“It’s leveled out here,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters after the game. “It’s losing, losing, losing. So I’m not trying to be funny here. But the point is that we’ve got to win a football game. I don’t care what the standings are, what the numbers are.”
Someone must win an ever-more-pitiable division in which even the lowly Washington Redskins, at 3-9, are not completely out of it. And not only that; the NFC East winner will host a first-round playoff game, most likely against the loser of the NFC West duel between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, a pair of 10-2 teams.
“Are you asking me if I would take the division, go to the playoffs if we got it, on any basis? The answer is yes,” Jones said. “Absolutely, yes. ... Your goal, the first goal, is to get to the playoffs.”
There have been two NFL division winners with losing records in a 16-game season. The Seahawks won the NFC West at 7-9 in 2010 and the Carolina Panthers won the NFC South at 7-8-1 in 2014. Two other teams made the playoffs with losing records in a strike-shortened season in 1982.
“The talk is over,” former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said on the postgame portion of the Fox broadcast, “and it has been for a while.”
Aikman’s former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, said on the NFL Network’s postgame show: “It’s just bad right now. That team is just playing bad.”
Irvin said it might be time to for Jones to fire Jason Garrett as the Cowboys’ coach.
“I don’t know how you continue down this road,” Irvin said, “with what you’ve seen on this field this last two games.”
The Cowboys continue to do all they can to hand away a division they should be winning handily. They began Thursday’s game with a magnificent 17-play touchdown drive against Chicago’s still-formidable defense. Then the Cowboys surrendered 24 consecutive points. It was reminiscent of their Thanksgiving defeat at home to the Buffalo Bills, in which they got an opening touchdown and then yielded 26 straight points.
Tailback Ezekiel Elliott ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears. But quarterback Dak Prescott completed only 27 of 49 throws. He had a one-for-nine stretch of passing inaccuracy after a five-for-seven start. Prescott was seen shaking his right hand after hitting it on the shoulder of Bears linebacker Khalil Mack on his follow-through on a first-half throw. Much of his production, including a touchdown pass to wide receiver Amari Cooper, came late and proved cosmetic. Prescott finished with 334 passing yards.
Kicker Brett Maher’s field goal with eight seconds remaining got the Cowboys to within seven points, but the Bears recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.
“We need to play better,” Garrett said at his postgame news conference. “We need to play more confidently. And unfortunately we didn’t get that done tonight.”
Elliott told reporters afterward that he was “tired as hell” of answering questions about the Cowboys’ woes.
“We just didn’t play well,” Elliott said. “We’ve just got to go out there and play better football. ... It’s not clicking. We’re not playing well. You can’t really put your finger on it. That’s the tough part.”
Maher contributed his 10th missed field goal attempt of the season, the most in the NFL, and sent a kickoff out of bounds after Elliott’s fourth-down touchdown run on the opening play of the fourth quarter got the Cowboys to within 24-14. That led to Trubisky’s rushing touchdown on an option-play keeper.
The Dallas defense had two takeaways but also missed tackles, committed costly penalties and could not stop Trubisky, who had his second straight game with three touchdown passes. Two of them went to wide receiver Allen Robinson, including one just before halftime on which Robinson was awarded a catch when he and Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith had simultaneous possession of the football in the end zone. Trubisky added a second-half touchdown throw to wideout Anthony Miller as the Bears upped their record to 7-6 with their third straight win.
“We continue to believe,” Trubisky told Fox after the game. “And I think that’s why we’re playing the way we are right now.”
The Cowboys, at this point, can only dream of such prosperity. Jones tried putting Garrett, his 10th-year coach, on notice following a loss at New England. That didn’t work. Jones’s next move was to follow the Thanksgiving defeat to the Bills by retaining Garrett and saying that was the only hope for the Cowboys to produce a storybook ending to their season and reach the Super Bowl. Jones said this week that Garrett will be coaching in the NFL next year, without specifying whether it will be in Dallas.
“Well, again, it shows so much for that,” Jones said Thursday night, “about effectively what wins or loses football games. That’s not what gets it done. ... They played a really fine football game tonight and they took it to us. ... I don’t care if we stay in contention all the way down until they have the playoffs. We’ve got to start showing our fans, and more importantly showing ourselves, that we can do the things to win the games.”
Jones was asked about his recent criticism of his team’s coaches.
“You may have noticed I’ve been praising them, too,” he said. “So much for words.”
What’s left for Jones to say or do?
