Postgame schadenfreude, Which Jones Owns the Cowboys edition

This may be hard to believe for those of us who watched the Packers regularly lose to the Cowboys in Texas Stadium, but in AT&T Stadium Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are 4–0.

Win number four was Sunday’s 34–24 victory that keeps the Packers in first place in the NFC North. Even Cowboys fanboy Skip Bayless feigned being impressed:

Jean-Jacques Taylor found out 10 things, including …

— For now, the Cowboys are frauds — masters of the blowout win over inferior opponents and losses to the good teams they play such as New Orleans and Green Bay. These Cowboys no longer get the benefit of the doubt, and a win over the New York Jets next week isn’t going to change that. The Cowboys need a win over the Eagles heading into the bye week for us to feel good about this team. Anything less than 5-2 is a disaster.

— The front office believes in Dak Prescott. So do the coaches and players. Well, we’re about to see how he fights through the adversity of the last two losses. He’s not solely responsible for the losses by any stretch, but the quarterback gets the credit and the blame. His decision-making must be beyond reproach. It wasn’t Sunday. He could’ve thrown as many as five interceptions. He needs to fix that ASAP. …

— Green Bay running back Aaron Jones has five career 100-yard games. Two have come against the Cowboys. He has 20 career rushing touchdowns, and five have come against Dallas. The 2017 fifth-round pick from UTEP via El Paso Burges High School owns the Cowboys.

— Dak Prescott threw for a career-high 463 yards, including nine completions of 20 yards or more, against Green Bay. The 44 attempts were tied for fourth most of his career. That’s not how the Cowboys want to play. Dallas is 8-11 when Prescott throws more than 32 passes in a game. The Cowboys want to play a ball-control style and throwing it more than 40 times doesn’t allow them to do that. …

— The Cowboys sacked Aaron Rodgers twice. A less mobile quarterback may have gotten sacked three times as much. The Cowboys hit him five times and pressured him much of the first half but couldn’t quite tackle him. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 238 yards and an 85.2 passer rating. It was his worst passer rating against a Garrett-coached team. Surprise. …

— Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball just 12 times, tied for the second lowest of his career. The Cowboys fell behind 31-3 in the third quarter, ending their ability to run. Elliott carried the ball just three times in the second half. Against New Orleans, he had the third-worst output of his career. He’s running well, but the way the game has played out has rendered him ineffective. He would’ve easily run for 100 yards in a normal game with the way the Cowboys were gashing Green Bay’s defense.

— Brett Maher must go. He missed a key field goal with 1:44 left that robbed the Cowboys of an opportunity to try an onside kick. He also missed a 54-yard attempt at the end of the first half. He’s supposed to be a long-distance specialist — and he was kicking in a dome. The Cowboys can’t have much confidence in him. If it affects in any way how Garrett coaches, then Maher needs to get released.

It’s hard to figure out why Maher is struggling. The Packers’ Mason Crosby probably would love to kick at AT&T all the time, given his proclivity at 50-plus-yard field goals that turn out to be a DAGGER! for the home team.

Clarence E. Hill Jr. found out five things, including:

IS DAK PRESCOTT REGRESSING?

Quarterback Dak Prescott’s outstanding play was one of the league’s biggest stories through the first three games of the season. The Cowboys were 3-0, and he was putting up numbers that had him in early MVP conversations.

It was especially notable since the Cowboys are in negotiating a long-term contract extension with Prescott and his agents.

But that was before the last two outings, losses to the Saints and Packers that may cause some to wonder.

Prescott had no touchdowns and an interception in the 12-10 loss to the Saints before throwing a season-high three picks against the Packers.

The Cowboys trailed 31-3 before he rallied them back to 31-17 early in the fourth quarter. His third interception resulted in a Packers field goal to make it 34-17 and all but killed the Cowboys’ comeback.

Prescott’s overall numbers were spectacular, and give him credit for leading the Cowboys back, but this was not one of his better performances.

THE LOST FIRST HALF

The Cowboys trailed 17-0 at halftime to the Green Bay Packers, largely because a slew of mistakes by the offense and a lack of plays on defense. Amari Cooper dropped a pass that hit him both hands and turned into an interception. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw another interception that was a late throw to a crossing Randall Cobb. The defense didn’t tackle and helped drives with penalties. Kicker Brett Maher missed a 54-yard field goal.

The Cowboys offense moved the ball but just couldn’t get anything done. Prescott led the offense in Green Bay territory on four of six first-half possessions. Two ended with interceptions, another with a sack and another with the missed field goal. Cowboys fans booed them as they left the field, and the Packers fans in attendance chanted, “Go Pack Go.”

