Cowboys Nation received an early Christmas present Sunday night as they defeated the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26-20 behind Dan Bailey’s four field goals. This was a complete shift from last week’s loss to the Giants. The Offense found its legs with Ezekiel Elliott rushing for 159 yards and 1 touchdown and Dak Prescott doing his part to hush the critics with his outstanding performance going 32/36 for 279 and his own rushing touchdown. Dak looked to be having more fun throughout the game, even when he found the team down in the 3rd quarter. Prescott also did his best to silence the critic’s biggest issue with his performance completing several passes over 20 yards down the field to various receivers. The secondary’s outstanding performance from last week appeared to be lost this week. While the overall stats make the performance look like a job well done, the eye test looks completely different. The secondary continues to be exposed down field as Jameis Winston completed nearly a third of his passes for 18 yards or more.
Offensively, this was a thing of beauty. Dak looked poised and comfortable at home, using his legs when needed and spreading the ball around as the defense allowed. The result? Seven different receivers catching a pass with Dez Bryant hauling in 8 and Jason Witten 10. Dez’ strong hands made a return as well as everything that touched his hands seemed to stick. Throughout this season, that has not been the case; as Dez has had trouble hauling in catches. The offense was able spread the field and take what the defense gave them the entire night. The only blemish on the night was the continued lack of discipline collecting 8 penalties for 91 yards, one of which costed them a touchdown. As they move forward toward the playoffs, they cannot afford to make these mistakes and give points back to the opposition.
The defense had its moments and the defensive line looked fantastic. The Bucs rushed for only 52 yards and Winston was sacked 4 times, fumbled once and threw 3 interceptions. David Irving continued to be a force collecting 2 sacks and hitting Winston 5 times. While the defensive front continued to excel, the secondary continued to show its weakness. The absence of Morris Claiborne again was apparent as Winston was able to continually find his way down field. The Buccaneer offense wasn’t able to do much, but when it did, they made it count. As mentioned earlier, the stats weren’t impressive as Winston only completed 17 of 35 for 247 yards for a Passer Rating of 55.3, but when able, he found the open receiver down field. This is something that will need to improve as the opposition’s talent increases.
Overall, the team played well enough to end the longest win streak in the league and at least for now, the QB controversy is squashed. Dak is back on top and Ezekiel Elliott now holds the record for the most TDs ever by a Cowboys rookie. The Cowboys need to push on as a win this week against Detroit will clinch the NFC East and a first round bye.
Keys to the Game Scorecard:
When you lose the battles of yardage, time of possession and collect 0 turnovers, you are supposed to lose. That is exactly what happened on Thanksgiving Day. Kirk Cousins threw for 449 yards (almost 100 yards more than the entire Cowboys offense) and 3 TDs for a passer rating of over 120, DeSean Jackson burnt the secondary worse than my turkey (thanks broken meat thermometer), the Redskins held on to the ball for 7 minutes longer than the Cowboys. Yet somehow, the Cowboys won that game and it wasn’t really as close as the score would lead you to believe. The Cowboys won this game thanks to the kickers, the one area of the game that the Cowboys won. Dan Bailey didn’t miss anything and Dustin Hopkins did. Two missed field goals (43 and 55 yards) in the first half which left the Redskins chasing those points the remainder of the game. They also failed to convert a 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter thanks to Sean Lee’s interception. I don’t know about the rest of you, but its games like this that remind me just how good Dan Bailey is and how bad our kicking game was before Mr. Bailey graced us with his presence.
Offensively, the Cowboys could do pretty much whatever they wanted. The Cowboys punted on 2 their 9 drives converting 4 into touchdowns and 1 into a Field Goal (46 yards). Dak Prescott ended his day completing 17 of 24 passes for 195 yards with 1 TD and a Passer Rating of 108.9. Dak completed 2 passes over 20 yards, the longest pass went to Dez in the 4th quarter for 26 yards. Ezekiel Elliott ran for only 97 yards, the second straight game he has been held to under 100. I say ‘only’ due to the fact that on the first drive alone he ran for 47. Going into this game I expected Zeke to eat to his fill but somehow, the team only rushed for 163 yards. The Cowboys were able to play nearly error free football on offense the entire game and as a result walked away with their 10th straight win.
