2016 Dallas Cowboys season
The 2016 Dallas Cowboys season was the franchise's 57th season in the National Football League, the eighth playing their home games at AT&T Stadium and the 6th full season under head coach Jason Garrett.
|2016 Dallas Cowboys season|
|Head coach||Jason Garrett|
|General manager||Jerry Jones|
|Home field||AT&T Stadium|
|Division place||1st NFC East|
|Playoff finish||Lost Divisional Playoffs (Packers) 31–34|
After losing their first game to the New York Giants, the Cowboys went undefeated for 11 straight games. The streak ended with them losing again to the same team in week 14, making this the first time since 2011 that the Giants would sweep the Cowboys. With division rivals Washington Redskins losing to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13, the Cowboys clinched a playoff berth after missing the playoffs the previous year. Following the Giants' loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16, the Cowboys became NFC East champions for the second time in three years and clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The 13–3 record is tied for the best record in team history, which was also set in 1992 and 2007 after a disastrous 2015 season. However, despite having the NFC's top seed as well as home-field advantage, the Cowboys suffered a devastating loss in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 31–34, ending their season and not making to the conference championship for the 22nd straight year. This was also QB Tony Romo's last season in the NFL, as he announced his retirement on April 4, 2017.
- 1 Offseason
- 2 Staff
- 3 Rosters
- 4 Preseason
- 5 Regular season
- 6 Postseason
- 7 Game summaries
- 7.1 Regular season
- 7.1.1 Week 1: vs. New York Giants
- 7.1.2 Week 2: at Washington Redskins
- 7.1.3 Week 3: vs. Chicago Bears
- 7.1.4 Week 4: at San Francisco 49ers
- 7.1.5 Week 5: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
- 7.1.6 Week 6: at Green Bay Packers
- 7.1.7 Week 8: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
- 7.1.8 Week 9: at Cleveland Browns
- 7.1.9 Week 10: at Pittsburgh Steelers
- 7.1.10 Week 11: vs. Baltimore Ravens
- 7.1.11 Week 12: vs. Washington Redskins
- 7.1.12 Week 13: at Minnesota Vikings
- 7.1.13 Week 14: at New York Giants
- 7.1.14 Week 15: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 7.1.15 Week 16: vs. Detroit Lions
- 7.1.16 Week 17: at Philadelphia Eagles
- 7.2 Postseason
- 7.1 Regular season
- 8 Standings
- 9 References
- 10 External links
|Position||Player||Restriction||Date signed||2016 team|
|G||Mackenzy Bernadeau||UFA||March 11||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|T||Charles Brown[A]||UFA||March 10||-|
|QB||Matt Cassel||UFA||March 9||Tennessee Titans|
|CB||Morris Claiborne||UFA||March 11||Dallas Cowboys|
|DE||Jack Crawford||UFA||April 4||Dallas Cowboys|
|RB||Lance Dunbar||UFA||March 17||Dallas Cowboys|
|TE||James Hanna||UFA||March 11||Dallas Cowboys|
|S||Jeff Heath||RFA||April 13||Dallas Cowboys|
|G||Ronald Leary||RFA||April 28||Dallas Cowboys|
|LB||Rolando McClain[B]||UFA||March 9||-|
|CB||Josh Thomas||UFA||March 10||Dallas Cowboys|
|RB||Robert Turbin||UFA||March 15||Indianapolis Colts|
|LB||Kyle Wilber||UFA||March 11||Dallas Cowboys|
|RFA: Restricted free agent, UFA: Unrestricted free agent|
Coming into the offseason the Cowboys had a few positions that concerned them as a result of injuries, suspensions, and players potentially leaving the team. The positions that were of most concern were quarterback, defensive back, and pass rusher. The Cowboys had a total of eighteen players entering the free agency, which meant the players were free to negotiate with and sign a contract to play with any team in the league. Of the eighteen players, two of them were restricted free agents, which meant they could get offers from other teams, and the Cowboys would have opportunity to match the offer and keep the player on their roster. The free agency process officially started on March 9 for all thirty-two teams.
