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During a 2019-20 NFL season that has seen records fall left and right, the Dallas Cowboys are notoriously slow starters in the first quarter. Even in winning their first three games, which placed them in the lead for the NFC East, the Cowboys failed to score a touchdown. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has a theory about the team’s dismal first quarters, and his response makes a lot of sense. Read on to learn how Witten points to the one reason the Cowboys are always so awful in the first quarter. 

Cowboys struggle all season with losses and slow starts

The Cowboys avoided slow starts against the Giants, Washington, and Miami in the first three weeks, and they began the season with a 3-0 record. They scored first-quarter touchdowns and more than 30 points in each win, and Jason Witten hauled in a scoring pass against the Dolphin. Then, losses against the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, and the then-winless Jets gave them three losses in a row. 

Even after losing to the Minnesota Vikings to fall to 5-4, Dallas’ offensive statistics were still impressive. The Cowboys averaged 437.4 yards of offense per game. In addition, Dallas averaged a healthy 27.4 points per game. The Cowboys’ defense allowed 323.2 yards per game.

Sadly, the game between the Cowboys and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium ended with the Patriots’ 13-9 win and a flat offensive showing by Dallas — no touchdowns and three field goals for the game.

Cowboys buck the trend vs. Eagles

One exception to the Cowboys’ offensive struggles came Oct. 20 against the Eagles following the embarrassing loss against the Jets. The Cowboys’ defense quickly forced and recovered two fumbles in the first quarter, and thew offense scored two rushing touchdowns. The Cowboys continued to play strong throughout the game and beat Philadelphia 37-10. At the time, that was the only first-quarter touchdown since the game against the Dolphins on Sept. 22.

Cowboys give thanks: A first-quarter TD on Thanksgiving

Jason Witten says the Cowboys slow first quarters on offense are partly by design.
Jason Witten scores one of the few first-quarter touchdowns for the Cowboys in 2019. | Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Going into their Thanksgiving game against the Buffalo Bills, the Cowboys still led the NFC East with a 6-5 record. It seemed like the Cowboys’ moment of glory had finally arrived when, for the second time in eight games, the team actually scored a first-quarter touchdown. Their strong start resulted in an early lead against the Bills, but they ultimately suffered an embarrassing 26-15 defeat on their own turf. 

Entering a Week 14 game against the Bears, Dallas still leads the otherwise dreadful NFC East with a 6-6 record. The slow starts are a major concern as one miscue could end a team’s playoff run, but Jason Witten.

Jason Witten explains why the first quarter is so slow

When asked about what was going on with the team’s slow starts, Jason Witten provided an explanation. Taking time for defensive reads in the first quarter allows the team to plan on how they’ll proceed in the next two or three quarters, Witten explains

“Sometimes when you go through opener [drives], you’re using that to see how they’re going to play certain other things. Sometimes if you have a three-and-out, yeah, it may have opened our eyes to what we can do in the next series down the road.” 

Unfortunately, Witten admits, the slow starts can also have a negative impact on the game. Hence, the 6-6 record with some ugly losses along the way.
Clearly, the Dallas Cowboys’ slow starts are hindering their overall game. And after their Thanksgiving defeat, it’s more important than ever for them to gain control early in games. Now the Cowboys have a lot more to think about, like the playoffs and a probable change in their coaching staff. So it goes without saying: The team needs to play with stability and consistency. They need to strike early in each game  — and keep up the momentum until the end.