Redskins’ rookie running back, Robert Kelley, was asked this week about the Redskins/Cowboys rivalry and he said, ‘Nobody here likes the Dallas Cowgirls’. Kelley was beat up by said ‘Cowgirls’ the entire day finishing the day with 37 yards on 14 carries for an average of 2.6 ypc and a long run of 8 yards. Kelley was obviously feeling pretty good about himself at the time of his comments as he had averaged over 100 yards over the previous 3 weeks. The Cowboys defensive line continued to hold the opponent’s run game in check while failing to get anything resembling a pass rush. Kirk Cousins was able to drop back 53 times without being sacked even once. Cousins completed 41 of those 53 passes for 449 yards, 3 TDs and no ‘official’ interceptions (Sean Lee intercepted a pass on a 2 pt conversion attempt). DeSean Jackson finished the day with 118 yards and Jordan Reed had 95 yards. The Cowboys secondary was exposed yet again allowing over 400 yards through the air for the second time in 3 weeks. Good news is, safety Barry Church is set to return to practice on Sunday ahead of Thursday’s matchup with the Minnesota Vikings.
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The Cowboys have won 9 straight for the first time in franchise history. Let that soak in… Staubach, Aikman, Romo or any of the 5 Super Bowl teams never won 9 in a row. Despite starting slow and throwing the ball more than they have at any point this season, the Cowboys took over the second half and the offensive line opened the holes needed to mount several big drives. The last 2 drives combined for over 14 minutes powered by Dak Prescott who completed 13 passes in a row that spanned the final 3 drives. Overall, Prescott completed 27 of 36 for 301 yards (second straight 300 yard game) for 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions resulting in a Passer Rating of 127.2. Over this 9 game winning streak, Prescott has a Passer Rating of 116.4. Zeke Elliott was held to only 97 yards against the number 1 ranked run defense in the NFL who had allowed an average of 76 yards per game so far this season.
While the offense was pretty bland yet again in the first half (punting on their first 3 drives), they were able to spread the ‘sauce’ around in the second half, scoring on their final 5 drives and covering 367 of their 417 total yards over those drives. The Ravens were cocky and arrogant as they took the lead quickly and began mocking the Cowboys by throwing up the X after the Terrance West TD run in the first quarter and copying Zeke’s ‘feed me’ motion as they amassed 71 yards on the ground in their first 2 drives. Dez Bryant said after the game, those antics go unnoticed by the team who is only focused on doing their job. Regardless, the antics stopped quickly half way into the second quarter when the Cowboys began to find their groove.
As well as the Cowboys have been playing in the second halves this season, there are several areas they can improve defensively. Sunday marked the 3rd game in a row without a takeaway after stealing 9 through their first 6 games. Down the stretch, against their divisional foes, that has to change if they are going to continue this streak and secure the division. Sean Lee acknowledged this after the game, “The good part is we came back, we rallied, we played better. But we have to get turnovers. If we get turnovers and get the ball back to our offense, these games can be a little bit easier because of how well they’re playing.” Another area in which they can improve is in eliminating the big plays. The Ravens first TD drive was a result of 3 big runs of 20, 16 and 18 yards.
The Cowboys are playing very well, but with 3 of their final 6 games coming against divisional rivals in the strongest division in the NFL (.688 win pctg), it will be no easy task. The Redskins come to town on Thursday afternoon fresh off their 42-24 rout of Green Bay on Sunday Night behind Kirk Cousins’ 145.8 Passer Rating. The time to enjoy their 9th straight win is over. The quest for their 10th begins today.
The Cowboys are on a historic pace. For the first time since 1975, they have won 8 straight games. Let that sink in for a minute. Neither Tony Romo nor Troy Aikman ever won 8 in a row. This team is clicking on all cylinders and as a result, we finally have an end to the quarterback controversy. Jerry Jones said after the game that Tony Romo will be active next week…as Dak Prescott’s backup. “I think the longer (Prescott) plays like this, the more we have a chance to have another win,” Jones told reporters. “Everybody here wants to do only really one thing, is win… to be able to come out of here with a win just obliterates any thought about any of the issues that you might have as to who’s out on the field.” Controversy squashed.
Dak Prescott finished 22 of 32 for a season high 319 yards and 2 touchdowns for a passer rating of 121.7 bringing his season average to 106.2. The only 2 games he has not broken the 100 mark is game 1 against the Giants (69.4) and against the Eagles (79.8). Dak continues to keep the game moving forward at his pace. He has settled down and refuses to force the ball to any one receiver. Dez Bryant played for his dad who passed away Saturday from an “unspecified illness” and made his father proud catching 6 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown on a 50 yard bomb from Prescott. Dez isn’t the player we have been used to seeing over his career, but he has the ability to dial it up at any moment. His hands aren’t as solid as they have been and seeing Antonio Brown on the other side further brings in to question just how ‘elite’ Dez really is. As Dak and Dez play more together, the timing will come on those fades in the end zone, but even on the 50 yard TD, he bobbled the ball for several steps before finally reeling it in. Down the stretch, Dez needs to find his hands and become the man that he was in 2014 in order for this team to make a deep push in the playoffs. Having this offensive line ‘Parting the Red Sea’ for Ezekiel Elliott helps alleviate some of the pressure as Elliott rushed for 114 yards on 21 carries resulting in 2 touchdowns as well as taking an 83 yard screen pass to the house for another. Watching this offense have their way with defensive fronts in the second half is a thing of beauty and something you don’t see anywhere else in the NFL.