After losing ten out of the eleven games without Romo in 2015, the Dallas Cowboys wanted to find a reliable back up quarterback, either through the draft, or by signing a veteran free agent. The Cowboys met with the top three quarterbacks entering the draft: Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch, all of whom were projected to be drafted in the first round. Another prospect for the Cowboys was Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who met with the team on four separate occasions leading some to believe he would be their target in the middle rounds of the draft. Including Prescott, Goff, Wentz and Lynch, the Cowboys had pre-draft meetings with a total of seven quarterbacks entering the draft. Cowboys also looked at veteran quarterback Matt Moore, having him visit with the organization in March before he re-signed with the Miami Dolphins later in the month. After a mediocre performance in the previous year quarterback Matt Cassel entered the free agency. Tight end James Hanna re-signed with the Cowboys with a three-year contract worth $8.2 million on March 11. Running back Lance Dunbar re-signed to a one-year contract worth $1.7 million on March 17. After the window to receive offers from other teams while being a restricted free agent closed, guard Ronald Leary re-signed with the Cowboys for a one-year deal worth $2.5 million on April 28.
On the defensive side of the team the Cowboys were coming off a year where they only had 8 interceptions, and needed to make improvements with their defensive backs. Orlando Scandrick who was a starting cornerback for the team in 2013 and 2014, was still recovering from the ACL and MCL injury that happened during practice in 2015 causing him to miss the entire season. Cornerbacks Josh Thomas and Morris Claiborne both were unrestricted free agents and could potentially be signed by another team. Within the first two days after free agency started, they both were re-signed to the Cowboys, Claiborne for a one-year deal worth $3 million, and Thomas for a one-year contract. Defensive backs Nolan Carroll, Leon Hall and Patrick Robinson were brought in to meet with the Cowboys during free agency. Safety Jeff Heath re-signed for a four-year contract worth $7.6 million on April 13.
In regards to their needs with the pass rush Sports Illustrated writer Chris Burke said that defensive end was the position that most needed to be improve for the Cowboys. Defensive end Randy Gregory had a suspension for the first four games of the season as a result of abusing the leagues substance abuse policy, which would later be increased by ten games. One of the Cowboys other defensive ends, DeMarcus Lawrence was recovering from back surgery spreading their defensive line even more thin. Defensive tackle Nick Hayden, defensive ends Greg Hardy, Jeremy Mincey and Jack Crawford, all were entering the free agency. Crawford was the only one to be re-signed and was given a one-year deal worth $1.1 million on March 9. Defensive end Jason Jones was brought in to visit the Cowboys on March 28. Linebacker Kyle Wilber re-signed for a two-year contract worth $3.2 million on March 11.
Of the eighteen Cowboys players who were in the free agency, the Cowboys were able to re-sign ten of them for the 2016 season. From those ten, linebacker Rolando McClain was re-signed on March 9, but due to a suspension he received from the league for violating the NFL's drug policy he missed the entire season. Offensive tackle Charles Brown was re-signed on March 10, but in July decided to retire and was placed on the reserved/retired list. From the eight that weren't re-signed, four of them signed with other teams. The first of these three was quarterback Matt Cassel, who left for the free agency after being benched in the previous season when he lost six of his seven games as a starter. He went on to be signed by the Tennessee Titans on March 9. The next player to sign with another team was offensive lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau who signed a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on March 11. Next up was running back Robert Turbin who signed a contract with the Indianapolis Colts on March 15. The last player to sign with another team was defensive tackle Nick Hayden who signed with the Cleveland Browns in March, but ended up being released in August and not playing during the season. Players that did not sign with the Cowboys or any other teams included defensive end Greg Hardy who was a free agent that had a lot of off the field issues. It was reported that Hardy not being re-signed was likely more due to fitting in with the Cowboys locker room rather than due to the off the field issues. Defensive end Jeremy Mincey decided to retired in August. The last two free agents, 31 year old fullback Tyler Clutts and 28 year old safety Danny McCray both were not re-signed, speculated to be due to their age.
While most of the activity made by the Cowboys during free agency was re-signing their own players, they also made a few acquisitions of players from other teams to add to their roster. Defensive end Cedric Thornton was the first to be acquired, signing a four-year contract worth $18 million on March 10. Thorton comes from one of the Cowboys divisional rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, and will being moving from defensive end to defensive tackle. At the time of his signing, he was believed to be the likely replacement for Hayden who was still in the free agency. Continuing to work on the improvement of their defensive line, the next acquisition for the Cowboys was defensive end Benson Mayowa from the Oakland Raiders, who signed a three-year contract on March 18 worth $8.5 million. Mayowa was a restricted free agent, and the Raiders had five days to match the offer to retain him, but they declined to do so, allowing the Cowboys to improve their pass rush some more. The next free agent acquisition was from another divisional rival, when the Cowboys signed Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris. Morris signed a contract on March 22 for 2 years and worth $3.5 million. Morris will be added into the running back rotation with starter Darren McFadden, who replaced Joseph Randle last year as the starter after Randle was injured and later cut for off the field issues. The final free agent acquisition the Cowboys made was offensive lineman Joe Looney from the Tennessee Titans, who was signed on March 29. He is a flexible player who can play both center and guard, similar to the role Bernadeau had. Looney's contract was for two years and worth $1.6 million.
