Grading Every Cowboys Unit In Heartbreaker Vs. The Packers

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The Dallas Cowboys loss to the Green Bay Packers was easily their worst defeat so far in the 2022 season. Was one facet of the team particularly to blame, or was the failure a group effort? We’ll break that down with the grades from Week 10.

Cowboys Offense: C-

You could look at 429 total offensive yards and four touchdowns and think it was a good day. But while the Cowboys did move the ball well at times, poor situational execution and turnovers contributed heavily to the loss.

QB Dak Prescotts day was a good illustration of this. While 265 passing yards and three touchdowns were nice, the production came too sporadically and not in the moments when Dallas needed it most. It was a bad afternoon for Dak’s defenders in terms of how he performed in the clutch and when facing pressure in the pocket. While his two interceptions were clearly traced to mistakes by the receivers, Prescott was also not sharp at other points. He was mostly to blame for the two 3-and-outs to start the game, which set a bad tone right away.

While WR CeeDee Lamb had one of his best career games overall, a poor choice on one of his routes led to one of the interceptions. Lamb’s 150 receiving yards and two touchdowns were great to see after his quiet start to the year, but we still are left waiting for his chemistry with Prescott to go to that next level. You just haven’t seen Dak and CeeDee exerting their will on defenses the way that other QB/WR combos in the league are known for.

Tony Pollard had another good day as the starting RB, rushing for 115 yards and a touchdown with Ezekiel Elliott inactive. We also saw a few nice runs from backup Malik Davis, who could get more touches in the coming weeks if Zeke continues to sit. The only thing that seemed to be holding these guys back was the playcalling, which we’ll definitely get to in a bit.

Between untimely penalties and some poor pass blocking at times, the offensive line wasn’t at its best either. It was far from their worst play but the lack of offensive rhythm is partially due to their inconsistency. After some early-season chatter that maybe Dallas didn’t need OT Tyron Smith to come back, now we’re anxiously awaiting the veteran’s return to hopefully improve the pass protection and get Tyler Smith back over to guard.

Sometimes the box score is deceiving in the other direction; low production but making the big plays when needed. Unfortunately, we got the reverse of that on Sunday. And given that this Packers defense had been far from good before Week 10, it makes the performance all the more disappointing.

Cowboys Defense: F

While the offense had a few positives to help their case, there’s really nothing for the defense to hang its hat on from this game. Once again they were dominated by the running backs and let Aaron Rodgers find his smile. It was a complete collapse for a supposedly elite group.

Green Bay’s backs had 203 yards on 37 carries. That ground game helped make life easier for Rodgers after a rough start to their year, who still put up 224 passing yards and three touchdowns on just 14 passes. WR Christian Watson became an overnight sensation, catching all three of those scoring passes. We even reminded the world that Sammy Watkins was still in the league.

The one guy not culpable here was CB Trevon Diggs, who was only thrown on one time all game. But if Rodgers was giving Diggs the old Deion treatment, then that makes the rest of Dallas’ defense all the more disappointing. Again, we’ll get to the coaching here shortly. But the players also bear plenty of blame, whether it’s Anthony Brown’s poor overall play this year, dumb penalties like Donovan Wilson’s late hit on the sideline, or Micah Parsons’ surprising lack of impact.

We’re all entitled to a bad day at the office, and this defense has certainly been the key to Dallas’ six wins so far in 2022. But that can’t excuse the total no-show they gave us in Green Bay.

Cowboys Special Teams: B

There wasn’t much here to complain about, but also not much to be praised. Brett Maher was only asked to hit extra points and Bryan Anger was solid on his five punts. They did their jobs but circumstances didn’t really make for any outstanding moments. KaVontae Turpin’s 36-yard return on the opening kickoff was a nice play for him on an otherwise quiet day.

The biggest special teams play came when C.J. Goodwin forced a fumble on a punt return, which was recovered by Luke Gifford. It helped make up for another 3-and-out from Dallas on its first possession of the second, with the next drive going for a touchdown.

Cowboys Coaches: F

We’ve been praising these coaches all year for how Dallas has overcome adversity. But entering this game off a bye week and with momentum, plus with the Packers on a five-game losing streak, this was a time for the Cowboys to play from a position of strength. Instead, they looked unprepared early and then wilted in the clutch; an ugly game for the guys responsible for strategy and motivation.

Despite his run game averaging 5.6 yards per carry and with consistent production, not just one big play, Kellen Moore stubbornly refused to lean on it and tried forcing the issue through the air. As I said in my postgame rant, it’s almost like Moore and Prescott are trying to prove something now after the Cooper Rush run. But their refusal to play fundamental football was a key reason that Dallas allowed the Packers to come back from a 28-14 deficit.

But at least Moore’s group did something out there, which is more than you could say for Dan Quinn’s defense. The gaudy sack numbers aren’t so meaningful when you’re getting decimated on the ground, and Quinn has yet to find an answer after weeks of awful run defense. He may simply not have the personnel right now to do it, but you can’t enjoy all the praise and not then be blamed for an ongoing issue. One of the marks of great coaches is how they figure it out when times are tough.

I’m not going to kill Mike McCarthy for the decision to go for it in overtime. Those were not ideal kicking conditions and, as we saw on the next drive, Green Bay had no trouble marching the field. Do we really think Aaron Rodgers doesn’t find the endzone there if he’d needed to?

That said, McCarthy deserves plenty of blame for the flat, listless play of the team right from kickoff. From Mike’s personal story with Green Bay to the Cowboys’ overall situation in the NFC East, there should have been no issue getting these guys ready to play. But this team played fat and happy coming out of the bye and that falls squarely at the feet of the head coach.