As difficult as it might be, as far away as it might seem, coach Mike McCarthy is thinking of the day his Dallas Cowboys’ tenure turns around.
Sunday’s 23-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles might not be the low point. What kind of realistic expectations could there be for a team starting its third different quarterback — a 2020 seventh-round pick, no less — in four games?
Ben DiNucci earned some high praise from running back Ezekiel Elliott: “He was fearless. Didn’t blink.” But DiNucci threw for 180 yards on 21-of-40 passing. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass and he wasn’t intercepted, but he was sacked four times and lost two fumbles. On passes thrown more than 5 yards down the field, he completed 6 of 20 attempts for 68 yards. On attempts more than 10 yards downfield, he was 0-of-9.
The result was a Cowboys offense that failed to score a touchdown for the second straight game, something that has happened four times in franchise history.
For McCarthy, his team now 2-6, this is the first time he has had a team go consecutive games without a touchdown in his head-coaching career.
“I think like anything in life, the game of football will teach you humility in every form or fashion you can imagine,” McCarthy said. “To me, it’s just part of the course of the season; it’s part of our challenge. I believe we will be better off because of these hard times.”nfl nike jerseys for cheap
McCarthy was hired because of his offensive acumen. He has presided over some of the best offenses in football with quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers with the Green Bay Packers. He had success as the New Orleans Saints’ offensive coordinator with Aaron Brooks as his quarterback.
One of the first decisions he made as the Cowboys’ coach was to keep Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator and playcaller, and it does not seem like he will make a change in his plan. The return of quarterback Andy Dalton (concussion) against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS) should help pick up the offense. Should. Not necessarily will.
Since Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the third quarter of the Cowboys’ Oct. 11 win against the New York Giants, Dalton and DiNucci have started 36 possessions and the offense has recorded one touchdown and seven field goals.
The touchdown — a Dalton pass to Amari Cooper — came with 2:52 left in the Oct. 19 loss to the Arizona Cardinals when the score was 31-3. A McCarthy-coached team has never scored fewer than three touchdowns in a three-game span, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“It is frustrating,” Elliott said. “But it’s something we’ve got to fix. It just starts with protecting the quarterback and protecting the ball. We’ve just got to find a way to make a couple of more plays.”
Against the Eagles, the Cowboys dug deep into their bag of tricks. Elliott lined up as a quarterback in the Wildcat formation. Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who has as many touchdown passes as Dalton, lined up at quarterback as well. The Cowboys had a double reverse and a fake reverse.nfl nike jerseys cheap china
At a key juncture in the third quarter, they called another reverse to Wilson, who had the option to pass, but the Cowboys failed to block Fletcher Cox and Wilson was dropped for a 10-yard loss. Greg Zuerlein’s subsequent 52-yard field goal try sailed wide right.
“When you have a drive where you’re running it good and you try to hit a play like that, obviously when it doesn’t work, it can be frustrating,” McCarthy said. “But we had some deceptions in the game plan. Frankly, we have it in every week and probably called more of them. But those are plays you try to set up, and at the end of the day, timing and execution is a part of it.”
The last time the Cowboys seemed this futile was in the first three games of Elliott’s six-game suspension in 2017. Left tackle Tyron Smith missed two of the three games. The Cowboys lost three straight to the Atlanta Falcons, Eagles and San Diego Chargers and were outscored 92-22.