This game showed the holes in the defense. Antonio Brown caught 14 of his 18 targets for 154 yards and 1 touchdown, proving that an elite receiver will get his catches regardless of coverage. Big Ben Roethlisberger was back to his Hall of Fame form completing 37 of 46 for 408 yards, 3 touchdowns and a passer rating of 125.4. The bright spot of this defense? They held Le’Veon Bell to just 57 yards on the ground on 17 carries. He did get another 77 through the air however and with Barry Church and Morris Claiborne still out for a few more weeks, look for teams to put the ball in the air even more. I will give Leon McFadden some credit, though. On the fake spike play that fooled the entire defense, it was McFadden trying to cover one of the most elite receivers in the NFL in Antonio Brown. Big Ben made a perfect throw and Brown scored, but he showed some hustle, so here’s an atta boy!
Allegiances aside, this was one of the best games, if not the best game in the NFL this season. It had 7 lead changes, 5 big plays over 30 yards and 3 touchdowns scored in the final 2 minutes. It also had a massive teaching moment for my 2 boys (ages 8 and 9), when at the end of the game I was able to show them why going for 2 after every touchdown is a bad idea and horrible strategy. Steelers coach, Mike Tomlin, failed to attempt an extra point and also failed to convert any of the 4 2 point conversions. As such, instead of trailing 35-34 and only needing a Field Goal, they were forced to score a touchdown. Not only that, but it’s anybody’s guess at how those last 2 minutes would have played out had he not tried to go for 2 on every touchdown. My oldest boy, Mason, goes for two in Madden every time and refuses to see the downside. He gets it now. Thanks Mike Tomlin!
They are who we thought they were. This game went exactly as expected. The Cowboys came out hot, scored Touchdowns and punted twice. The Browns, on the other hand, had 33 yards in the second half. This no name group of orphans on the Cowboys’ Defense continuously steps up and embraces the ‘next man up’ mentality. Even without S Barry Church and CB Morris Claiborne, the Browns only had 222 total yards and were 1-9 on third downs. As Defensive Coordinator, Rod Marinelli, would put it they were “solid, didn’t break, off the charts”. Coach is a man of many words.
Dak played solid as well, completing 21 of 27 for 247 yards and 3 TDs with a career best 141.8 passer rating. What impressed me the most about Dak was his ability to reel Dez back in after a couple of missed Pass Interference calls. Dez was fuming as he went to line back up and Dak got him to keep his cool and focus. Dez finished with only 1 catch for 19 yards, but said, “At the end of the day we got that W”.
Back in the spot light this week was the future Hall of Famer himself, Jason Witten. Witten recorded his first 100 yard game since 2013 with 8 catches, 134 yards and 1 TD. This game wasn’t flashy, in fact, the longest run was 15 yards. Exactly the game that we needed, methodical, consistent, and about 30 minutes shorter than all the other games. Get in, get out and get home with the W. Zeke only rushed for 92 yards on 18 carries, but the stats were skewed as the majority of the starters sat most of the 4th quarter. The last drive of the game took 7:48 seconds, included 2 4th down conversions and 2 QB kneels from the victory formation inside the red zone. The Cowboys eclipsed the 400 yard total offense for the 6th straight time, setting yet another record. The biggest stat of the day was Time of Possession. The Cowboys controlled the ball twice as long as their opponent (39:39-20:21) which allowed them to keep the clock running.
Defensively, Maliek Collins recorded his first 2 career sacks and after the game said he should have had a third. This team is the first “Team” we’ve seen. Nobody flashy, just a team of hard working guys who are in the right place and don’t beat themselves.
Pretty close again! The Browns converted 1 of those field goals into a TD and the Boys got all TDs. Dan Bailey was 0/0 on field goal attempts.
On a night where Jason Witten breaking Ed “Too Tall” Jones’ record for Consecutive starts by a Cowboy looked to be the only good thing to happen, it was none other than Witten himself to secure the game winning catch in OT. The future Hall of Famer had been held to just 1 catch for 11 yards when Dak scrambled and found him WIDE open in the end zone. Throughout the game, Jason Garrett continued to have out of body experiences, diverting from his usual vanilla play calling with trick plays and 4th down conversions in OT. Punter Chris Jones flashed his speed on a fake punt running 30 yards and picking up the first down before stepping out of bounds. Cole Beasley showed off his arm by over throwing Terrence Williams on a screen- WR pass. With all the drama and endless headlines, Dak Prescott was yet again the main story. Prescott finished with 287 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, completing 19 of 39 passes. Through 2 and a half quarters, Dak looked to be opening the door for Tony Romo’s return. The return of Dez Bryant might have had something to do with it as he targeted Bryant 14 times while only completing 4 and leaving Cole Beasley completely out of the equation. Dak repeatedly forced the ball into bad situations instead of taking what the defense was giving him.
