Three thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 33-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday:
I think that everything Jason Garrett has done to change his team’s mentality and get them to focus only on the task at hand will be tested next Thursday against Chicago. Lose this game and it could trigger a free fall that leads to yet another December swoon. Win the game in a difficult environment and the Cowboys will have proved something to themselves.
I think play-caller Scott Linehan might want to use some first-down play-action passes just to create a little impetus for the offense. Linehan has done a terrific job much of the year, but the Cowboys have struggled on third down recently. Instead of relying on converting third downs -- even if they’re manageable -- the Cowboys might be served by trying to notch some first downs on first or second down instead of having to convert third-down plays.
I think it’s incredibly hard to play defense with no semblance of a pass rush. The Cowboys can generate some pressure, when they play with a lead. Other than that, they give opposing quarterbacks way too much time to complete passes.
Key stat: 7
The Cowboys have allowed seven scoring drives on their opponents’ first possession of the game. No team has allowed more. And no team has allowed more than the five touchdowns the Cowboys have given up on their first possession.
This is a trend that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli really has to solve because it affects the Cowboys’ ability to play the game the way they want to play it. Dallas is at its best when it has the lead and uses its strong running game to dominate time of possession, which puts pressure on the opposing offense.
Player to Watch: free safety J.J. Wilcox
Wilcox continues to improve, but the reality is he’s not the kind of player the Cowboys would pick if he were available in this year’s draft.
That’s not a knock on Wilcox, but it’s an example of the way the Cowboys have changed their thought process about the draft over the past couple of years. The Cowboys prefer productive players from big schools.
Wilcox played safety for one year at Georgia Southern before the Cowboys took him in the third round because they had a need at that position.
Wilcox has emerged as a full-time starter this season, and he’d be better if the Cowboys used him in the box instead of free safety. He still makes some mistakes of youth, but Wilcox is becoming more of a physical presence each week.
He had 10 tackles against Philadelphia, and delivered a couple of big hits. He’s been solid, but the Cowboys need him to be better in the last four games of the season.