play after play not beating ourselves and then finding ways to generate some big plays.”
Against the New York Giants (0-1) in Week 2, a Sunday prime time game at AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys hope to shed the sleepy start that doomed them against Carolina. Garrett defended the notion that the offense sputtered because most of the veteran starters did not play much in the preseason, specifically Elliott, who didn’t play at all.
“I think every team is dealing with the same kind of thing in Week 1. That’s a challenge you’ll always have,” he said.
The injuries to the offensive line, including center Travis Frederick, who is out with an autoimmune disease, also factored in the decision to keep Elliott and Prescott on the sideline.
“That’s a challenge every team has to deal with in the early part of the season, just continuity, playing together, communicating well together, and typically that impacts execution and we’ll keep working to make it better,” Garrett said.