Key third down failures costly for Cowboys’ defense

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kyusung Gong/AP/Shutterstock (13452373ns) Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) gestures towards the fans after an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Inglewood, Calif Cowboys Rams Football, Inglewood, United States – 09 Oct 2022

Key third down failures costly for Cowboys’ defense

For most of Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia, the Cowboys’ defense did a decent job on third down, holding the Eagles to just six successful conversions on 14 tries.

However, those six all came on drives the Eagles turned into points, including three that took place on the sequence of downs that put the game away in the fourth quarter.

“It is just more frustrating because I feel like we beat ourselves,” Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons said. “You think back over the mistakes that I made, and some of the other guys might have made, and just know that we could have played a much cleaner football game. That’s the frustrating part. I guess it’s good to learn early.”

The 13-play, 75-yard drive took 7:37 off the clock and resulted in a touchdown that pushed the Eagles’ lead to nine with just seven minutes to play in the game.

“Our group has been really strong at the end of the games, and so for us to miss that one and miss a few third downs on that (last drive), that’s the scar from this game,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “When you fight back, and you get right back into (the game), you got to go nail it again.”

The Cowboys had three chances to halt the drive but couldn’t make the play.

“We were not as clean as we needed to be,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy.

The first chance came on the drive’s fourth play on a third and four from the Eagles 44. A Jalen Hurts scramble for five yards moved the chains and kept the clock rolling at 12:18 to play in regulation.

Three plays later, the Cowboys gave up a 5-yard run to Kenneth Gainwell on third and four from the Cowboys 45 with 10:30 left in the game.

The final conversion came three plays later on a 2-yard run by Hurts on third and one at the Cowboys’ 31 with 9 minutes to play.

The Eagles cashed in with a touchdown three plays later to make it a two-score game with just seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The other three third-down conversions in the game for the Eagles all came in the first half when they jumped out to a 20-0 lead.

The Eagles had one successful third-down conversion on each of the first two touchdown drives. The first, a third and one from the Dallas 18, the second coming on a third and three from the Dallas 15.

“What I saw (Sunday) was us beating ourselves,” Demarcus Lawrence said. “We gave them more opportunities to score the ball. The D-line has to be more disciplined on third and five. So, it is just all about getting back in there and cleaning it all up, learn from all these mistakes, and move on.”

The final third-down conversion of the first half, a third and two from the Dallas 27, came on the Eagles’ second field goal drive of the game.

Philadelphia was also 1-for-1 on fourth down conversions, grabbing a first down on an 11-yard pass from Hurts to Brown on fourth and three from the Dallas 38 during the Eagles’ first TD drive of the game.

“We have to be accountable,” Parsons said. “I don’t point the finger. We could have stopped them from scoring twice and held them to field goals. … We, as a defense, gave up some yards and some points this week, more than we are used to. … No pointing the finger, just all accountability.”

The Cowboys had allowed 25 successful conversions on 74 attempts for just over a 33-percent success rate this season, which was ninth in the NFL going into Sunday’s game.

“We all have to take accountability,” Parsons said about the team’s performance. “(We) have to watch this film and get better from it.”

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