2016 NFL draftEdit
The Dallas Cowboys had nine draft picks for the 2016 NFL draft which was scheduled to take place from April 28 to April 30 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cowboys originally had only five picks as a results of trades with the Raiders, 49ers and Seahawks, but were awarded four compensatory picks on March 11 as a result of the net loss of players in free agency before the 2015 season. One of the compensatory picks received was a fourth round draft pick, and the other three picks were all in the sixth round. After all the trades and the compensatory picks given, the Cowboys had one pick in each of the first three rounds, two picks in the fourth, zero in the fifth, four picks in the sixth round, and zero in the seventh. In January Neil Hornsby, the founder of Pro Football Focus, ranked the offseason needs for the Dallas Cowboys, and said the top needs for the draft were quarterback, cornerback, guard, and running back. Leading up to the draft two of these needs, running back and guard, were addressed with the addition of Morris and Looney to the team during free agency. As the draft got closer on April 26, Bleacher Report also listed running back, quarterback and cornerback in their top five needs for the Cowboys in the draft, along with defensive end and safety.
With the fourth overall pick in the draft, the Cowboys used their first round selection to draft Ezekiel Elliott from Ohio State. Prior to the draft the Cowboys had met with Elliott on two separate occasions, once in Ohio, and a second time in Dallas. Elliott averaged seven yards per carry during his three-year college career, and had over 1,800 yards in both of his final two years. In the 2015 season, Elliott was named unanimously to the first team of the All-Big Ten Conference, and second on the 2015 College Football All-America Team. Along with being first team Big Ten, Elliott was also named the offensive player of the year and the MVP for the conference. In the 2014 season he and the Ohio State Buckeyes won the Big Ten Championship along with the College Football National Championship in which Elliott was named MVP. In early February during an interview on NFL Network when asked about which team he wanted to be picked by, Elliott responded with: "The Dallas Cowboys. I want to go play behind that great offensive line they have down in Dallas." Elliott is expected to help the Cowboys in the running game as he will be behind what is considered by some to be the best offensive line in the NFL. Elliott's presence will also help with the passing game due to his blocking abilities and the fact that defenses will have to respect the backfield with him there, which will increase the effectiveness of play-action passes. Elliott becomes the third running back to be drafted by the Cowboys with a top-20 pick. The previous two picks, Tony Dorsett in 1977 and Emmitt Smith in 1990 ended up being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the latter also is the NFL's all-time leading rusher.
In the second round of the draft, the Cowboys selected Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith with the 34th overall pick. Smith was named first team All-American in 2015, and led his team in tackles. Smith also won the Butkus Award, which is awarded to the best linebacker in the country at the high school, college, and professional levels. This was the second time Smith had won the award, the previous time in 2013 as a senior in high school. In the Fiesta Bowl game versus Ohio State, Smith suffered a knee injury that later was determined to be a torn ACL and torn MCL. With the injury to his knee, it was expected for him to miss a significant amount of time, potentially the entire season. The Cowboys team doctor was the ones to perform the surgery to repair his knee before the draft, so it was believed they might have a bit more knowledge of the situation than other teams. With their third round and fourth round picks, the Cowboys shifted their focus to the defensive line. In the third, with the 67th overall pick, the Cowboys selected Nebraska defensive tackle Maliek Collins. In the fourth round with the 101st overall pick, the Cowboys selected Charles Tapper, a defensive end out of Oklahoma. In 2015 Collins was named to the second team All-Big Ten Conference, and Tapper was first team All-Big 12 Conference.
After selecting Elliott early in the first, the Cowboys attempted to trade with multiple teams for another first round selection in order to draft quarterback Paxton Lynch. They were unsuccessful in finding a trade and it wasn't until their second fourth round pick that they decided on a quarterback with Mississippi State's Dak Prescott being selected 135th overall. Prescott was selected with one of the compensatory picks the Cowboys received for the draft. This marks the first time since 2009 the Cowboys have drafted a quarterback. While Prescott was the starter for Mississippi State, he broke 38 school records and lead them to a #1 ranking in 2014 for the first time in the school's history. Prescott was named to first team of both the 2014 and 2015 All-SEC football teams. Prescott was quickly compared to Tony Romo, being similar in size and being able to make plays with their feet. Prescott's athletic talents contributed greatly to the Cowboys picking him, but team official also noted his locker room presence and leadership abilities as influencing the decision as well. Prescott will enter training camp and try to compete with Kellen Moore for the backup quarterback role for the season, and then work towards become a starter, a task he accomplished both in high school and college. The Cowboys looked forward to developing Prescott over the years and were confident he was a worthwhile talent. When asked about not being the Cowboys first choice to draft, in regards to the attempt to trade up for Lynch, Dak responded with: “I’m sure at Mississippi State I wasn’t the first one on the recruit board when I committed there. Everything works out and happens for a reason."
