Clarence Hill’s 5 Things from Cowboys 40-34 loss vs. Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins (2) intercepts a pass and runs in for a touchdown to win against the Dallas Cowboys during overtime Sunday in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins (2) intercepts a pass and runs in for a touchdown to win against the Dallas Cowboys during overtime Sunday in Jacksonville.

AP

The much-anticipated Christmas Eve showdown between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles is finally here.

And it’s certainly not the game as expected.

The gift of a possible 11-3 Cowboys team, riding a five game winning streak and winners of seven of their last eight since an earlier loss to the high-flying Eagles (13-1) when quarterback Dak Prescott was sidelined with a thumb injury , was ruined by a 40-34 overtime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at TIAA Bank Field.

The game was decided when a Prescott pass to Noah Brown was tipped in the air and grabbed by Jacksonville’s Rayshawn Jenkins who returned the interception 52 yards for a touchdown and a Jaguars upset.

Prescott, who had two interceptions in the game and now has 11 in his first 9 games of the season for the first time in his career, put himself to be better and eliminate the miscues.

“I take every loss on the chin,” Prescott said. “I think that’s my job as a quarterback to put us in positions to win and eliminate the mistakes and potential chances to allow them to score after turnovers. So and that’s what’s frustrating about it, whether it’s a tip ball, whether it’s unfortunate interception, whatever it is. They all suck. And at the end of the day, I’ve got to do a better job and that’s where it is.

“It’s tough when you lose the second overtime game this year. And wanting to be in those positions have the ball in my hand and when it ends up like that it sucks. It’s a feeling that I don’t like and I’ve got to learn from it and do better put the ball in better positions and be smarter with it.”

The Cowboys (10-4), who also need to do better on defense, played with disaster the entire second half as they blew leads of 21-7 and 27-10.

The Cowboys gave up 192 yards on the ground and allowed quarterback Trevor Lawrence to pass for 318 yards and four touchdowns.

The Jaguars scored touchdowns on three straight possessions to end the third and start the fourth quarter to take a 31-27 lead.

Lawrence tossed touchdowns of 59 and 3 yards to Zay Jones and 10 yards to Marvin Jones.

Prescott followed with a 75-yard scoring drive, capped by a 13-yard pass to Noah Brown to take the lead back with 3:02 left.

And when safety Jayron Kearse knocked the ball away from Lawrence and it was recovered by linebacker Micah Parsons on the ensuing possession, the game appeared to be sealed.

But the Cowboys went three-and-out and the Jaguars got the ball back with 1:01 left. Lawrence moved them 41 yards for a 48-yard game-tying field goal by Riley Patterson as the clock expired.

The Cowboys got the Jaguars off the field on the opening drive of overtime, needing only a field goal to win the game

But fate intervened in horrific fashion as Jenkins grabbed his second interception of the game and sent the Cowboys home with a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking.

The Cowboys still have a lot to play for against the Eagles, but any chance of catching them for the NFC East title or first-place in the conference is likely over.

The Cowboys need to regroup and find a way to win.

The Cowboys could have clinched a playoff spot with a win against the Jaguars.

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said the loss doesn’t change their focus.

“I expect to win every day,” McCarthy said. “I’m just on to the next one. I’ve been at this long enough to know at the end of 17 games, it sorts itself out. I’ve been the one seed and been knocked on my ass and won it from the fifth seed. We’re not supposed to talk about that until we get to 11 wins and we’re not there yet. We’ve got to keep our head down and keep working. We’ll react properly to this. It’s a very accountable locker room. I love this bunch. They do it the right way. We will just stay after it and we’ll definitely come out of this.”

5 Things from the Dallas Cowboys 40-34 loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars:

Dak Prescott has a horrible finish

The Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott couldn’t have asked for a better start to Sunday’s game against the Jaguars.

Prescott was at his efficient best in the first half, completing 15 of 16 passes for touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 141.9, as the Cowboys led 21-7.

Of course, a Prescott day couldn’t come without a Prescott turnover. That is the norm of late. He tossed an interception in the third quarter that helped spark a Jaguars comeback.

Prescott was simply trying to do too much when he should have taken a sack or thrown the ball away.

A high pass by tight end Dalton Schultz was picked off by Rayshawn Jenkins, which the Jaguars turned into a 3-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones and a 31-27 lead.

Prescott appeared to save his best for last, directing a 13-play, 75 yard touchdown drive.

He scrambled out of a sack and hit Noah Brown for a 13-yard score to put the Cowboys back in the lead.