December 5, 2019 at 11:15 PM EST
Prescott-to-Cooper TD gets Cowboys closer
It’s probably cosmetic at this point but the Cowboys got their deficit back to within 10 points on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to wide receiver Amari Cooper. (Bears 31, Cowboys 21 with 4:29 left in the 4th quarter)
December 5, 2019 at 11:01 PM EST
Cowboys fail on fourth down
The Cowboys failed on a fourth-and-four try from the Chicago 48-yard line when Dak Prescott threw an incompletion in the direction of Ezekiel Elliott. This one is probably pretty much over. (Bears 31, Cowboys 14 with 9:09 left in the 4th quarter)
December 5, 2019 at 10:44 PM EST
Trubisky runs for TD
Mitchell Trubisky added a touchdown run to his three touchdown passes. He went 23 yards with an option-play keeper as the Bears answered the Cowboys’ fourth-quarter touchdown with one of their own and restored their lead to 17 points. Brett Maher helped the Bears’ cause by sending the kickoff out of bounds after the Dallas touchdown, and the Bears began their drive at their 40-yard line. (Bears 31, Cowboys 14 with 13:22 left in the 4th quarter)
December 5, 2019 at 10:37 PM EST
Elliott scores fourth-down TD
Maybe the Cowboys aren’t done quite yet. They converted the fumble lost by the Bears into a two-yard touchdown run by tailback Ezekiel Elliott. That came on fourth and one play from the 2-yard line on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Earlier on the drive, the Cowboys converted on fourth and three from the Chicago 47-yard line with a 21-yard completion from Dak Prescott to wide receiver Michael Gallup. (Bears 24, Cowboys 14 with 14:55 left in the 4th quarter)
December 5, 2019 at 10:29 PM EST
Bears lose fumble
Bears running back David Montgomery, fighting for extra yardage without being ruled down by the officials, lost the ball, a rare bright spot for the Cowboys. The Dallas offense has done next to nothing since its opening drive but now gets another chance. (Bears 24, Cowboys 7 with 2:58 left in the 3rd quarter)
December 5, 2019 at 10:11 PM EST
Third TD pass for Trubisky
The Dallas defense is being carved up by Mitchell Trubisky. His third touchdown pass of the night was a 14-yarder on a swing pass to the right to wide receiver Anthony Miller. Earlier on the drive, the Bears’ Cordarrelle Patterson made would-be tacklers miss on a 33-yard catch and run on a third-and-nine play. The Cowboys gifted the Bears a first down with a defensive holding penalty on another third-and-nine play. The Bears have scored 24 straight points since trailing, 7-0. Remind anyone of any other Cowboys’ performances? (Bears 24, Cowboys 7 with 8:18 left in the 3rd quarter)
December 5, 2019 at 9:53 PM EST
Halftime at Soldier Field
The Bears lead the Cowboys, 17-7, at halftime in Chicago after the second touchdown pass of the night from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to wide receiver Allen Robinson, an eight-yarder with 10 seconds left in the half.
Officials ruled — properly, it appeared — that Robinson and Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith simultaneously caught the ball in the end zone and, by rule, awarded possession to the offensive player. Smith wrestled the football from Robinson’s grasp while both players were on the Soldier Field turf and tried to sell the play as an interception, to no avail.
The Bears scored 17 straight points in the second quarter after the Cowboys took the lead with a 17-play touchdown drive to open the game, reminiscent of the Cowboys scoring an opening touchdown and then surrendering 26 straight points in their Thanksgiving loss to the Buffalo Bills. If the Cowboys lose this game, the entire NFC East will be below .500.
Tailback Ezekiel Elliott ran for 72 yards and a touchdown in the first half. But quarterback Dak Prescott completed only six of 13 passes for 60 yards, and was seen shaking his right hand after hitting it on the shoulder of Bears linebacker Khalil Mack on his follow-through on a throw. Dallas kicker Brett Maher had his 10th missed field goal attempt of the season, the most in the NFL.