With no picks in the fifth or seventh round, the Cowboys finished their draft in the sixth round where they had four picks. Their first two picks were two defensive backs, Anthony Brown a cornerback from Purdue, selected 189th overall, and Kavon Frazier a safety from Central Michigan, selected 212th overall. Brown showed off his impressive speed at the NFL combine, where he ran the 40 yard dash in 4.35 seconds, the second fastest time of all cornerbacks attending. Brown was an honorable mention for the All-Big Ten Conference team, while Frazier was named second team All-MAC Conference. The Cowboys switched their focus back to the offense with their next two picks and selected back to back with the 216th and 217th overall picks. First was Darius Jackson a running back from Eastern Michigan, then followed up with Rico Gathers a basketball player out of Baylor with intentions to play tight end. Jackson was third team All-Mac Conference, and is expected to use his ability to catch the ball from the backfield to fill the void that will be left at start of season while Lance Dunbar is out after a knee surgery. Gathers hasn't played football since he was 13 years old, but was an honorable mention AP All-American college basketball athlete.
|2016 Dallas Cowboys draft|
|1||4||Ezekiel Elliott *||RB||Ohio State|
|2||34||Jaylon Smith||OLB||Notre Dame|
|4||135||Dak Prescott *||QB||Mississippi State||Compensatory|
|6||189||Anthony Brown||CB||Purdue||From Oakland|
|6||212||Kavon Frazier||S||Central Michigan||Compensatory|
|6||216||Darius Jackson||RB||Eastern Michigan||Compensatory|
|Pro Football Hall of Fame Made at least one Pro Bowl during careerMade roster|
- The Cowboys conditionally traded their fifth-round selection to the Oakland Raiders for wide receiver Brice Butler and the Raiders' 2016 sixth-round selection. The pick swap occurred after Butler spent six games on the Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2015.
- The Cowboys traded a sixth-round selection to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for the 49ers' 2015 seventh-round selection.
- The Cowboys traded their seventh-round selection to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for running back Christine Michael.
|2016 Dallas Cowboys staff|
Special teams coaches
Strength and conditioning
Opening preseason rosterEdit
|Dallas Cowboys 2016 opening preseason roster|
90 Active, 4 Inactive
Week one rosterEdit
|Dallas Cowboys 2016 week one roster|
53 Active, 12 Inactive, 10 Practice Squad
|Dallas Cowboys 2016 final roster|
52 Active, 15 Inactive, 10 Practice Squad
|1||August 13||at Los Angeles Rams||L 24–28||0–1||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum||Recap|
|2||August 19||Miami Dolphins||W 41–14||1–1||AT&T Stadium||Recap|
|3||August 25||at Seattle Seahawks||L 17–27||1–2||CenturyLink Field||Recap|
|4||September 1||Houston Texans||L 17–28||1–3||AT&T Stadium||Recap|
|1||September 11||New York Giants||L 19–20||0–1||AT&T Stadium||Recap|
|2||September 18||at Washington Redskins||W 27–23||1–1||FedExField||Recap|
|3||September 25||Chicago Bears||W 31–17||2–1||AT&T Stadium||Recap|
|4||October 2||at San Francisco 49ers||W 24–17||3–1||Levi's Stadium||Recap|
|5||October 9||Cincinnati Bengals||W 28–14||4–1||AT&T Stadium||Recap|
|6||October 16||at Green Bay Packers||W 30–16||5–1||Lambeau Field||Recap|
|8||October 30||Philadelphia Eagles||W 29–23 (OT)||6–1||AT&T Stadium||Recap|
|9||November 6||at Cleveland Browns||W 35–10||7–1||FirstEnergy Stadium||Recap|
|10||November 13||at Pittsburgh Steelers||W 35–30||8–1||Heinz Field||Recap|
|11||November 20||Baltimore Ravens||W 27–17||9–1||AT&T Stadium||Recap|
|12||November 24||Washington Redskins||W 31–26||10–1||AT&T Stadium||Recap|
|13||December 1||at Minnesota Vikings||W 17–15||11–1||U.S. Bank Stadium||Recap|
|14||December 11||at New York Giants||L 7–10||11–2||MetLife Stadium||Recap|
|15||December 18||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||W 26–20||12–2||AT&T Stadium||Recap|
|16||December 26||Detroit Lions||W 42–21||13–2||AT&T Stadium||Recap|
|17||January 1||at Philadelphia Eagles||L 13–27||13–3||Lincoln Financial Field||Recap|
Note: Intra-division opponents are in bold text.