Facing a 10 point deficit in the second half, the game plan went out the window and Dak became the player we have become accustomed to. He spread the ball well, got Cole Beasley involved and Zeke started finding holes. In overtime, Dak completed all 5 of his passes and marched the team 75 yards down the field to win the game on a Romo-esque type scramble to Romo’s best friend. This was the game that Dak finally looked like a rookie, but under the lights in prime time, against a division rival for sole possession of first place in the division and first place in the NFC (at least till tonight when the Vikings play the Bears), he was able to turn it on and get it done. The entire team is rallying behind the rookie passer unlike anything we’ve seen, and it is getting harder to argue that this is still Romo’s team. This, a night that was Dak’s worst, might be the night that solidifies his spot as leader of this offense.
Defensively, the game ball goes to Sean Lee. Lee was, yet again, everywhere the entire night finishing with 11 tackles, 2 of which were for a loss. The play of the game came with 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Wentz passed short right to Darren Sproles only to have Lee immediately bury him for a 6 yard loss. This took the Eagles out of field goal range and forced a punt, keeping it a 7 point game. The following drive was 90 yards ending in the game tying touchdown to Dez Bryant. The defense stepped up and made plays when it counted even after losing Morris Claiborne (groin) and Barry Church (fractured arm). The Eagles final 4 drives resulted in a lost fumble and 3 punts. The Cowboys bend but don’t break D came through again and to date have not given up more than 23 points in a game and is 4th in the league in points allowed (18.6/game). This no name group of ‘orphans’ is playing as a single unit and having fun doing it.
Find a way to get in the backfield: 3 sacks, 11 tackles for a loss and 1 fumble recovery by Tyrone Crawford.
Run: The Eagles stacked the box and begged Dak to beat them. As a result, Zeke only rushed for 96 yards and Dak played poorly under pressure for the majority of the game only completing 48.7% of his passes.
Get Dez started early: This was definitely the focus of the Cowboys game plan and to a fault. Dak was obviously forcing the ball to Dez instead of reading the defense and getting the ball to the open man. Dez did finish with 4 catches on 14 targets for 113 yards and a TD.
In a league begging for conversation topics, I was really trying hard to find something to spotlight in this game. And not because there are too few, it’s quite the opposite here in Dallas. In this Sunday Night Football matchup between league rivals, you have a 5-1 Cowboys team facing off against a 4-2 Eagles team, both of which are starting rookie quarterbacks. Add the fact that Cowboys’ long time quarterback, Tony Romo, actually practiced for the first time since training camp on Thursday and you are pretty much guaranteed to see and hear plenty about the QB debate during the national broadcast. Is this Dak’s last game? This game will tell us. If the Cowboys win by 14, Dak has a rating of 100+ and Zeke rushes for 150, it will be really hard to pull him. A Cowboys loss, on the other hand, makes it really easy for the front office and coaching staff to put Romo back in and let him get a shot at a ring. Needless to say, there are plenty of story lines leading into Sunday Night.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys will look to stop the run and force Carson Wentz to move his feet. When Wentz can hang in the pocket, he can deliver a nice pass. However, when he is forced to move while throwing, he tends to throw flat footed and rely on his arm causing the ball to sail. Last week we saw the defense rush 3 and drop 8. The Packers didn’t have a running back for most of the game, so this made sense. This week, the Eagles have two in Jordan Matthews and Darren Sproles, both of which can hurt you. That said, the Eagles are ranked 17th in the league in rushing with 111/ypg. On paper, this Eagles offense doesn’t look like a 4-2 team. Their defense, however, is a whole ‘nother story, allowing only 307/ypg (5th in the league) and 14.7 points per game (3rd in the league).
Offensively, Dak and Zeke have this team rolling and Dez Bryant is coming back. The Eagles will need to pick their poison and are going to really need to think about their choice. Their run defense is ranked 24th in the league allowing 4.5 yards per carry and their starting defensive tackle, Bennie Logan, is might not suit up. If that happens, Zeke is going to have a field day. The only way to stop this from happening is to load the box, leaving 1:1 with Dez outside. This might be the day Dak posts his first 300 yard game.
Find a way to get in the backfield: Doing this will give the running backs less room to move and force Carson Wentz to move his feet. Over the last two weeks, teams have been able to do this and Wentz has looked more like a rookie. The Offensive line isn’t as good as the Cowboys have faced in the first 6 weeks, so if there was a matchup that allowed a rush, this is it.
