Jason Garrett heard the critics after last week’s loss to the New England Patriots.
But it mattered little on Thursday.
Despite a more aggressive gameplan, the Cowboys struggled through a mistake-laden performance in a dominant 26-15 Buffalo Bills victory in the annual Thanksgiving matinee in Dallas.
While Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a coming out party in front of a national audience, the Cowboys simply couldn’t get out of their own way in a sloppy game that reflects poorly on the embattled Dallas coach.
The mistakes started early, with a bad Dak Prescott interception to Bills defensive tackle Star Lotulelei in the second quarter.
On the next Dallas possession, Prescott turned the ball over on a strip sack by rookie defensive tackle Ed Oliver.
When Dallas had a chance to cut Buffalo’s 13-7 lead to a field goal at halftime, the Cowboys allowed another blocked kick, this time a tip that knocked Brett Maher’s 35-yard field goal off line. It was the first of two missed kicks for Maher, who sent a 47-yarder in the third quarter wide right.
And then there was Garrett’s response to last week’s criticism for his decision to to kick a field goal in the red zone late in the fourth quarter against the Patriots while trailing by seven.
His answer on Thursday was to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Dallas 19-yard-line — in the second quarter of a seven-point game.
The Cowboys got the first down. But focusing on the first-down is playing the result of an irresponsible gamble that was a clear response to the noise he heard from his decisions against New England.
The mistakes can’t all be squarely laid up on Garrett, of course. But some of them can. And they continue a troubling trend that’s plagued his Cowboys team since long before Thursday.
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys during the Cowboys 24-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. (Photo by James D. Smith /Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)
IRVING, TX - JANUARY 13: Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, looks on prior to the game against the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional Playoff on January 13, 2008 at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Giants defeated the Cowboys 21-17. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
IRVING, TX - 2008: Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys poses for his 2008 NFL headshot at photo day in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Getty Images)
27 November 2008 - Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys during the Cowboys 34-9 win over the Seattle Seahawks at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. (Photo by James D. Smith /Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 31: Jon Kitna #3 of the Dallas Cowboys confers with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Cowboys Stadium on October 31, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Jaguars defeated the Cowboys 35-17. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Jason Garrett, the new head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, holds a press conference after Jerry Jones announced the firing of Wade Phillips at Valley Ranch in Irving, Texas, Monday, November 8, 2010. (Photo by Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 21: Head coach Jason Garrett (R) of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with quarterback Jon Kitna #3 after scored against the Detroit Lions late in the fourth quarter at Cowboys Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys beat the Lions 35-19. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dez Bryant, right, greets coach Jason Garrett on the field before start of the Dallas Cowboys blue/white scrimmage at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on Sunday, August 7, 2011. (Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Head coach Jason Garrett watches as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 20-7. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 01: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on October 1, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 14: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys throws the football while watching his team warm up before the start of their game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 14, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, quarterback Kyle Orton (18), quarterback Tony Romo (9) and quarterback coach Wade Wilson confer during a time out late in the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, Sunday, September 29, 2013. The Chargers beat the Cowboys, 30-21. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 24: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys looks on during the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 24, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Cowboys defeated the Giants 24-21. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 10: Jason Garrett, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, enters the stadium prior to a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 10, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans defeated Dallas 49-17. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
DURHAM, NC - MARCH 08: Head Coach Jason Garrett (L) and Tony Romo of the NFL Dallas Cowboys look on prior to a game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 8, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke defeated North Carolina 93-81. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, left, watches as tight end James Hanna plays a game on the beach with teammates on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Oxnard, Calif. The team skipped the afternoon walk-through practice and went to the beach instead following the morning practice with the Oakland Raiders. (Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
23 August 2014: Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett and Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo (9) watch replay on the jumbotron during a preseason NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Cowboys with a score of 25-20. (Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 14: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys throws some passes during warm ups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 14, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 11: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys stands on the field during warm-ups prior to the 2015 NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 11, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys after scoring the game winning touchdown against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 1: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys signals to line judge Tim Podraza #47 against the Seattle Seahawks in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on November 1, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 13: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys looks on during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 13, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Cowboys 28-7. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 6, 2016: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys embraces wide receiver Dez Bryant #88 prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns on November 6, 2016 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Dallas won 35-10. (Photo by: Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 17: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys looks on from the sideline during a game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 17, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) and Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett hold hands before a game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 12: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Atlanta Falcons against the Dallas Cowboys at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett during the team's rookie camp at The Star in Frisco, Texas, on Friday, May 11, 2018. (Ray Carlin/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
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With all that, Dallas still remains in control of the NFC East, dropping to 6-6 with a loss that keeps them a half game ahead of a Philadelphia Eagles team that they’ve already beaten this season.
But that’s not where this talented Cowboys team and its owner Jerry Jones expected to be 12 games into the season.
Jones has insisted the Garrett’s job is safe through the remainder of the season. But it’s going to take a dramatic turnaround for the 10th-year Cowboys coach to keep his job.