Following the Dallas Cowboys‘ embarrassing Thanksgiving Day loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, blaming the officials became common. 28 total penalties were called (14 on each team), making for a sloppy visual experience.
Nearly everyone in the Cowboys organization had something to say about the officiating after the loss. That’s been well-documented up to this point. However, the follow-up message from Dallas’ coaching staff is ultimately the reason for concern.
The Cowboys have a penalty issue whether they like it or not
28 penalties being called in a single game is excessive. Clearly, the officiating crew could’ve done a better job. However, the Cowboys’ penalty issues aren’t exactly a new issue in Dallas. This wasn’t the result of bad officials in an isolated setting. The Cowboys (specifically on defense) have looked undisciplined all year long.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Cowboys’ defense ranks first in penalties committed (90) and second in penalty yards allowed (727). Sure, the 14 penalties and 166 penalty yards against Las Vegas are a big part of these numbers. However, the Cowboys would still rank top-10 in both metrics even if you removed the Las Vegas penalties from their total.
Whether they want to admit it or not, the Cowboys have a penalty issue. Thanksgiving Day was just an example of it rising to the surface in a national setting.
Mike McCarthy has no solutions
Understandably, emotions were running high in the Dallas locker room following the overtime loss. Everyone was quick to blame the officials or blame injuries instead of taking accountability for a home loss.
However, what was really concerning is the sheer exasperation that Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy expressed when questioned about the team’s penalty issues. He’s seemingly subscribing to the belief that Dallas was screwed and mistreated against Las Vegas instead of owning a lack of discipline problem.
“Twenty-eight penalties,” McCarthy said. “‘I don’t really know what the hell you want me to say. Write whatever you want. I’m all for it.”
McCarthy was emotional and frustrated. However, this is not the voice he needs to be expressing now. His job is to fix the penalty issues moving forward, not complain about it to reporters.
The Cowboys need to clean up their issues sooner rather than later
Just a few weeks ago, the Cowboys looked like legitimate contenders in the NFC. Now, they’re losers in three of their last four and have created an opening for their NFC East rivals.
Both the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team are on two-game win streaks. They’re itching to challenge Dallas for the NFC East crown.
Moving forward, the Cowboys need to get healthy while simultaneously cleaning up the penalty issue. That starts with Mike McCarthy. Instead of whining about the flags to reporters, he needs to develop a concrete plan to fix the problem in Week 13 and beyond. It’s hard to imagine the Cowboys hanging onto the top spot in the NFC East while being the most penalized defense in the NFL.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.