But after the Jaguars rallied to put the game into overtime, Prescott tossed a pick six to Rayshawn Jenkins to end the game.

He now has seven interceptions in the last four games.

He completed 23 of 30 passes for 256 yards, three touchdowns and two costly interceptions.

Tyron Smith starts right tackle

The Cowboys solved the Terence Steele problem with two potential Hall of Famers at right tackle.

With Steele lost for the season with a torn ACL and MCL, Tyron Smith, an eight-time Pro Bowler at left tackle, started at right tackle in his first game of the season after missing the previous 13 with an avulsion fracture.

It was also the first time that Smith played right tackle since his rookie season.

And it was like riding a bike for Smith, who had no issues in helping set the table for a Cowboys offense and run game that moved up and down the field seemingly at ease in the first half as they jumped out to a 21-7 lead .

Because it was Smith’s first game of the season, the Cowboys had him on a play count.

Jason Peters, 40, a nine-time Pro Bowler at left tackle, played a drive at right tackle when Steele went last week against the Texans. It was the first time he had played right tackle since his rookie season in 2005.

He played the final two drives of the first half at right tackle against the Jaguars.

The two alternated the rest of the game and had no negative impact on the offensive production, although Peters did give up at least one sack.

“Well, I mean, we had a couple rotations,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “There’s some play time goals that we were trying to hit. Obviously I think with Tyron, knowing he got going out there really didn’t want to come out. Really just trying to be smart and listen to the trainers and everybody involved, return to play and ready to play, all those variables that we look at but I thought it worked out fine.”

Leighton Vander Esch sidelined

The Cowboys are keeping their fingers crossed on the status of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who was sidelined after suffering a neck injury on the opening drive.

Not only was Vander Esch the team’s leading tackler but he was having his best season since his rookie campaign in 2018 when he made the Pro Bowl.

But Vander Esch, who was replaced by rookie Damone Clark, has a history of neck issues.

After being sidelined in 2019, Vander Esch underwent neck surgery in January of 2020 to help correct “cervical spinal stenosis.”

A small neck roll of padding was added inside his shoulder pads (to absorb “shock”) and prevent his neck form bending to far.

What Sunday’s neck means for Vander Esch’s future is unknown at this point, not just for the rest of the season but the remainder of his career. Vander Esch is in the final year of his contract.

Vander Esch was sorely missed on the run defense against the Jaguars, who rushed for 192 yards in the game, led by Travis Etienne with 103 on 19 carries.

“Well, I’m concerned obviously,” McCarthy said. “Everyone around here is concerned based on just his history. But I mean just look at last week. He was a huge factor in his play, 14 tackles and all of those things. I mean once we get the information, hopefully he’ll be fine.”

Deron Bland is proving to be a playmaker

Left tackle Tyler Smith is the headliner of the Cowboys 2022 rookie class and rightly so as the team’s first-round pick who has been a solid starter from the outset.

Defensive end Sam Williams and tight ends Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot have had their moments.

Hendershot, an undrafted free agent from Indianapolis, had a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dak Prescott in the first quarter on Sunday.

But as far as impact plays, no rookie has flashed more of late than cornerback Deron Bland, a fifth-round pick from Fresno State, who was forced into the starting lineup at slot corner following a season-ending injury to Jourdan Lewis.

Bland had two pass deflections and a third-quarter interception that led to a field goal against the Jaguars Sunday.

Bland leads the Cowboys with four interceptions including three in three consecutive games

Kelvin Joseph is proving to be a weak link

As much of the Cowboys are happy with the play of Deron Bland in place of injured slot cornerback Jourdan Lewis, there has been growing concern about Kelvin Joseph’s spot in the starting lineup for left cornerback Anthony Brown.

Owner Jerry Jones said it was time for Joseph, who was a disappointment as a rookie on and off the field in 2021, to step up and be a man.

Joseph has proven to be the man opposing teams are targeting for big plays.

He gave up touchdown passes of 59 and 10 yards to Zay Jones and Marvin Jones, respectively, in the third quarter to help the Jaguars rally from a 21-7 halftime deficit and make the score 27-24 heading into the fourth quarter.

Joseph was replaced by Nahshon Wright at cornerback in the fourth quarter.

Lawrence passed for 318 yards and four touchdowns against a Cowboys pass defense that came into the game ranked No. 2 in the league.

He is the first quarterback to pass for more than 285 yards against the Cowboys this season.

This story was originally published December 18, 2022 3:38 PM.

Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.

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