Run: The Eagles defense as a whole ranks in the top 5 in the league in yards per game and points allowed, however, the run defense is ranked 24th. Feed Zeke. Force the Eagles to stop him and by doing so freeing up the receivers. Zeke or Dak should have a big game, which one depends on the Eagles preference.
Get Dez started early: With Dez set to start for the first time in 4 weeks, look for him to get some early receptions in order to kick off the dust. If the Eagles decide to shut down Dez, look for Cole Beasley to have another big game.
It’s the bye week and the Cowboys are rolling with a 5-1 record, after losing week 1 to the Giants by 1 point. No one expected Dak to put the team in this position, but he did. Is it because of all the pieces around him, the first round draft picks of Offensive lineman or the 4th overall pick being a stud running back, or his own poise and skill? One thing is certain, these “Romo Friendly” picks have turned QB friendly. So let’s take a minute to really look at this little predicament the Cowboys find themselves in.
Dak has started 6 games in the NFL, so to be fair, let’s look at those 6 vs Tony’s last 6 games.
The numbers are very similar, Tony has 2 more TDs but 6 more INTs in that span and Dak actually has more yards. Considering Dak threw his first TD in week 3, it’s only logical that the last 3 games what we can anticipate going forward. The Cowboys are 3-3 under Tony and 5-1 under Dak. From a numbers perspective, it is really hard to argue for Tony over Dak. What other arguments are out there to support putting Tony in?
While over his career, Tony has been the most prolific 4th quarter passer in the league, Dak has done a pretty good job in his limited opportunities to run a 2 minute drill. Last week in Green Bay, he drove the team 97 yards in 33 seconds and it didn’t look like they were hurrying. He remains poised and calm in every situation.
While that may or may not be true, the one game Dak has lost was to the Giants by 1 point. That was the same game that Ezekiel Elliott only rushed for 53 yards. If you remember, Zeke was extremely limited in the preseason with a hamstring strain allowing him to have his first snaps against Seattle in week 3 of the preseason. He was a little gun shy in that season opener. That was also the same game where Dak was moving the ball in the final minute, but Terrence Williams decided to stay in bounds and run the clock out. Had Zeke been the Zeke we have seen in the last 5 games, the Cowboys would have won that game and been undefeated.
The Cowboys have proven over the years that they can find the money to do whatever they want. It would be REALLY SILLY to trade or cut Romo this year, I’ll admit it. If that were to happen, the Cowboys would eat $19.6 million in cap space. That is a TON of dead money. However, if they part ways after June 1st over the offseason, Romo would only cost $10.7 million in dead money and $8.9 million the following year. Considering that his cap hit if he is on the roster those years are $24.7 million and $25.2 million, respectively, it makes a ton of sense to move on.
So now that those three myths are busted, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin.
Pick a date, and stick to it. Over the years Tony has needed a warm up game, and Cleveland is the perfect one. Put Tony in against Cleveland, let him shake the rust off and then take on Pittsburg (who might still be without Big Ben). If at any time Romo looks like he isn’t getting it back, you still have Dak to put back in. What you don’t want to do, is make this a week to week thing and pull Dak when he struggles only to put him back in when Tony struggles. That would hurt his confidence. You want him sitting because it’s time not because he lost the job, so that when he comes back in, he still has that confidence and swagger that he has now.
Seattle had Russell Wilson on his rookie salary and was able to devote a large portion of their cap to building the legion of boom. This year we have Morris Claiborne, Terrence Williams and Ron Leary coming up just to name a few. To sign these guys, you will need some of that money saved from moving on from Romo. If you don’t pay those guys, you need to either draft their replacements or sign another Free Agent which will cost you as well.
Tony has 2 playoff wins, so to say he gives you that experience in the playoffs, is a little misleading. Yes, he’s been there, but he’s 2-4 in postseason play. He’s won 2 games, not 2 Super Bowls. So to derail the Dak Train, doesn’t seem to be the right move in my opinion. Luckily, my name isn’t Jerry Jones so I don’t have to worry about it. I can just sit back and hope and critique whatever the decision may be. Luckily for GM Jerry, he doesn’t have to worry about losing his job should whatever decision he ends up making blow up in his face.
I’ll leave you with this: Romo’s last start resulted in no TDs, 3 INTs and a Passer Rating of 27.2.
Dak’s last start resulted in 3 TDs, 1 INT and a Passer Rating of 117.4, second straight game over 117 and hasn’t been under 100 since week 1. Whatever decision is made – Go Cowboys!
