The Dallas Cowboys lost in heartbreaking fashion but the future is bright. Here are some reflections following the game and season.
The Dallas Cowboys lost in an instant-classic to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, and it left Cowboys Nation heartbroken. Looking past the devastation, there is a lot of things to look forward to as a fan of the Cowboys.
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If I had told you that the Cowboys would be tied at 31-31 with .35 seconds to go, most people would have been thrilled considering that at one point the team trailed by 18 points. This young Dallas team did exactly what they have been hyping up for the last month: fight. They fought their to the bitter end, and came up just short against one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
As a fan you all can take a lot of pride in the way this team responded at every turn in the game. I would like to start with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. Early in the second quarter just about everybody was screaming for veteran quarterback Tony Romo to enter the game after the Cowboys went down 21-3. Head coach Jason Garrett stuck with Prescott, and that decision is going to pay huge dividends in the future.
Not only did Prescott respond beautifully, he threw for more touchdowns than any rookie ever has in a playoff game, and willed his team back into the game. It wasn’t always pretty for Prescott and the Cowboys, but with him it doesn’t have to be. He can take the ugly and turn it into points, and often times turn it into a victory. Lost in all the devastation is how monumental this comeback was and how Dak has now cemented himself as the quarterback for America’s Team.
Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Dez Bryant also played huge roles in this game and reaffirmed that the new triplets for the Cowboys will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Both players eclipsed the 100 yard mark, and Bryant scored two touchdowns in the game.
Another player that really caught my eye was safety Jeff Heath. I believe that Heath should be a starter on this team. It appears that every time he is called upon to enter the game he comes up with a huge play. For a team that is desperately in need of defensive play makers, they may have one right under their nose that isn’t getting enough playing time.
The coaching staff is going to have a lot of sleepless nights coming up when they watch this film. They let so many opportunities slip through their fingertips and I hope they learn from them going forward. Not using Zeke enough in short yardage situations, bad clock management, and a poor defensive game plan all plagued this team and the coaching staff plays a huge role in that.
It’s easy to second-guess defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli after the game, but his lack of adjustments in the first half and late in the fourth quarter was troubling. Marinelli is a master motivator and gets a lot out of less talented players, but his scheme seems obsolete in the NFL and his unit broke at the worst possible time on the year. Huge improvements on that side of the ball are desperately needed.
As this team prepares for the off-season it is not going to be an easy task to get back to this point next year. I believe the young nucleus on this team will keep this squad competitive for years to come, but this team is losing a lot of key pieces and has a limited amount of cap space. It’s my hope that they figure a way out to capitalize on this young team’s potential before they squander away another half-decade trying to figure it out.
I remember the 2007 Divisional Playoffs like it was yesterday and everybody thought that team would return and win many championships. Many people feel the same way about this team. I will agree that there is a lot more positives about this team than that 2007 squad, but nothing is guaranteed in this league.
The one huge thing going for this entire organization is the 2016 draft class may end up being the best in franchise history. While the disappointment is very real and emotions are running high right now, the future does look bright for the Dallas Cowboys. Hopefully they take the next step next year and get to the mountaintop.