The Dallas Cowboys’ timing couldn’t be worse after their 19-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tyron Smith still can’t get past a nagging ankle injury.
Amari Cooper is on the COVID-19 reserve list.
CeeDee Lamb now has a head injury.
Demarcus Lawrence is still trying to work his way off injured reserve.
Randy Gregory and Neville Gallimore are still on injured reserve.
Did I miss anyone? Oh, Kelvin Joseph was out with a personal matter.
"Next man up!" is a cute cliche. But there comes a point in any team’s season in which the balance of your injuries can’t be overcome by the depth and talent on your team.
The Cowboys have reached that point.
As good as Dak Prescott is, he can’t elevate an offense that is missing its top two receiving targets and its perennial All-Pro left tackle. Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones had a career afternoon with three and a half sacks. That seems to keep happening when Smith is out. Prescott wasn’t sharp. The Chiefs’ pressure had something to do with that. The Cowboys also dropped four passes.
If Michael Gallup was looking for an opportunity to show teams around the NFL that he’s worth big money in 2022, he blew it. This was the perfect chance for him to go up and make plays. Well, Prescott targeted him 10 times and he caught five of them for only 44 yards. Dalton Schultz and Ezekiel Elliott led the Cowboys with six receptions each.
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The Cowboys ran the ball just 16 times, and without Smith they gained just 82 yards. Elliott may have been banged up; that knee is a nagging thing, and it gort rolled up on. But he finished the game.
The Cowboys’ defense was solid within the context of this game. They forced the Chiefs into field goals most of the night. The Chiefs scored just two touchdowns and Dallas held Patrick Mahomes without a scoring pass, nothing to dismiss. The Cowboys forced two turnovers. The thing is the Chiefs’ defense forced three turnovers.
An NFL season is like a stress test, honestly. Every week you stretch the rubber band and you see how much your team can stretch. Most weeks, the rubber band stretches back.
On Sunday the Cowboys’ rubber band snapped.
Now, in four days, they host Las Vegas. If the Cowboys were relatively healthy, like they were a month ago, we probably wouldn’t worry too much. But if they walk into AT&T Stadium THIS banged up, well, Las Vegas can win that game.
Plus, this isn’t like the old days when the Cowboys played on Thanksgiving and got the equivalent of a second bye week. The NFL has taken to scheduling the Cowboys the following Thursday in recent years (because everyone has to play one Thursday night game) and they’ll be on the road against the Saints. I’m betting Saints running back Alvin Kamara will be healthy by then. And you may laugh at Trevor Siemian, but he’s put in quality work for the Saints in place of Jameis Winston.
And you may profess no concern about the NFC East’s second-place team, the Philadelphia Eagles. But, if you haven’t been paying attention, let me put this on your radar. The Eagles have won three of their last four games and their next two games are against the New York Giants and the New York Jets.
Let’s say the Cowboys lose their next two, which, with their injury issues and the opponents is possible. That would make the Cowboys 7-5. Let’s say the Eagles win the next two, which is certainly possible. The Eagles would be 7-6.
Like I said, the timing couldn’t be worse, especially when the Cowboys end the season with the Eagles in Philly.
The Cowboys need to get healthy and they need to get right, or that NFC East title that everyone though was a lead-pipe lock just a couple of weeks ago may go the way of the rubber band.
You can reach Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.