The Dallas Cowboys lost their regular season finale in spectacular fashion. It took total failure in all three phases of the game to produce their 26-6 loss to the Commanders. The loss sends them into the postseason on a low note and casts a cloud of doubt over an otherwise impressive 12-5 season.
Postgame, everyone said the right things. They recognized the failure, took accountability, and admitted they needed to better. But is it as easy as just flipping a switch like CeeDee Lamb suggested? What does recent history suggest as to how the Cowboys will respond?
Loss No. 1
The Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay was as bad as it comes. Not only was Dak Prescott injured in the 19-3 defeat, but he was horrific leading up to the injury. Prescott had a staggering -23 CPOE (completion percentage over expectation) and contributed a -12.6 EPA (expected points added).
Every Cowboy but Dalton Schultz and Ezekiel Elliott had a negative EPA on day giving very little hope that things would change much in Week 2 against the Bengals.
Yet, in Week 2 the Cowboys bounced back. With Cooper Rush at the helm, the Cowboys managed to do just enough to squeak by the defending AFC champs 20-17. It took a total team effort since, once again, the QB position produced a negative CPOE.
That was the first of four consecutive wins for the club ahead of their first matchup with Philadelphia.
Loss No. 2
Dallas’ next loss came at the hands of the Eagles in Week 6. In what would be Cooper Rush’s last game in relief of Prescott, the game wasn’t nearly as close as the 17-26 score indicated. Rush produced a negative EPA as well as a negative CPOE producing multiple turnovers and digging a hole the team could not get out of.
In Week 7, the Cowboys bounced back, beating the Lions 24-6. With Prescott back under center, Dallas played a smart and efficient game across the board. It wasn’t a drudging like many wanted but it was the first time all season Dallas tallied a positive EPA in all three phases of the game. It was a complete win, which Dallas then followed up with a dominating defeat of the Chicago Bears.
Loss No. 3
After the bye week, the Cowboys choked away a fourth quarter lead to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. By the numbers, it was the worst defense the Cowboys showed to-date, giving up steady yardage on the ground and chunk play after chunk play through the air.
Again, Dallas bounced back in big way, beating the Vikings in Minnesota 40-3. In what is generally regarded as the best win of the season, the Cowboys won on both sides of the ball and showed everyone how good this team could be when all cylinders are firing.
The win over Minnesota sparked another four-game winning streak that included a quick-turnaround contest against the Giants on Thanksgiving.
Loss No. 4
The overtime loss in Jacksonville stung in a way similar to the lost lead in Green Bay. The game was in hand but after scoring 34 points, the offense went flat. The main culprit in the loss was Dan Quinn’s defense. His once-heralded group gave up a season-worst 34 points (the game ended on a Pick-6), and showed many vulnerabilities alone the way.
Dallas flipped the script the next week with a 40-34 win against the Eagles in Week 16. It wasn’t the same level of “bounce back” previously seen after losses but it was higher effort performance with big time plays in big time moments.
How will the Cowboys handle this last loss?
History suggests the Cowboys will come back focused and energized. Not only have they never had back-to-back losses this season but their best games of the year seem to be games immediately following losses.
Most of the negative traits showed in said losses have had little carryover into the next week. The Cowboys bounce back. They focus. They flip a switch. They did it all season long so history suggests they’re more than capable of doing it again.