|Playoff round||Date||Opponent (seed)||Result||Record||Game site||NFL.com|
|Wild Card||First-round bye|
|Divisional||January 15, 2017||Green Bay Packers (4)||L 31–34||0–1||AT&T Stadium||Recap|
Week 1: vs. New York GiantsEdit
The Cowboys fell short trying to win their home opener against the Giants in a hard-fought game. They dropped to 0–1 and lost to the Giants at AT&T Stadium for the first time since 2012.
Ezekiel Elliott struggled to find holes all game, but managed to record his first NFL touchdown. The Dallas defense failed to contain the Giants' rushing attack. The game also saw the return of Victor Cruz, who caught the game-clinching touchdown pass from Eli Manning.
Dallas' final play, a 14-yard catch-and-run by Terrance Williams, put them in field goal range, but he stayed inbounds and time expired.
Week 2: at Washington RedskinsEdit
Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott was impressive in his second NFL start, rushing for a touchdown and playing mistake-free football as Dallas evened its record at 1–1 with a win over its long-time rival.
Barry Church's interception of Kirk Cousins in the end zone late in the fourth quarter sealed the game.
Week 3: vs. Chicago BearsEdit
at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Dallas won its first home game in over a year as it dispatched of the Bears, who were without normal starting quarterback Jay Cutler and instead started Brian Hoyer. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 140 yards on 30 carries in just his third NFL game and Dak Prescott threw his first NFL touchdown pass to Dez Bryant.
Week 4: at San Francisco 49ersEdit
The Cowboys rallied from an early 14-point hole to win over the 49ers on the road, winning their third straight game in the process. Ezekiel Elliott went over the century mark again, rushing for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Week 5: vs. Cincinnati BengalsEdit
at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Dak Prescott extended his consecutive passes to begin a career without an interception streak to 155, trailing only Tom Brady all-time. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 134 yards on only 15 carries, including a 60-yard touchdown run. The win put Dallas a half-game ahead of the Eagles for first place in the NFC East.
Week 6: at Green Bay PackersEdit
It was the third straight year that the Cowboys traveled to Lambeau to face the Packers. Despite Dak Prescott being picked off for the first time this season, he still managed 247 passing yards and three touchdowns. He also passed Tom Brady's all-time record of consecutive pass attempts to start a career without an interception.
Ezekiel Elliott pounded the Green Bay Packers number one ranked run defense with 157 yards on 28 carries
The Dallas defense dominated the Packers, forcing four Green Bay turnovers. It was the first time since 2008, and second time in franchise history that the Cowboys had won at Lambeau. With the 30–16 victory, the Cowboys went 5–1 heading into the bye week.
Week 8: vs. Philadelphia EaglesEdit
at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Hoping to continue their winning streak, the Cowboys hosted the Philadelphia Eagles in a primetime matchup duel between Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz. Jason Witten's touchdown in overtime sealed the victory for the Cowboys, who went 6–1; this was the Cowboys' first victory against the Eagles at AT&T Stadium since 2012.
Week 9: at Cleveland BrownsEdit
The winless Browns had no answer for Dak Prescott who threw three touchdown passes in a 35–10 win and improving the Cowboys to 7–1 for the first time since 2007.
Week 10: at Pittsburgh SteelersEdit
A classic rivalry since the 1970s, the Cowboys traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who were coming off a three-game losing streak (including a loss to the Baltimore Ravens the previous week). With the win, the Cowboys extended their winning streak to eight games for the first time since 1977. Ezekiel Elliott reached 1,000 yards in this game and rushed for the game-winning touchdown in the space of 30 seconds. The Cowboys also clinched a non-losing season as they had the best win–loss record in the NFL.
Week 11: vs. Baltimore RavensEdit
at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
The Cowboys returned home to take on the Baltimore Ravens. Ezekiel Elliott surpassed Tony Dorsett's record of 1,007 rushing yards as a rookie. With the win, the Cowboys extended their winning streak to nine games for the first time in the team's franchise history. The win also saw the Cowboys beat the Ravens for the very first time.
