If you felt like you just sat through this exact same game, where you watched the Cowboys walk into a three-hour destruction in front of their home crowd that was taken in such a thorough manner that you lost all hope, it's because you just did.
You sat through a game Sunday -- in the exact same building -- where an opponent rolled in and dominated the game in such a manner on both sides of the ball that you were left dazed and confused about what to be most angry about.
It happened four days earlier. At least that team is one that is destroying quite a few others. The Eagles are a team we will see playing January. The Chargers? Well, the Chargers were 4-6 when Thursday's game started. They have their own issues. Not to say they can't play in January, too, because the AFC is not exactly full of really good teams these days, but that team -- with all of its flaws -- came to town and destroyed the Cowboys with such ease that it didn't even matter that they cashed in on only 1 of 5 trips to the red zone. Usually if you go 1-for-5 at crossing the goal line from the red zone, you lose because of your wasteful efficiency. They won, 28-6, so the only thing wasted in that scenario was their chance to get to 40 points (or even 50) against a defense that had no power to resist.
As you might expect, since this game ended, most of the feedback I have received from the disappointed fan base revolves around the poor play of quarterback Dak Prescott, the league conspiracy to make sure the Cowboys are never the beneficiary of another holding call and the lamenting of Ezekiel Elliott's absence (who could have gone anywhere in the world for his in-season vacation, yet he chose the only location that makes any longtime Cowboys fan just a little more irritated: Cabo).
Yet, there was Philip Rivers, standing there with a can full of gas and a hand filled with matches. If you were destroyed Thursday, you need not to look much further than the soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback who utterly eviscerated the Cowboys without mercy in front of their own adoring public.
Rivers was sensational. And oddly enough, after two months of looking the part of an actual defense that has an actual chance to compete in the NFL, the Cowboys saw the clock strike midnight and have turned back into exactly what everyone feared.
Where do we start? The 515 total yards allowed? The 434 passing yards? The 500-400 club now has eight quarterbacks who have done it against the Cowboys since 1960. Billy Wade did the deed in 1962 win for the Bears and Warren Moon accomplished it in 1991, victoriously, for the Houston Oilers. The other six have done it against the Jason Garrett-coached Cowboys since 2011:
-- Eli Manning in a December 2011 win for New York.
-- Drew Brees in a December 2012 win for New Orleans.
-- Peyton Manning in an October 2013 win for Denver.
-- Matt Stafford in an October 2013 win for Detroit.
-- Kirk Cousins in a November 2016 loss for Washington.
-- Philip Rivers in a November 2017 win for Los Angeles.
So basically, if you go for 400 yards through the air and 500 overall, you win -- unless it was last Thanksgiving, when Prescott still beat Cousins (more on Prescott in a bit).
Now, what about when you let the opposing passer go for 400 yards, the opposing offense for 500 and never sack him or force them to turn the ball over?
Friends, that has only happened three times in Cowboys history according to our friends at Pro Football Reference: against Brees and the Saints in 2012, Cousins and the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day in 2016 and Rivers yesterday:
We could go on and on. The Chargers had nine third-down conversions -- tied with the Denver game for the worst third-down defensive performance of the season. The Chargers had the ball for 36:05, the Cowboys conceded the highest passer rating in team history to a quarterback over 400 yards (149.1) and they allowed 13.2 yards per attempt.
In the past five years -- since the Cowboys switched to a 4-3 defense and welcomed Rod Marinelli to run the defense -- they have had only three performances of zero sacks and zero takeaways. Two of them happened this week. In both of those games, the opposing team emerged from the locker room and scored touchdowns the first three times they touched the football: Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown -- with every single drive starting at least 75 yards away -- and the Cowboys found absolutely no suggestions to slow the freight train down.
Marinelli appeared to try something that wasn't attempted much against the Eagles on Sunday. The Cowboys blitzed Carson Wentz three times and have averaged just 6.5 blitzes per game this season. On Thursday, they changed it up and broke tendencies in an effort to rattle a 14-year veteran, blitzing Rivers 14 times. It went about as well as you thought it would. Rivers probably had to hide his smirk when he saw Orlando Scandrick telegraph another blitz from the slot. And then he ripped that apart, too.
He completed 9 of 13 against the blitz for 139 yards. Amazingly, none of those big plays went to the end zone, so his rating against the blitz was 104, but you can see that he was not close to being concerned about how it went. The Cowboys defense has no chance whatsoever of getting off the field right now, and I suppose we could argue Sean Lee would have fixed this, too, but that would be a bit disingenuous, since the Chargers were not exactly making their money by attacking linebackers. They were isolating and attacking the secondary, doing it with some significant ease.
Now, you might be asking, at the 1,000-word mark of this column, "Bob, you haven't even mentioned the side of the ball that was the real problem yesterday. Can we get to that?"
I guess. I just don't know what to say anymore.
I have never seen anything like these past three weeks in terms of offensive futility. They set an all-time team record for consecutive quarters without a touchdown. They have scored 22 points in three games. They haven't scored in double figures in three games. THEY HAVEN'T LOST BY LESS THAN 20 POINTS IN THE PAST THREE GAMES. Think about what that says.
When you lose by a combined 70 points in the past three games, there is literally nothing you could say about his offense that isn't too extreme.
Playoffs? Are you kidding me? I am just wondering if Ezekiel Elliott should immediately get a raise to a salary that seems relatively equal to his value -- say, about $50 million per year or so.
I was asked about whether Jason Garrett or Scott Linehan should be on the hot seat, and it seems to me the bigger issue would be if they weren't. How could they be this bad? How could you not come close to putting together a single drive of value until the game was effectively over?
Prescott looks like he has no confidence at all and no belief anymore that he has the answers to the test. This guy had the world in his hands four weeks ago and was operating a bulldozer that flattened anything in its path -- and now this?
The offensive line was the most dominant unit in the league 12 months ago, and now its looks battered and ordinary and overrun when trying to present a simple pocket with which to throw from a crucial third down. Third downs of which they have converted just 14 of 36 during this Elliott suspension phase. But that isn't the stat to focus on. The stat to look at is how this team hasn't been able to get to 250 yards of offense for three straight weeks.
In the Garrett era, the Cowboys offense has been limited less than 10 points and 250 yards of offense on five different occasions: 2011 in Philadelphia (in a Stephen McGee game), 2015 at Tampa Bay (in a Matt Cassel game) and this team's past three games (at Atlanta, vs. Philadelphia and the Chargers)!
No, I didn't see this coming. Nobody could have.
Dez Bryant looks ordinary. Jason Witten looks easy to defend. Cole Beasley looks like he is standing on the sideline for most of the game. This whole thing looks broken. It is almost like the organization didn't have about three months to prepare soundly for a suspension that everybody and their grandmothers knew was coming eventually. Rather than plan accordingly, we must assume they played their fiddles. And now, it is all burning.
The offense is so bad right now and the decisions are maddening. There was almost no attempt at play-action passing Thursday and no sign of even the slightest explosive play. The coaches are looking at an extremely young quarterback who is facing adversity for the first time, and it appears they want him to figure it out.
This is historically bad. When the defense and offense can both produce stat totals that suggest they have rarely played this bad in the same game, the floor has dropped out from under the season. When they do it three weeks in a row, then you have to consider pressing the button that tells HR to start filling out dismissal paperwork for an entire regime.
Nothing I write this morning can express how badly this month has been botched. Morale couldn't be lower. There is no trace of self-belief in that locker room.