RUN DEFENSE AND POOR TACKLING

Green Bay running back Aaron Jones had 19 and 21 yards rushing in the Packers’ last two games, against the Eagles and Broncos. The Packers entered Sunday with the 26th ranked rushing offense, averaging 86 yards per game.

So what Jones did to the Cowboys was shocking. His first touchdown run of 18 yards was the longest run by the Packers all season. He added three more touchdown runs, becoming the first Packer to have at least three in a game since 2002.

That he waved goodbye to cornerback Byron Jones on his third score only added insult to the embarrassment. Jones ran untouched for much of the day, and when he didn’t, he broke tackles, ran through tackles and made the Cowboys’ vaunted linebacker corps miss, namely Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee.

Jones had 107 yards rushing on the day. His four touchdowns were most ever by one running back against a Cowboys defense in team history.

In fact, based on the Packers radio broadcast, the Packers fans were louder than the Cowboys fans, particularly after the last missed field goal.

Part of the Cowboys’ problem is their quarterback, according to Tim Cowlishaw:

Even on an afternoon when he throws for 225 more yards than the opposing quarterback, Dak Prescott still has much to learn from Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. The game was also a reminder to all of us who might think Prescott or Rodgers are showing themselves this season to be something other than what they have always been.

Not. So. Fast.

Rodgers didn’t even have to be the most productive Aaron in the Green Bay backfield Sunday, leaving running back Aaron Jones to score four touchdowns while rushing for 107 yards, but Rodgers still did all the significant things — mainly no interceptions and no costly sacks until the game was about out of reach but also some insane improvised throws — to lead a 34-24 upset win over the Cowboys.

Prescott did all the wrong things, even while throwing for a career-best 463 yards. It’s fair to mention that his first of three interceptions bounced off of Amari Cooper into the defender’s arms and that one could have argued for interference on the third interception. Then again, Prescott had another interception in the end zone overturned by penalty and there were at least two other up-for-grabs throws that Packers could have brought down.

In short, Dak Prescott is no Aaron Rodgers. That’s not exactly a sin and barely even a shortcoming, but with so many months having been exhausted discussing whether Prescott might become the game’s highest-paid quarterback, Sunday’s loss was instructive.

Five games into the season, the Cowboys are nothing more than a mystery. They beat two of the league’s worst winless teams — Washington and Miami — along with a 2-3 Giants team that’s likely to finish with a losing record. Against New Orleans, the Cowboys lost a tight defensive struggle on the road. Sunday’s defeat was far worse. Playing a team missing Rodgers’ security blanket, Davante Adams, the Cowboys fell behind 31-3 before they even thought about getting involved in the game.

“You have to play winning football,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “You can’t turn the ball over three times. You have to do a better job defending the run.”

We can debate whether or not Garrett actually won over some of his many detractors by not just showing emotion, but getting flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while spiking his challenge flag after officials missed a Cooper catch on the sidelines.

“All I can tell you is there was abusing language toward an official,” referee Ron Torbert told pool reporter Calvin Watkins. “That’s all I’m prepared to tell you.”

Prescott threw a 27-yard pass to Ezekiel Elliott on the next play, so it’s not as though Garrett’s penalty hurt the team. In fact, they might have played with more energy beyond that point, although, trailing 31-10 to start the fourth quarter, a team is expected to show at least a little something.

But if this team remains a mystery, it’s largely because the same can be said of its quarterback. He checks all the boxes when it comes to career record and most statistical measures. Still, the last two Sundays have at least suggested this team’s probably more closely related to the 10-6 or 9-7 clubs of the last two years than the 13-3 team that took the league by storm in Dak and Zeke’s rookie season.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was quick to point out that Prescott uses setbacks well, that he bounces back quickly and will lose no self-confidence over these last two defeats. But he was also quick to mention that Dak has thrown five interceptions against the Saints and Packers. One might question whether an overabundance of self-confidence is such a great thing under the circumstances.

Before halftime, trailing 17-0, it looked like Prescott might lead the Cowboys on a scoring drive. With Dallas set to receive the second-half kick, it was conceivable the club could cut Green Bay’s lead to 17-14 before Rodgers got back on the field to encourage more chants of “Go Pack Go” from the cheeseheads. But the drive bogged down at the Packers’ 36 and Brett Maher missed a 54-yard field goal.

Maher would basically put the wraps on this game by missing a 33-yarder just inside the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.

It was a game that showcased more weaknesses than the Cowboys thought they possessed. But on consecutive Sundays, in vastly different situations against good teams, the quarterback has been unable to pass or run the Cowboys out of trouble.

 

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