Week 12: vs. Washington RedskinsEdit
at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
In the traditional Thanksgiving game, the Cowboys hosted the Washington Redskins, who had just came off a victory against the Green Bay Packers. In a game of catch-up, the Redskins never led; however, they made a valiant effort in the fourth quarter to take the lead. The Cowboys held them off and won the game, thus extending their winning streak to ten games for the first time in franchise history.
Week 13: at Minnesota VikingsEdit
The Cowboys traveled to Minnesota to take on the struggling Vikings following their loss against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. In a rather tightly contested game that saw penalties on Dallas and strong Vikings defense, the Cowboys nevertheless managed to win and thus extended their historical win streak to eleven games. This was also the first time since 1995 in which Dallas had won at Minnesota. With the win, plus a loss from the Washington Redskins against the Cardinals the following Sunday, Dallas became the first team in the NFL to clinch a playoff berth this season.
Week 14: at New York GiantsEdit
Trying to win their 12th straight and avenge their Week 1 loss, the Cowboys took on the second place New York Giants in a Sunday night showdown. After taking a 7–0 lead on their second possession of the game, the Cowboys failed to score any more points for the rest of the game and lost 10–7, thus ending their 11-game winning streak. Dak Prescott had his first multiple-interception game and the Cowboys committed three turnovers. It was the first time that they were swept in the regular season by the Giants since the 2011 season.
Week 15: vs. Tampa Bay BuccaneersEdit
at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Following their second loss to the Giants, the Cowboys returned to Arlington in a match against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who were coming off a five-game winning streak). Despite both teams sharing the lead from time and time again, the Cowboys were able to hold off the Buccaneers. With less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, Orlando Scandrick intercepted a pass from Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (who fumbled earlier in the first half) and ended the game as a Cowboys victory.
Dallas' only other highlight came early in the second quarter when Ezekiel Elliott leapt onto the Salvation Army kettle after scoring a touchdown to lead Dallas 10–3. This celebration resulted in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty; however, the following day, the NFL decided to not fine Elliott for the celebration.
The Cowboys improved to 12–2, and with the Giants' loss to the Eagles the following Thursday night, they clinched the NFC East title and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Week 16: vs. Detroit LionsEdit
at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
The Cowboys improved to 13–2 and swept the NFC North. They became the first team since the 2008 Tennessee Titans to sweep both the AFC and NFC North in the same regular season. They also won their 13th game in the regular season for the third time in franchise history, and first time since 2007. Dez Bryant threw his first touchdown pass of his career.
Week 17: at Philadelphia EaglesEdit
With everything already clinched, the Cowboys rested numerous key starters, including Elliott and Sean Lee, and only played Dak Prescott for two series. Tony Romo played for the first time since November 2015 and in his one series, threw a touchdown pass to Terrance Williams. The Cowboys finished 3–3 against NFC East competition, and won every other regular-season game.
NFC Divisional Playoffs: vs. (4) Green Bay PackersEdit
Despite having the #1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage, the Cowboys' season came to a heartbreaking end in Dallas when they were defeated by the #4 seed Green Bay Packers 34–31 as they avenged their Week 6 loss with a Mason Crosby field goal with just 3 seconds left. For the first time since Week 14, Dak Prescott threw an interception as Packers safety Micah Hyde intercepted Prescott with 7:17 remaining in the third quarter.
With the loss, the Cowboys close out their season with a 13-4 record.
