One week ago, following Dallas’ Thanksgiving turkey of a loss to Buffalo at home, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was a paragon of positivity, putting an optimistic spin on a second straight loss that jeopardized his team’s hopes at making the postseason.
On Thursday night, an hour after the Cowboys fell for the third consecutive week, this time by the score of 31-24 to a Bears side also struggling to crack the postseason, Jones was not so hunky-dory regarding Dallas’ direction.
“It’s leveled out here. It’s losing, losing, losing,” Jones said to a gaggle of reporters during an eight-minute scrum in the bowels of Soldier Field. “I’m not trying to be funny here, but the point is that we’ve got to win a football game.”
The Cowboys haven’t done so since Nov. 17 and have won just one game since Nov. 4. At 6-7, Dallas is still miraculously atop the NFC East, a half-game ahead of the 5-7 Philadelphia Eagles, but has not played nearly well enough in recent weeks to justify anything better than a first-round exit.
“I don’t care what the standings are, what the numbers are,” Jones said of Dallas’ tenuous place in the postseason. “We had thought that we could come up here and play a good team and play a fine football game and get our act to where we’re starting to look like a team that could — if we by a slim chance if we get in the playoffs — where we could win. We can’t do that until we play and start winning the football games and we’ve got three more to play. When we do that, we can go.”
“The record is always what you are,” Garrett said. “At different times, we played fine. For most of the game, we didn’t play well enough. That should be independent of any standings or any playoff hopes and certainly that’s what you want to instill in a football team.”
Dallas got off to a dominant start against Chicago on Thursday night, finishing off a 17-play, 75-yard drive in 8:57 with an Ezekiel Elliott TD run to gain an early 7-0 lead. But from there, the Bears scored 24 unanswered points, running through a Dallas defense unwilling to make the tough tackles and shutting down a Cowboys offense out of sync. Dallas added 17 points in the fourth quarter, when the game was well out of reach.
“Chicago took it to us,” Jones said. “That score didn’t indicate how bad they beat us tonight.”
Garrett summarized, “I think we played hard. We didn’t play well. We didn’t play well enough.”
Dallas’ third straight subpar performance is amplifying calls for Garrett’s head. The longest tenured coach in the league without a Super Bowl appearance, Garrett is overseeing, in his 10th season on the job, an underperforming Cowboys roster that can’t seem to close out a historically poor division. With an 0-6 record against teams currently with a winning record, the Cowboys under Garrett have not been advantageous, on the field or in the standings.
However, as the Joneses have made clear in recent weeks, no changes are expected to come to the coaching staff before the end of the 2019 season, especially regarding Garrett.
“We’ll line them up here next week. We’re gonna go practice and we’re going to try to win a football game,” Jones said of Dallas’ plans for next week. “Everybody that’s in here that’s healthy, everybody that’s healthy that’s coaching will be coaching, everybody that’s in here will be playing. We just got to play better.”
The message is the same as it was a week ago. But the tone has changed. Dallas’ playoff window is still open, but the walls are closing in.