By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys season officially ended during the divisional championship game against the Green Bay Packers. After going on a tear and winning every game since December started, the Cowboys luck finally ran out thanks to a bad call and some poor tackling by the Cowboys defense. Here is a look at the Cowboys team grades for their final game of the 2014 NFL season.
The Dallas Cowboys offense played well enough to win, but fell short on one very important play. Tony Romo was fantastic in the game, completing 15-of-19 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. It was a near perfect 143.6 quarterback rating. However, one of those four incompletions was where the game was decided. On a fourth and two in the fourth quarter, down by five, Romo launched a bomb to Dez Bryant.
It was a gutsy play, and it worked as Bryant leaped up and hauled in the pass. However, instead of just tucking the ball and going down at the one yard line, he reached the ball out to try to get it over the goal line. In doing so, the ball touched the ground, and upon review, the officials ruled it an incomplete pass. It was a horrible call, but was not the reason that Dallas lost the game.
It does have to be noted that, while Bryant made that great non-catch in the fourth quarter, he only caught three other balls in the game for 38 yards. For a playmaker who is in for a big contract, in one of the biggest games of the season, Bryant couldn’t seem to get open. Terrence Williams caught one pass for 38 yards and his third touchdown this postseason, but was injured in the second quarter and never caught another pass. Jason Witten finished the game as the lead receiver, with six catches for 71 yards.
DeMarco Murray is also in for a big contract in 2015. He did his part in the game, running the ball 25 times for 123 yards and a touchdown. He also added one catch for five yards in the game. It was a nice game by Murray, and for people who thought he was slowing down, he got stronger as the game wore on and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
This is what cost the Dallas Cowboys the game and ended their season against the Packers. Aaron Rodgers came into the game hurt, and couldn’t run or scramble, but he dissected the Cowboys defense for 216 yards and three touchdowns. Even more embarrassing for Dallas was that rookie Davonte Adams caught seven balls for 117 yards and Randall Cobb added eight receptions for 116 yards.
The big problem here is that Dallas was playing zone coverage and left the field open for short passes. Rodgers then completed those short passes and the Cowboys linebackers and secondary couldn’t tackle anyone. Receivers were breaking tackles and juking Cowboys defenders the entire game. This was, easily, the worst game Dallas has played defensively since Thanksgiving.
Even the run defense, which has been great all season, was non-existent as Eddie Lacy ran for 101 yards on 19 carries. Bruce Carter led the defense with nine tackles. DeMarcus Lawrence got the only sack of the game and Rolando McClain left early after a blow to the head. McClain suffered a concussion last week. The Cowboys did force one fumble, recovered by Jeremy Mincey, but that was the extent of their play.
Dan Bailey has been one of the most clutch kickers in the NFL this season. Against the Packers, early in the game, Bailey missed a 40+ yard attempt to the right. A penalty gave him another chance and he missed it again. He never got another chance and finished the game with three extra points.
Chris Jones punted the ball twice, once for a touchback and once for a fair catch. Dwayne Harris was below average on punt returns, only averaging 3.5 yards on his two returns, but was good on kick returns, averaging 23 yards on four returns.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. aExaminer.com.