|(1) Dallas Cowboys||13||3||0||.813||3–3||9–3||421||306||L1|
|(5) New York Giants||11||5||0||.688||4–2||8–4||310||284||W1|
|4||Green Bay Packers||North||10||6||0||.625||5–1||8–4||.508||.453||W6|
|5||New York Giants||East||11||5||0||.688||4–2||8–4||.486||.455||W1|
|Did not qualify for the playoffs|
|7[a]||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||South||9||7||0||.563||4–2||7–5||.492||.434||W1|
|11[b]||New Orleans Saints||South||7||9||0||.438||2–4||6–6||.523||.393||L1|
|14||Los Angeles Rams||West||4||12||0||.250||2–4||3–9||.504||.500||L7|
|16||San Francisco 49ers||West||2||14||0||.125||2–4||2–10||.504||.250||L1|
- "Cowboys Officially Clinch Playoff Spot; Can Claim NFC East Title Next Week". Dallas Cowboys. 2016-12-04. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
- Drummond, K.D. "Cowboys lose OL Mackenzy Bernadeau, release Cedric Thornton contract details". USA Today. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Phillips, Rob. "Veteran OT Charles Brown Announces Retirement; Cowboys Sign 2 Tackles". Dallas Cowboys. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Phillips, Rob. "Cowboys Re-sign Backup Tackle Brown; G/C Bernadeau Leaves For Jaguars". Dallas Cowboys. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Gantt, Darin. "Titans sign Matt Cassel to back up Marcus Mariota". NBC Sports. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Smith, Michael David. "Cowboys retain Morris Claiborne on one-year deal". 'NBC Sports. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Archer, Todd. "Jack Crawford, Cowboys agree to one-year deal". ESPN. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Helman, David. "Cowboys Sign Versatile RB Lance Dunbar To One-Year Contract". Dallas Cowboys. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Alper, Josh. "James Hanna back to Cowboys on three-year deal". NBC Sports. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Machota, Jon. "Safety Jeff Heath gets new four-year contract from Cowboys". Dallas News. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Alper, Josh. "Ronald Leary signs RFA tender with Cowboys". NBC Sports. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Schefter, Adam. "Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended another year". ESPN. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
- Orr, Conor. "Cowboys re-sign Rolando McClain to one-year deal". NFL. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Helman, David. "Cowboys Re-Sign CB Josh Thomas, Re-Work Tyrone Crawford's Contract". Dallas Cowboys. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Holder, Stephen. "Colts sign veteran RB Robert Turbin". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- George, Brandon. "Source: Dallas Cowboys re-sign LB Kyle Wilber to a two-year deal". Dallas News. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Davison, Drew. "Five off-season concerns for Dallas Cowboys". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Machota, Jon. "10 defensive backs the Dallas Cowboys could target in the NFL draft". Dallas News. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- David, Helman. "Improving The Cowboys' Pass Rush Remains As A Familiar Concern". Dallas Cowboys. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- NFL Communications. "Free Agency Signing Period Begins; 496 Players Become Free Agents". NFL. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Brown, Maury. "Everything You Need To Know About NFL Free Agency 2016". Forbes. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Kerr-Dineen, Luke. "One stat that shows how badly the Dallas Cowboys need Tony Romo back". USA Today. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- George, Brandon. "Source: QB Dak Prescott flying into Dallas for pre-draft visit with Cowboys". Dallas News. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Helman, David. "Carson Wentz Excited For Opportunity To Re-Connect With Cowboys' Coaches". Dallas Cowboys. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Dubin, Jared. "The Cowboys may have tipped their hand on which QB they'll draft". CBS Sports. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Klein, Gary. "California's Jared Goff considered the favorite to be selected No. 1 overall by Rams at Thursday's NFL draft". LA Times. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Reyes, Lorenzo. "NFL combine: Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch solidify status as two of the top quarterbacks". USA Today. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Archer, Todd. "Dak Prescott is Cowboys' first QB draft pick since 2009". ESPN. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Hill Jr., Clarence E. "Free agent quarterback Matt Moore will visit the Dallas Cowboys". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Kelly, Omar. "Miami Dolphins re-sign backup QB Matt Moore". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Polacek, Scott. "Orlando Scandrick Injury: Updates on Cowboys CB's Recovery from Torn ACL". Bleacher Report. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Jones, Mike. "Alfred Morris staying in the NFC East, signs with rival Cowboys". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Moore, David. "Source: Cowboys closer to a deal with free-agent CB Patrick Robinson than they are RB Alfred Morris". Dallas News. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Archer, Todd. "Cowboys value special teams in Jeff Heath's contract figures". ESPN. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- Burke, Chris. "Off-season Outlook: Dallas Cowboys". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Pelissero, Tom. "Cowboys' LB Gregory suspended four games for violating substance abuse policy". USA Today. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Knoblauch, Austin. "Randy Gregory suspended additional 10 games by NFL". NFL. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Williams, Charean. "Cowboys hosting free agents Joe Looney and Jason Jones". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Machota, Jon. "Rolando McClain suspended 10 games for violating NFL drug policy; DeMarcus Lawrence's 4-game penalty upheld". Dallas News. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
- Ulrich, Nate. "Journeyman Nick Hayden hopes to rock and roll with Browns as they search for answers on depleted defensive line". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
