Cowboys’ goal-line pass play fails miserably when no receivers run routes

Normally, the most basic element of an NFL pass play is at least one receiver running a route. The Cowboys forgot that part Sunday.

On third-and-goal in the second quarter, Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton faked a handoff to Ezekiel Elliott and looked to throw. But there were no receivers beyond the line of scrimmage, or behind it for that matter. Dalton was forced to take off and scramble, and the Eagles knocked him out of bounds.

Here’s the play in question: 

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The issue for the Cowboys was likely that two of their tight ends are held up at the line. Since it was designed to appear as a run play, Dallas’ receivers had to at least show as a blocker before leaking out for a pass. But Philadelphia’s defensive line got strong penetration which prevented anyone from getting free. The other possible logical explanation is that Dalton wasn’t supposed to fake the handoff but messed the play up.

It’s only when Dalton is closing in on the right sideline that Blake Bell (No. 80) and Dalton Schultz (No. 86) even get their feet into the end zone, but Dalton isn’t looking to pass by that point of the play. 

It seems like a fitting summation of the Cowboys’ 2020 season, in which Dak Prescott was lost to a season-ending injury in Week 5 and Elliott has struggled with fumbles en route to a guaranteed losing season. But despite the losing record, if Dallas comes back against Philadelphia, it could still be in contention in the NFC East in Week 17.

Our advice to the Cowboys if indeed they hang onto a chance to win the division: Run pass routes on pass plays. 

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