But in reality, it is over. And maybe it has been over for weeks now. Maybe it ended when the Cowboys lost quarterback Dak Prescott for the season in October.
The Cowboys continued to hang on to the notion that anything was possible considering the lackluster play of the NFC East, that everything was still in front of them and they just needed to put it all together.
They can continue to say that if they want — they are just two games out of first place — but it will ring hollow. This is a bad team that does bad things and will be looking at a top-five pick in next spring’s NFL draft.
The Cowboys have lost six of their past seven games and are guaranteed their first losing record since 2015. In his past 40 games, Mike McCarthy’s teams are 14-25-1.
After a 12-day break because of the Ravens’ COVID-19 outbreak, the Cowboys’ defense looked like a unit that had not practiced at all. How else to explain giving up three rushes of at least 30 yards in the first half? The Cowboys allowed more than 200 yards on the ground for the fourth time this season, the most in the NFL. There have been 24 other 200-yard rushing games allowed this season.
It wasn’t as bad as allowing a franchise-record 307 yards rushing to the Cleveland Browns in Week 4, but it was close. Baltimore finished with 294 yards on the ground, led by Gus Edwards‘ 101 yards. He needed seven carries. Lamar Jackson had 94 yards on 13 carries. J.K. Dobbins had 71 yards on 11 carries.
Alas, it is not as bad as 2000, when the Cowboys had five games in which they allowed at least 200 yards rushing. But they do have four games left.
The Cowboys’ offense was functional, but still not explosive. The struggles in the red zone continued (2-of-4). Andy Dalton was sacked just once, but he did not have a completion of more than 19 yards until the final minute of the game. He was also intercepted in the second quarter, which the Ravens turned into a one-play touchdown drive. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Cowboys have been outscored 120-28 in points off turnovers. Their minus-92 point margin is the largest in the league.
Some wonder if the Cowboys should tank the rest of their games. How would anybody know if they did?
Biggest hole in the game plan: This might not be the biggest hole in a game that was such a disaster, but why didn’t Ezekiel Elliott get the ball more? He had more yards in the first quarter than he had in the entire Thanksgiving loss to Washington. In the third quarter, he opened the series with runs of 14 and 3 yards and was pulled in favor of Tony Pollard. While Pollard has done a nice job of filling in at times for Elliott, Tuesday was not one of those nights. Elliott was decisive in his runs and was able to break some tackles.
Troubling trend: Greg Zuerlein entered Tuesday having made eight straight field goals and hit a 31-yarder in the first quarter. He missed a 40-yarder in the second quarter (after a delay of game penalty), a 53-yarder in the third quarter and a 52-yarder in the fourth quarter. He entered the game with three misses on the season. Once known as “Greg the Leg,” Zuerlein is 1-of-6 on field goal attempts of 50 yards or more this season. His five misses from 50-plus are tied for the most in the NFL. When a team has no margin for error, the kicker just can’t miss.