Trubisky threw an interception but connected on 12 of 17 first-half passes for 126 yards and had the two touchdowns to Robinson. (Bears 17, Cowboys 7 at halftime)
December 5, 2019 at 9:27 PM EST
Maher misses from 42 yards
The struggles continue for Cowboys kicker Maher. He missed wide right from 42 yards, his 10th failed field goal attempt of the season. He’s five for 13 on attempts from 40 yards and beyond. The Cowboys might be regretting their recent decision not to replace him. They wasted a 31-yard run by Elliott on that drive, his longest of the season. (Bears 10, Cowboys 7 with 5:00 left in the 2nd quarter)
December 5, 2019 at 9:16 PM EST
Bears take lead with FG
The Bears took the lead with a 36-yard field goal by kicker Eddy Pineiro. That came just after they had a first down negated by an illegal block in the back, a call that had Coach Matt Nagy fuming on the sideline and yelling at the officials. Running back David Montgomery had runs of 11 and 20 yards on the drive. (Bears 10, Cowboys 7 with 8:06 left in the 2nd quarter)
December 5, 2019 at 9:04 PM EST
Trubisky-to-Robinson TD gets Bears even
The Bears tied the game at 7 on a five-yard touchdown pass from Trubisky to Robinson, as Trubisky rebounded from his earlier interception. The Cowboys failed to get a first down and punted out of their end zone following the turnover, and the Bears moved 51 yards for the score. The Cowboys helped with an offside penalty on a third-and-nine play, and the Bears were able to convert on third and four on Trubisky’s swing pass to speedster Tarik Cohen. Tight end J.P. Holtz contributed a 30-yard catch and run to the drive. (Cowboys 7, Bears 7 with 12:13 left in the 2nd quarter)
December 5, 2019 at 8:51 PM EST
Trubisky throws pick
The Bears had a nice first drive going, trying to answer the Cowboys’ touchdown with one of their own, when Trubisky reverted to being Trubisky. On a second-down play from the Dallas 16-yard line, Trubisky threw a pass to no one — other than Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who made a nice catch at the 1-yard line and managed to get both feet in bounds for the interception. The on-field official ruled that Lewis was out of bounds but the Cowboys challenged and the call was reversed, correctly, via an instant replay review. (Cowboys 7, Bears 0 with 1:36 left in the 1st quarter)
December 5, 2019 at 8:40 PM EST
Cowboys get opening-drive TD
The Cowboys are off to a great start in Chicago, getting an opening-drive touchdown on a two-yard run by Elliott. Dallas kept the ball for 17 plays and moved 75 yards against the Bears’ usually formidable defense. Elliott ran for 33 yards on eight carries on the nearly nine-minute march. The Cowboys went four for four on third-down conversions. Prescott had a 12-yard completion to tight end Blake Jarwin on a third-and-11 play and a nine-yard connection with wide receiver Michael Gallup on third and eight. (Cowboys 7, Bears 0 with 6:03 left in the 1st quarter)
December 5, 2019 at 7:46 PM EST
What will Jerry Jones do or say next?
Someone has to win the NFC East, no matter how dreadful the division is. The Cowboys, with a two-game losing streak and a .500 record, prepare to play Thursday night in Chicago and try to begin crafting the storybook finish to their season envisioned by owner Jerry Jones.
That was the hope expressed by Jones when he said following his team’s loss to the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving that he was sticking with Garrett as his coach. Keeping Garrett, Jones said, was the Cowboys’ only chance of turning things around and still ending up in the Super Bowl. That came after Jones had turned up the heat on Garrett by saying after a defeat at New England in the Cowboys’ previous game that they’d lost that day because of the fundamentals of football and coaching.
During his weekly appearance Tuesday on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan, Jones said: “In my opinion, Jason Garrett will be coaching in the NFL next year.”
Of course, Jones didn’t say if he expects Garrett to be coaching in Dallas next year. He did reiterate, however, that Garrett is “the guy for the job” as the Cowboys attempt to salvage their season.
They continue to have the league’s top-ranked offense, although they failed to score a touchdown against the Patriots and trailed the Bills, 26-7, before getting a late touchdown and two-point conversion to lose by 26-15. They’ll need big performances Thursday by quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper and tailback Ezekiel Elliott.
The Cowboys also remain ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in total defense, scoring defense and pass defense. There’s no excuse, really, for this to be only a .500 team.
The Bears have been every bit as disappointing. They enter this game also with a record of 6-6 and, after winning the NFC North last season, have only the most far-fetched of playoff hopes entering the final quarter of this season. They’re in third place in the division and two games out of the second NFC wild-card spot.
The defense remains formidable. The Bears are ranked seventh in the NFL in total defense and fourth in scoring defense. But they’re 29th in total offense and 27th in scoring offense. Coach Matt Nagy has stuck with the embattled Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Trubisky actually is coming off a 338-yard, three-touchdown, one-interception performance in a narrow victory at Detroit on Thanksgiving, and the Bears are on a two-game winning streak.
December 5, 2019 at 7:45 PM EST
How to watch Cowboys at Bears
When: Thursday at 8:20 p.m. Eastern time
Where: Soldier Field in Chicago
Streaming: Amazon Prime, Yahoo Sports