4 most costly offensive turnovers from Cowboys 2020 season

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Zeke Barrera
·5 min read
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The 2020 season was a wild ride for the Dallas Cowboys, featuring plenty of ups and downs to keep a bizarre and lost year at least somewhat interesting. One of the most frustrating things about last season’s team was how frequently their offensive feats were overshadowed by costly mistakes and memorable implosions. Dallas frequently found themselves trailing in games, putting themselves in tough positions, desperately needing to rally. Most of the time, they came up short, showing only glimpses of the team they could be in the process.

After looking back at the Cowboys’ five best offensive plays by EPA from last year, next is their five worst turnovers by EPA. These are the moments where the Dallas offense stumbled the most, turning the ball over at crucial times and doing their opponents big favors. These moments are painful, and may feel like new to those who might’ve blocked them out since the season ended.

EPA data via nflindex.com.

No. 5 - Week 5 vs Giants, QB Andy Dalton's fourth quarter botched snap: -6.07 EPA

Their fifth-most costly turnover last year came in a game the Cowboys actually won. That there's another turnover from this game which also appears on this list is perhaps telling of how they really shouldn't have won, but that's just how things were in the first five weeks of 2020 for Dallas: absolute madness. Here, the sting of losing Dak Prescott was still fresh. Andy Dalton managed to finish off the drive Prescott started to extend the Cowboys lead, but early in the fourth quarter, a botched snap between he and rookie Tyler Biadasz at their own 19-yard line nearly cost them the game. https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1315429714740293632 Five plays later, the Giants scored the go-ahead touchdown, and converted the 2PA to go up 34-31 with 8:46 left. Fortunately, that was enough time for Dallas to eek out two Greg Zuerlein field goals in between a Giants punt to win the game as time expired. It was a feel-good result, but also foreboding for what was still to come for Dallas.

No. 4 - Week 3 @ Seattle, QB Dak Prescott strip-sacked to open second half: -6.67 EPA

Even before he went down, Prescott wasn't immune from the turnover bug. The Cowboys offense was churning out plenty of yards, points, and plays early in the year, but also gave opposing defenses lots of opportunities in the process. While Prescott accounted for 13 total touchdowns in five games (nine passing, three rushing, one receiving), he also uncharacteristically turned it over seven times, throwing four picks and losing three fumbles over that same stretch. This one was a tough play to open the second half, in what was a winnable game against Seattle. Guard Connor Williams gets beat by DT Jarran Reed, who uses his long arms to poke the ball out of Prescott's hands, just as he's about to uncork his throw downfield. The ball gently lands in the hands of former Cowboys DE Benson Mayowa, who returns it 13 years to set Seattle up at the Cowboys 5. https://twitter.com/Seahawks/status/1310345217560571904 Seattle promptly scored to go up 30-15, in a game they eventually won by a single TD, 38-31. Who knows how this shootout would've ended if the Cowboys hadn't shot themselves in the foot to begin the second half.

No. 3 - Week 12 vs Washington, QB Andy Dalton intercepted by DE Montez Sweat, returned for TD: -7.98 EPA

Washington really pounded the Cowboys in both their divisional matchups last year, even going so far as to lay Dalton out with a dirty hit in Week 7. Dalton didn't fare much better in the Thanksgiving Day rematch five weeks later, throwing for just 215 yards on 25 of 35 passing. He kept Dallas close until things fell apart in the fourth quarter, when Washington scored 21 straight points to blow the game open. The final nail in the coffin came via a DE Montez Sweat, who turned into J.J. Watt by skying up and snatching a pass intended for Ezekiel Elliott, and returned it 15 yards for his first career touchdown. https://twitter.com/SNFonNBC/status/1332122419570610176 The Cowboys are 1-3 in their last four Thanksgiving Day games.

No. 2 - Week 5 vs Giants, QB Dak Prescott intercepted by LB Kyler Fackrell, returned for TD: -8.84

Back to that fateful Week 5 game against the Giants, Dallas trailed early, in no small due to this 46-yard interception returned for a touchdown by LB Kyler Fackrell. The intended target was once again Elliott, but this time Prescott overthrew him, and no one on the offense was able to bring down Fackrell as he barreled toward the end zone. https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1315394880194084868 By Week 5, this routine was already wearing thin, where the Cowboys dug themselves in an early hole and desperately tried to pull themselves out. They were behind 17-3 in the first half of this one, before roaring back with 21 second quarter points to carry a 24-20 lead into halftime. However, this game was far from over, as detailed previously in turnover No. 5.

No. 1 - Week 8 @ Philadelphia, QB Ben DiNucci strip-sacked, returned for Eagles touchdown

Finally, the worst Dallas turnover last year came courtesy of rookie QB Ben DiNucci, and from the officials, who maybe just wanted this train wreck to be over. DiNucci Fever briefly swept over Cowboys Nation heading into their Week 8 Sunday Night showdown against Philadelphia, as many held out hope that the Cowboys stuck gold yet again with a QB plucked out of relative obscurity. However, his first start was basically an impossible task, and ended with this fumble being inexplicably returned 53-yards for a touchdown, turning what was a six-point game into 13-point deficit with just over five minutes remaining. https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1323114121764634624 It was an admirable effort from DiNucci, the former FSC QB and seventh round pick who was asked to start just eight games into his professional career. The less than ideal circumstances of the 2020 season left many teams desperate for QBs, as players like Taylor Heinicke, John Wolford, Ryan Finley, Jake Luton, and Kendall Hinton were each called on to line up under center. But DiNucci Mane did it first, and at least stepped up when Dallas needed him.

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