Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys woes begin and end on third down

Reasons abound for the Cowboys going 2-3 in their last five games, turning a once formidable 6-1 mark into the currently 8-4 and rapidly trending down state of affairs.

But look no further than than the team’s struggles on third down. Through the first seven games, the Cowboys led the league in third-down conversions at a rate of 57.4 percent.

That rate has dropped to 34.5 percent the last five games, including a four of 12 mark in the 33-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving Day.

“I think you look at it and you evaluate it,” Coach Jason Garrett said. “You go on and on with every one of them. That’s what we do. Then you say, ‘OK, are there any trends here or do we just have to address this specific thing?’ We’ve been a good third down team for most of the year. A lot of that has been because we’ve been in somewhat manageable third downs. We’ve executed. We’ve spread the ball around, we protect it, we make good decisions, we make good plays on the other end of it. We just have to go back to doing that. You heard me say this the other day, we were four out of 12. If you convert one, two or three more of those, all of a sudden you’re back to where you’ve been most of the year. That’s the nature of this game. We got to find a way to make those plays.”

The Cowboys have been brutal on third downs in the three losses. They went five of 12 in the 20-17 overtime loss against the Redskins, three of 11 in the 28-17 loss to the Cardinals before the four of 12 mark against the Eagles.

“I think it always comes back to execution,” Garrett said. “We were so good on third downs. We haven’t been as good lately. There were some protection issues and then inefficient throwing the football or catching the football… Earlier on in the year, on third downs, we were making those plays. We haven’t made them lately. We have to get back to doing that. It’s critical to moving the football, obviously.”