- Loreno, Darcie. "Cleveland Browns cut Austin Davis, Nick Hayden, Paul Kruger". Fox 8 Cleveland. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
- Barnwell, Bill. "Bill Barnwell's offseason report cards: NFC East". ESPN. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Sessler, Marc. "Former Jaguars, Cowboys DL Jeremy Mincey retires". NFL. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
- Kairschner, Shawn. "2016 Cowboys Roster: Benefits of going young". WFAA 8 ABC. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- Monson, Sam. "Cowboys earn C+ grade for relatively quiet offseason". Pro Football Focus. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- George, Brandon. "Dallas Cowboys sign former Eagles DL Cedric Thornton to 4-year, $18 million deal". Dallas News. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Associated Press. "Cowboys sign former Eagles d-lineman Thornton to 4-year deal". ESPN. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Dixon, Schuyler. "AP sources: Cowboys sign Raiders DE Mayowa to offer sheet". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Bair, Scott. "Mayowa joins Cowboys as Raiders decline to match offer sheet". NBC Sports Bay Area. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Thomas, Jeanna. "Alfred Morris signs with Cowboys". SB Nation. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Greene, Dan. "What Ever Happened to Joseph Randle". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Helman, David. "Cowboys Add Offensive Line Depth By Signing Veteran OG/C Joe Looney". Dallas Cowboys. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Williams, Charean. "Cowboys' Joe Looney ready to do "whatever, whenever, wherever" as a backup center and swing guard". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
- Goodbread, Chase. "NFL draft to return to Chicago in 2016". NFL. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Machota, Jon. "Cowboys trade for Raiders' Brice Butler to add WR depth". Dallas News. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Gantt, Darin. "Cowboys deal for Matt Cassel similar to one Bills made in March". NBC Sports. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Condotta, Bob. "Seahawks trade running back Christine Michael to Dallas". Seatle Times. Retrieved May 18, 2017. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- Eatman, Nick. "NFL Awards Four Compensatory Picks, Including Fourth-Rounder in 2016". Dallas Cowboys. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Hornsby, Neil. "Offseason To-Do List for the Dallas Cowboys". Pro Football Focus. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Owning, John. "Dallas Cowboys: Full 2016 Draft Guide and Preview". Bleacher Report. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Goodbread, Chase. "Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott wants to be drafted by Cowboys". NFL. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Rapp, Timothy. "Ezekiel Elliott: Latest News, Rumors and Buzz Surrounding RB's Draft Stock". Bleacher Report. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Davis, Nate. "NFL draft: First round pick-by-pick analysis". USA Today. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Yarina, Brent. "View 2015 All-Big Ten Offensive Team & individual award winners". Big Ten Network. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Associated Press. "AP All-America Team, List". Associated Press. Archived from the original on May 27, 2017. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
- Greenstein, Teddy. "Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott wins Chicago Tribune Silver Football". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Brugler, Dane. "Ohio State's Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott headline Big Ten's top NFL prospects". CBS Sports. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Wilson, Ryan. "Ezekiel Elliott: 'It would be an honor' to run behind Cowboys' O-line". CBS Sports. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Yousuf, Saad. "Why selecting Ezekiel Elliott makes sense for Dallas Cowboys". WFAA 8. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Archer, Todd. "2016 Dallas Cowboys draft picks: Analysis for every selection". ESPN. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Skrbina, Paul. "Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith named Butkus Award winner". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Cooper, Sam. "Reports: Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith has torn ACL, MCL". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Eatman, Nick. "Cowboys Bolster D-Line Interior; Draft Nebraska DT Maliek Collins in Third". Dallas Cowboys. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Yarina, Brent. "View 2015 All-Big Ten Defensive Team & individual award winners". Big Ten Network. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Associated Press. "2015 Associated Press All-Big 12 team". USA Today. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Brinson, Will. "Here's how the Cowboys lost out on Paxton Lynch as their future QB". CBS Sports. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Schefter, Adam. "How Dallas almost missed on Dak ... over and over". ESPN. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
- Aschoff, Edward. "Life without Dak Prescott for Mississippi State and 10 more irreplaceable players". ABC News via ESPN. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
- Helman, David. "Determining Roles & Potential Roster Spots For The Late-Round Draft Picks". Dallas Cowboys. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
- Lang III, Roy. "Dak Prescott no stranger to emerging from backup role". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
- MAC-Sports. "MAC Announces 2015 All-MAC Football Teams and Post Season Awards". Mid-American Conference. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
- Triplett, Mike. "Baylor hoops standout Rico Gathers is serious about becoming an NFL tight end". ESPN. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
- Associated Press. "Frank Kaminsky, Jahlil Okafor lead AP All-America team; Perry Ellis, Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet earn honorable mention". ESPN. Retrieved May 27, 2017.