What We Learned: Injuries caught up to Cowboys, troubling Thanksgiving trend

The Dallas Cowboys lost for the third time in four games and everything has gone wrong for them at the wrong time. Quarterback Dak Prescott hasn’t been the same since missing time with a calf injury. The offensive line gets a new starting five weekly it seems, and the defensive line is out so many players their best edge rusher is actually LB Micah Parsons. The Cowboys are now in a race with the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East, and it’s time for them to turn it around.

Unfortunately this has been a trend for Dallas under Prescott. Dallas has never made the playoffs when they had a losing record during the three-games-in-11-days stretch culminating in the Thanksgiving holiday.

In 2016, and 2018 Dallas swept all 3 games in that time period and won the division twice. In 2017 they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles and the then San Diego Chargers by a combined score of 65-15. In 2019 the Cowboys were swept by the New England Patriots, the Buffalo Bills, and the Chicago Bears. In 2020, an Andy Dalton lead Dallas team beat the Minnesota Vikings before losing to the Washington Football team by 25, and the Baltimore Ravens by 17. They were home watching the playoffs all three of those seasons.

If the Cowboys can’t fix this trend, they will be watching the playoffs from home yet again, and it will have been 26 years since the Cowboys had made an NFC Championship Game, let alone the Super Bowl.

A team can learn a lot from their first losing streak of the year, and here are some examples of what we learned about this team.

Injuries finally caught up to the Dallas Cowboys team

Winning in the NFL isn’t easy, and it gets more difficult every time a team loses a player to injury, or suspension. Hugely impactful stars such as Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence missing games is clearly a problem everybody can see, but an accumulation of role players going down can be just as devastating. The Cowboys have had to deal with both.

The defensive line is struggling to get pressure besides Micah Parsons with the injuries to Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. Parsons and two other players had one quarterback sack each, he had as many tackles for a loss as the rest of the defense combined, and he had five QB hits, which was more than double the rest of the team combined.

The linebacker core has also struggled since Parsons has had to move to the edge position. Team speed, playmaking, and physicality is woefully absent without Parsons at that position. The interior of the defensive line is down Brent Urban and Neville Gallimore and they impact the linebackers as well. The opposition’s offensive line has an easier time getting up field without the starting defensive tackles to eat up blocks.

Cooper went out with COVID, missing two games at the same time Lamb missed one with a concussion and tight end Blake Jarwin went on IR with a hip injury. The missing pass catchers have taken a toll on the offensive performance.

All these contributors, whether stars, starters, or rotational pieces being out makes the Cowboys have to try and be perfect to win, and that is not easily accomplished. Dallas is getting multiple stars back from being out as early as next Thursday against the Saints. The team is hoping they can cause a resurgence for a struggling team right now.

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