Dallas Cowboys Denied Trip to Playoffs and NFC East Title as Eagles Seal Fate with Win Over Giants

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (26) is stopped by Dallas Cowboys defenders on a run during the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

The Dallas Cowboys resoundingly outplayed a three-win Washington team at AT&T Stadium on Sunday.

No one knew through three-plus quarters if that would be enough for a mediocre Dallas team to sneak into the playoffs as the leader of a struggling NFC East.

It wasn’t.

Philadelphia’s 34-17 win meant the Cowboys season ended Sunday. Dallas’ 47-16 win over the Redskins didn’t change that. The Cowboys squandered control of the division for the first time all season last week. Jason Garrett may have squandered control of the job he’s held since 2010. No team has defended the NFC East title in more than a decade.

Here are three things we learned during the Cowboys win:

1. Jason Garrett decision time: Technically, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones need not even fire his head coach of the last decade. Jason Garrett entered 2019 on the final season of a five-year contract. Jones wanted Garrett to take a seemingly talented roster farther than last year’s 10-6, divisional-round-exit team. Instead, Dallas failed to win consecutive games after September. Garrett finished 8-8 for the fourth time in his tenure, also failing to make the playoffs in consecutive years.

“You don’t want to be consistently mediocre,” he said earlier in the week. But his Cowboys teams often were. Jones hasn’t hid that he was seriously considering whether to make a change after this year. If so, Garrett leaves Dallas with an 85-67 record.

2. Where was this passing game last week? Sure, the Redskins defense ranked 25th and didn’t suit up top tackler Landon Collins. But the Eagles defense was plenty battered last week when the Cowboys failed to score a touchdown in a 17-9 loss. Quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t practice either week with an injured right shoulder. Prescott opened the Redskins game similarly flat, his first 10 pass attempts combining for 6 yards. Then he unleashed a 48-yard bomb to Amari Cooper down the left sideline. Second-year receiver Michael Gallup jumped in the corner of the end zone for one score, kept his balance while spinning out of a tackle on a second, and caught a third in stride. After his minimally productive first 10 attempts, Prescott went 17-of-23 for 297 yards and four touchdowns. He’ll have months now to rest his shoulder — and more time to see whether he and the Cowboys can agree on a long-term contract.

3. Defense and special teams solid, but it’s too late: The Cowboys forced turnovers on two of Washington’s first three snaps. Jaylon Smith’s first career interception set up Dallas for a 36-yard field, a fumble the next drive presenting Dallas 21 yards from the end zone. Dallas couldn’t score a touchdown on either, but kicker Kai Forbath — who is now 10-of-10 as a Cowboy, and may have locked up a 2020 job despite joining the team in December — connected on field-goal attempts until the offense got going. The offense never looked back, racing to a season-high 47 points while the defense held Washington to 1-of-11 on third down. The Cowboys will have to wait until next year, and likely next coach, to try to build off the momentum.

SOURCE: USA Today, Jori Epstein