'Humble-footed': Mike McCarthy backs OT bet, but Cowboys loss to Packers sends stark message about playoff viability

‘Humble-footed’: Mike McCarthy backs OT bet, but Cowboys loss to Packers sends stark message about playoff viability

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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Micah Parsons called his teammates’ performance, or lack thereof, “disgusting”.

Dallas Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones referenced the “frustration” six times in 4 minutes and 2 seconds.

Quarterback Dak Prescott sat on his visitor’s locker stool with his head bowed and his eyes blank.

And head coach Mike McCarthy – in his third year at the helm of the Cowboys, returning home where he spent 13 years in charge – declined to elaborate on the nostalgia.

“I’m not trying to be rude,” McCarthy said after a 31-28 overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers. “I am humble. »

The Cowboys fell short in two significant areas on Sunday. They failed to secure a victory for McCarthy to help crush the memories of an abrupt 2018 midseason layoff, and they failed to show the NFL that maybe, just maybe- being, for the first time in over two decades, they are quite comprehensive and disciplined. team to threaten in the playoffs.

At 6-3 and third place in the NFC East, the Cowboys still have a 95% chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight’s playoff prediction model. But Sunday’s loss raised major questions over whether they were likely to advance.

“It’s bad,” said Parsons, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year favorite. “You have to be able to finish games in this league, especially against guys like [Aaron] Rogers. You should be able to finish.

“Finish, finish, finish – that’s the point of this game.”

Aaron Rodgers chats with his former head coach Mike McCarthy before Sunday's kickoff between the Packers and Cowboys.  McCarthy wasn't in such a jovial mood after the game after Dallas lost in overtime.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Aaron Rodgers chats with his former head coach Mike McCarthy before Sunday’s kickoff between the Packers and Cowboys. McCarthy wasn’t in such a jovial mood after the game after Dallas lost in overtime. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Unfinished

The Cowboys were confident when they tied the game just before halftime and confident when they took a 14-point lead in the third quarter. Even as the Packers narrowed to that advantage — and eventually tied the game with 2:33 left in regulation — the Cowboys thought their balanced offensive offense and dominant passing rush could sustain the Packers push.

In overtime, Tony Pollard made a pair of 7-yard runs. Prescott and CeeDee Lamb connected on a cross road similar to the play they missed on Prescott’s second interception in the second quarter. And then the Cowboys system went wrong.

Pollard’s 6-yard chain run was called off when rookie receiver Jalen Tolbert lined up offside, violating the neutral zone. Cowboys RB3 Malik Davis’ impressive 16-yard gash was canceled out by left guard Connor McGovern’s flag. Prescott found tight end Dalton Schultz to reduce a second-and-19 to a third-and-3. But then the offense that had passed 200 yards on the ground attempted to throw, Lamb brushing the ball with both hands but failing to secure finally not the centralizer. McCarthy waved the Cowboys to go in fourth and third, but Prescott’s final attempt under heavy pressure failed.

A red-faced McCarthy slammed his helmet to the ground.

“I’m very frustrated with how the game ended, obviously,” McCarthy said. “We need these close games to get where you want to go. I thought we were in total control, but in overtime you obviously know the penalties and everything.

McCarthy’s volume and intensity increased uncharacteristically with each of his next three words.

“Very very, very frustrating,” he said. “But you have to overcome these things.”

McCarthy reiterated his belief that they “had to go” on fourth down, a decision he made on second down after watching the shaky, penalized driving play out.

“So our feeling was to keep playing,” he said. “We had good calls. I agree with the decision.

Two carries and a 36-yard completion on an RPO afterwards, the Packers comfortably reached field goal range.

Rodgers played down the win over his former coach, pretending to check the box score as he claimed: “I don’t think Mike has adapted.” Even so, making a dangerous connection with a young receiver and snapping the five-game skid, Rodgers said there were “a lot of demons that were exorcised today.” He didn’t just quell internal doubts after rebounding from a one-touchdown, three-steel loss to the Detroit Lions to a three-touchdown, no-steel win over the Cowboys.

“The little voice in your head trying to knock you off that confident perch you’re on?” Rogers said. “I sent that voice back to hell and had a good performance today.”

A weekly weakness

Rodgers made effective, well-timed throws, including second-round receiver Christian Watson’s first career touchdown — and his second and third. He burned the Cowboys with strikes from 58 and 39 yards. Also in overtime, Rodgers’ execution of the RPO to find receiver Allen Lazard for a big win was masterful.

But the main problem for the Cowboys defense wasn’t Rodgers’ 14 completions or 224 yards. They couldn’t resist the Packers’ rally, largely because they allowed the tandem of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon to crush them for more than 200 yards rushing and nearly 5.5 yards par race.

In the fourth quarter, that penalty reached a tenor 8.2 yards at pop. The Cowboys failed to force the third and long situations, the Packers neutralizing the pass rush that carried the unit. Dallas’ run defense was already a weak link entering the game, and the team knows it’s exposed ahead of a three-week streak in which Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings, Saquon Barkley of the Giants of New York and Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts are looming. .

“Nobody will let us rush, nobody will let us be who we are,” Parsons said. “That’s why we have to put out this fire. Until we put out this fire, we will continue to see it.

The Chicago Bears, too, rushed for 200 yards on the Cowboys’ last outing.

“If people want to keep doing their own thing, we’re going to deal with that all year and we’ll never be the team we want to be,” Parsons said. “We need to turn this off. We must be accountable. We have to stay on our gaps and stop the race. Then, once we stop it, we can go back to who we are.

“But until we do that, it’s going to be a long year.”

Or, in some ways, maybe a shorter one.

Because the Cowboys know their failure to fill the run will prevent any deep playoff success. And a run in the regular season has lost its meaning.

Aaron Jones had a colorful celebration against the Cowboys on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.  Jones rushed for 138 yards on 24 carries.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Aaron Jones had a colorful celebration against the Cowboys on Sunday night at Lambeau Field. Jones rushed for 138 yards on 24 carries. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Dallas has rarely been horrible in recent years, but has been consistently mediocre in the 26 seasons since the franchise last reached a Super Bowl or even an NFC championship game. Dominant regular-season wins over lesser teams — think of their 49-29 dismantling of the Bears two weeks prior — have instilled facades of confidence that are being tested against top quarterbacks and in hostile road environments like last month’s visit. in Philadelphia and this weekend in Green Bay.

The Packers have now beaten the Cowboys in nine of their last 10 outings, including the playoffs. Dallas doesn’t have enough cushion to withstand the rushing, poorly communicated interceptions from the offense, leaky yardage and ill-timed chases from the defense.

In what seems like a Cowboys tradition against Rodgers, Dallas played hard but left too little room for error. It’s something “this team will have to overcome,” said Jerry Jones.

“We wanted to get it for Mike, but more importantly we wanted to lay another brick where we were going and we didn’t,” Prescott said. “We haven’t taken that step that we talked about.”

Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein


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