It was all fun and games in Arlington on Sunday as the Cowboys had their way with the Bengals. Dak continued to look poised in the pocket as he managed to make it to his 3rd and 4th read at will. The offensive line had their best game yet against a defensive front 7 that is the heart and sole of a usually stout defense. We all know how much the Cowboys have sunk into this offensive line – the Bengals have done the same with their defensive front. Their best vs our best. The result? 180 yards rushing, 134 from Ezekiel Elliott, 3 rushing touchdowns, 227 yards passing and 1 passing touchdown. The low point (because you have to stay grounded) was Dak’s first turnover of the year. The offensive line gave up just 1 sack on the day which resulted in a fumble which the Bengals recovered. That turnover ended a 12 play, 57 yard and nearly 8 minute drive at the CIN 18 yard line. The Cowboys were driving and about to make it 35-0. Instead, the Bengals recovered the fumble and 10 plays later cut their deficit to 28-7.
The Cowboys didn’t give up any big plays as their secondary was firm and Bengals QB Andy Dalton found himself under pressure within 2-3 second on nearly every drop back. The Cowboys actually had a pass rush for the first time all year thanks to the return of Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence didn’t record a sack, but came very close on two separate occasions – we’ll chalk that up to the rust factor. But his speed off the end forced Dalton out of the pocket and right into our other 3 rushers, resulting in 4 sacks. As the weeks progress, and Lawrence gets continues to get his feet back, he won’t miss those opportunities. Rest assured, if he does, the other guys bull rushing from the other side won’t. AJ Green caught half of his 8 targets for just 50 yards while Brandon LaFell caught 8 for 68 and two TDs. The Bengals couldn’t seem to to get a quick score as both scoring drives were 10+ plays and over 5 minutes. The Cowboys were giving up the short plays to eliminate the quick strikes.
Call me crazy, but this is exactly the way I like to watch my teams. Relaxed, with my feet up, blood pressure at a nice calm rate. There was never a time throughout the entire game where I was even a little worried. Dak continued to spread the ball around, Zeke busted a 60 yard touchdown run (untouched), the defense was swarming around the ball. It was utter domination beginning to end. All of this without Dez Bryant and Orlando Scandrick. Dez was sidelined another week with the hairline fracture in his leg, and Orlando rested his hamstrings another week. The offense didn’t miss a beat thanks to Terrence Williams catching all 5 of his targets for 70 yards and Jason Witten’s 3 catches and 43 yards with an absolutely beautiful stiff arm of Derron Smith:
The Cowboys will look to continue this 4 game winning streak in which they have progressed significantly each week as they head into Lambeau to face the 3-1 Packers. A win there will officially start the conversation about a certain Cowboy’s retirement. But for now, let’s enjoy this week, as it’s back to work tomorrow.
Zeke runs wild:
I had the “Zeke runs wild” part down, although I did not see this defense playing as soundly as they did, nor did I think we wouldn’t miss Dez against a reportedly solid Bengals Defense. When I am wrong, I want it to be in this way!
Zach Martin shouldn’t have to worry about who is wife will support on Sunday afternoon as her brother, Bengals TE Tyler Eifert, will be sidelined with a back injury. Unfortunately, the Cowboys will have their own problems with who suits up on Sunday. Just to name a few of the Cowboys who did not practice on Wednesday: K – Dan Bailey (back), WR – Dez Bryant (knee), RB – Lance Dunbar (knee), OT – Chaz Green (foot), DT – David Irving (Concussion), G – La’El Collins (toe, moved to IR).
There were several others who were limited participants, namely CB Orlando Scandrick and OT Tyron Smith. On a more positive side, DeMarcus Lawrence is back this week which means we could see some resemblance of a, wait for it… wait for it… PASS RUSH! For those of you who don’t remember what this is, a “Pass Rush” is typically where the Defensive End gets around the Offensive Tackle and sacks the QB within 3 seconds. The QB shouldn’t have 7 or 8 seconds to scan and re-scan the field every time he drops back.
So now that we are caught up on who is playing where, what does that mean for Sunday? Ezekiel Elliott is the NFL’s leading rusher through 4 weeks. At his current pace, he should end with over 1600 rushing yards. This Bengals team will let you run on them. They are giving up an average of 3.8 yards per carry on the ground so far this year and haven’t seen anything close to the Cowboys’ rushing attack yet. Establishing the run game early will help the Dak and the passing game. It’s still uncertain if Dez plays on Sunday, so let’s assume he’s out. Bryce Butler had a good game but didn’t really stretch the field like we’d hoped, Terrence Williams apparently didn’t learn from his week 1 goof and refused to go out of bounds before the half and Cole Beasley was contained for most of the game. Not having Dez on the field affects everyone. All the more reason for the Cowboys to continue to pound the ball and control the clock. The longer they keep the Bengals weapons in the arsenal the better.
