By Dwain Price
That bad dream which has apparently become the staple of the 2020 season for the Dallas Cowboys has unexpectedly turned into a recurring nightmare.
And the outlook for the remainder of this season took a major hit when backup quarterback Andy Dalton suffered a concussion during Sunday’s stunning 25-3 loss on the road to the Washington Football Team.
Meanwhile, the loss was the fourth in the last five games for the Cowboys as they continued to be spinning idly in the wrong direction.
“We’re ticked off,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “I feel everybody is tired of (the losing) and I feel like in order to do something about it we have to do it as a team.
“It is a little draining, but at the end of the day we’re professionals and we have to be able to bounce back and go out there and attack and do our job. I feel like it’s up to each and every one of us to hold each other accountable and face adversity head-on together.”
Other than a goal-line stance on Washington’s first possession of the game, the Cowboys fell flat on their faces when they faced adversity head-on.
Washington entered the game having the (dis)honor of owning the NFL’s worst rushing offense at 82 yards per game. But by halftime Washington had already accumulated 252 total yards, 125 rushing yards and 22 points – all of which were first-half season-highs for Washington.
It was as if Washington reached into the Halloween candy basket and got whatever sweet and sour candy they wanted. And from the Cowboys’ perspective, that left a sour taste in their mouth.
“We frankly talked about at halftime about the ‘here we go again’ mode on the sidelines, and we’ve got to move past that,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re not doing the basics.
“Let’s quick candy-coating it. I can’t stand up here and keep talking about taking care of the football and taking the ball away – just the fundamentals. We need to be much better, and we’re running out of time.”
Dalton’s day ended with 6:22 left in the third quarter when, after scrambling out of the pocket and giving himself up by sliding at the end of the play, he was plastered illegally in the head by Washington linebacker Jon Bostic. Although Bostic was rightfully ejected from the game because of that dirty play, McCarthy didn’t take too kindly to the fact that none of the Cowboy players came to Dalton’s defense by at least confronting Bostic.
“We speak all the time about playing for one another, protecting one another,” McCarthy said. “So that play was probably not the response that you would expect.”
Running back Ezekiel Elliott somewhat agreed with McCarthy.
“I think you can say that’s fair,” said Elliott, who rushed 12 times for 45 yards. “But doing that you’ve got to be careful, because we’re already down a bunch of guys, and if you go in there and throw a punch and you get kicked out the game you can’t help the team from the sideline.”
Griffen said of Bostic’s violent helmet-to-helmet hit on Dalton, “I think he’s going to get fined, and he should. I feel like if you see a quarterback sliding you just got to let him go down to the ground.”
Earlier last week, two Cowboy players anonymously told Jane Slater of the NFL Network that the coaching staff is “totally unprepared,” and that, “They don’t teach. They don’t have any sense of adjusting on the fly.”
Whatever the case, Washington compiled a season-high 208 yards rushing, Washington rookie running back Antonio Gibson rushed 20 times for a career-high 128 yards and a touchdown, and the Cowboys finished the game with just 142 total yards.
Washington held a commanding 22-3 lead at the half. It was the sixth consecutive game where the Cowboys have allowed at least 20 points in the first half, and the sixth straight game they’ve trailed by at least 14 points at halftime.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, starting quarterback Dak Prescott, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury three games ago, can’t come to their rescue.
“The only ones who is going to pull us out of the hole is us as a football team,” McCarthy said. “We’ve got to be able to keep playing, keep playing to win, playing not to make a mistake.
“We know we needed to play the game a certain way (Sunday) and we did not get that done.”
After Dalton’s departure, Ben DiNucci suddenly found himself in the middle of a very hot frying pan while playing his first-ever NFL game. A rookie seventh-round draft choice out of James Madison University, DiNucci finished the game completing 2-of-3 passes for 39 yards and was sacked three times after Dalton was 9-of-19 for 75 yards and also was sacked three times.
“If you would have told me a year ago that this is where I was going to be in a year, I think I would have said, ‘No way, you’d have to pinch me,’ “ DiNucci said. “But here we are, it’s 2020, no one really knows what to expect.
“This team drafted me for a reason and coach McCarthy brought me here for a reason. So if my number is called in the future I’m going to make sure that I do everything that I can to keep this show on the road and make sure that the other guys in the locker got as much faith in me out there as No. 4 (Dak Prescott) and No. 14 (Andy Dalton).”
Things were so bad for the Cowboys that other than the seven receptions for 80 yards by Amari Cooper, no other Dallas wide receiver caught a pass. Also, the three points the Cowboys scored are the fewest ever in their storied history against Washington.
“We got to just find a way to go get a win,” Elliott said. “I feel like once we get a win and we get some momentum we’ll be able to stack success. But we’ve got to be better than we were (Sunday).”
The Cowboys are 2-5 on the season, but are only half-a-game behind the Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1) for first place in the NFC East. That makes this Sunday’s 7:20 p.m. showdown in Philadelphia between the Cowboys and Eagles all the more important as the Cowboys try to right a ship that’s treading an enormous amount of water.
“Whether it’s we haven’t had enough time together, or whatever the case is, but at the end of the day the schedule is set,” McCarthy said. “And we need to continue to work, because we need improvement each day, each week, especially before we go to Philadelphia.”