Apparently, practice doesn’t always make perfect.
Following his team’s 38-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday, Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters, “I felt like the preparation coming into the game was probably our best so far this year, but obviously that doesn’t account for anything, particularly after a performance like tonight.”
That may be the case, but the Cowboys looked incapable of keeping up with the Cardinals on either side of the ball.
The Cowboys looked lost without the injured Dak Prescott behind center, and many of their struggles can be traced back to fundamental mistakes.
Ezekiel Elliott fumbled twice in the first half, which set the tone for the rest of the game as Arizona took advantage. Michael Gallup dropped a touchdown pass in the first half, and penalties—such as a CeeDee Lamb block in the back when the team was in field-goal range—undercut scoring opportunities.
On defense, even an excellent week of preparation wasn’t enough to cover up the Cowboys’ flaws.
They entered play dead-last in the league in points allowed per game (36.0) and could not stop the run. Kenyan Drake exploded for 164 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Kyler Murray added 74 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
That forced Dallas to play closer to the line of scrimmage, which opened up the deep ball. Murray’s 80-yard strike to Christian Kirk in the second quarter made it a three-score game and all but ended the competitive portion of the contest.
The one thing going for the 2-4 Cowboys is the fact they are in the NFC East and still sit atop the division. The 1-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles are in second place, meaning it may only take a handful of additional wins for Dallas to wrap up a playoff spot.
That can serve as a motivating factor as the team prepares for its next game—at Washington on Sunday—and attempts to avoid a fate similar to Monday’s.