Defensively, the Cowboys will have their first big test. AJ Green is a big play threat on every play and is averaging 14.6 yards per reception with 2 TDs. Watching Jeremy Hill run against the Dolphins (I know it’s the Dolphins) was scary. He has good feet and won’t go down if you don’t wrap up. With Orlando Scandrick questionable Sunday, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr have to shut down Green and make the other receivers beat them, which they are more than capable of doing. Giovani Bernard and Brandon LaFell can each make plays if you sleep on them. Best way to defend this Offense? Don’t let them on the field.
Cowboys: 31, Bengals: 27
It was supposed to be just another Monday night in October. I walked into Texas Stadium and said the usual prayer: That Drew Bledsoe will bring the Cowboys a much needed win against the hated Giants. With the Big Tuna, Jason Witten, and T.O. on the good guys’ side, a win was likely. But the first half doesn’t go as planned and the Cowboys trail the Giants 12-7. Little did anyone know the second half of this Monday Night Football game would be the beginning of a ten-year roller coaster ride for Cowboy Nation. It was October 23, 2006 – the night the Romo era began. Cowboys fans remember like it was yesterday, seeing the number 9 jersey trot onto the field to start the second half. The excitement of a new beginning – this was THE guy, OUR guy. It wasn’t just Romo waiting patiently for this moment, the fans had been waiting too. His first pass was picked off and the Cowboys ultimately lost the game, but the Cowboys found a winner that night. He led the team to 5 wins over the next 6 games and a playoff berth. He also made the Pro Bowl and Cowboy Nation never looked back. A decade later, history may be repeating itself.
Romo has washed away many of the sins of Jerry Jones and the front office over the past decade. But is that enough for Jerry to keep Romo in Dallas? Mr. Jones said it best after a few Johnnie Walkers, “Romo was a miracle”. But couldn’t the same be said for Dak Prescott? The football gods must have been smiling down on Jerry again when Dak was still available midway through the 4th round in the 2016 draft. Every scouting department in the NFL probably wants a mulligan after Dak was selected 135th overall, but as they say – hindsight is 20/20. Dak is much more than any Cowboys fan had hoped for when they drafted him. He has not only proved to be a legitimate NFL quarterback, but possibly a franchise quarterback for the next decade or longer. After Dak’s fast start, the Cowboys may not want to stunt his growth for a fragile, aging Romo. If they ultimately choose Dak to finish out the season, wouldn’t it be similar to Romo’s promotion a decade ago? The Cowboys would be in contention to win the East, but would likely end up settling for a Wildcard berth. There is nothing wrong with this scenario for a rookie quarterback, but is it enough this time around?
There is also the argument for Romo to retain his starting job when he is healthy. If the NFL stands for ‘Not For Long’, why pass on a top-tier quarterback like Romo when he could lead an offense with all of its’ pieces still intact? The Cowboys offense boasts the best O-Line in football, a Hall of Fame tight end, an All-Pro receiver, and arguably the best running back combo in the league. Who wouldn’t want a quarterback with the second highest quarterback rating in NFL history? If there is a fifty percent chance he could stay healthy for the rest of the year, it’s worth the risk of potentially stunting Dak’s growth as a quarterback (if that’s even a real concern). Who gives the Cowboys the best chance to win TODAY? The short answer is, Tony, and the gap is larger than most people would think. Many have forgotten that Romo is 15-4 (.789) in his last 19 regular season starts. When he’s healthy, the Cowboys are very hard to beat. Dak’s not going anywhere, and there isn’t a Cowboy fan out there that disagrees that he should be given the reins once Romo is done. If Romo gives the team a better chance to win, benching him when he’s ready will limit the Cowboys’ potential.
If the Cowboys decide to stay with Dak for the remainder of the season, there is no reason to keep Romo around. He would be a huge distraction, not only for Dak, but for the entire team. Romo makes no sense as an insurance policy, because the Cowboys have already passed on a legitimate run at the playoffs if they decide to bench him. Teams are always looking for a good quarterback, and would likely give up substantial draft picks to get Romo. The Cowboys could certainty benefit from a few extra draft picks to fill the holes on the defensive side of the ball. The last time the Cowboys got a ‘few’ extra draft picks from trading a high powered offensive talent, it translated into a dynasty that brought three Lombardi trophies to Valley Ranch. It may not be on par with The Great Trade Robbery, but ‘The Star’ is up and running and waiting for some new trophies to fill the halls.
The debate is not who should start for the Cowboys, but rather, when do the Cowboys want to make a serious push in the postseason? The answer should be “Now”. So look for number 9 to trot back on the field once again this year. But the question now becomes, for how long?
[ecko_wide]WINNING STREAK: A series of consecutive successes; a run of good luck. – American Heritage Dictionary[/ecko_wide]
I figured everyone could use a refresher on the definition of “winning streak” – The last time the Cowboys had one was September 20 of last year when they beat the Giants week 1 and Eagles week 2. That week 2 win was bitter sweet as Tony Romo injured his collar bone and we all know what happened next. This year is different. Yes, Tony Romo is injured again, but we have Dak Prescott under center and he is only getting better. Week by week you can see is confidence level grow. In the week 1 loss to the Giants, his passer rating was 69.4, followed by a 103.7 in his first win in Washington last week. This week? A rating of 123.6 completing 19 of 24 for 248 yards and 1 TD. Dak threw his first NFL touchdown last night in the 4th quarter when he completed a 17 yard pass over the middle to Dez Bryant. The offensive line provided a clean pocket and controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the night allowing Zeke Elliott to eat as much as he wanted as he ran for 140 yards on 30 carries. All of this while missing Pro Bowl Left Tackle Tyron Smith and losing Left Guard La’El Collins at halftime. Chaz Green filled the void at tackle and Ronald Leary stepped in at guard and the line didn’t miss a beat. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said, “I thought we showed our depth on the offensive line tonight.”
Defensively, the boys stepped up and didn’t let the Bears’ receivers beat them. Brian Hoyer threw for 317 yards and 2 touchdowns, however, a lot of those yards seemed to come toward the end when the secondary started playing a more prevent style coverage (65 passing yards in 1st half). The defensive line had trouble yet again getting to the QB recording only 1 sack on the night which resulted in a fumble. Hoyer had plenty of time to scan the field the majority of the night, and this Cowboy secondary held its own against the physical Bears’ receivers, even without starting CB Orlando Scandrick (2 hamstring injuries).
When the NFL schedule gurus created this Sunday Night Football matchup, the Cowboys and the Bears looked much different than they do now. Jay Cutler was the QB in Chicago and Tony Romo was the man in Dallas. Instead, we get the veteran Brian Hoyer versus the rookie, Dak Prescott. But the starting QB’s may not be the only missing pieces from the originally planned lineups. CB Orlando Scandrick (Hamstrings, has not practiced), RT Doug Free (Quadricep, Limited in Practice) and DE Jack Crawford (Shoulder, Limited in Practice) could all potentially miss Sunday night’s game. Everything coming out of the Star in Frisco says that Scandrick could take the week off. I know the Bears are win-less and playing a backup QB, but these Bears receivers are not to be taken lightly. Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White are both capable of putting up big numbers at any moment and Hoyer is a seasoned veteran who finished last season with a passer rating over 90, throwing for 19 TD’s and only 7 INT’s.
The Chicago defense has been decimated by injury with 10 players either limited or not practicing this week. This should be the week Dak gets his first and maybe second TD passes of his career. The question that could spark the most debate, however, isn’t with the rookie Prescott. Of all the position groups on this team, the offensive line has the most intriguing dilemma. With Doug Free limited in practice, Ron Leary aching for action on the sideline and La’El Collins struggling at Guard, it’s creating a perfect storm to move Collins (who’s every highlight is in the open field) over to right tackle and Leary back into his left guard spot. This could help the struggling run game significantly. Collins missed 5 blocks last week in the run game. To say he isn’t the mauler we all hoped for is an understatement. Ezekiel Elliott needs some holes this week to help him get his mind right after being benched for the first time in his life. Zeke dropped the ball twice last week after only fumbling 3 times in his entire college career. Couple this with his off the field ‘issues’ (if you can call them that), and he needs a big game this week.
Defensively, the Cowboys need to get to Hoyer and force him to make bad decisions. This has been a problem spot for the Cowboys D, which is to be expected when you are essentially rushing 4 DT’s. The two sacks this season are, of all things, coverage sacks which allowed time for the big guys up front to power their way home. Those coverage sacks might be a little harder to come by this week. If Scandrick sits, look for Byron Jones to get some action at corner alongside Carr, Claiborne and rookie Anthony Brown with JJ Wilcox and rookie Kavon Frazier getting more reps at the Safety.
Game Time: 7:30 PM on NBC
Location: AT&T Stadium, Arlington
All in all, this week is set up perfectly for the Cowboys to break that 8 game home losing streak pretty easily. Here are the keys to the game:
It wasn’t all fun and games for Dez Bryant and the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. Actually, I think it’s safe to say that no fun was had by any athlete donning a star on their helmet. As time expired in the 20-19 loss to the New York Giants, I couldn’t help but say, “I told you so.”.
The key to this game was the Cowboys’ Defensive Line. Not the rookie QB – Not the rookie RB – The Defensive Line. The D-Line had more holes than a cheese hat from Green Bay, which allowed the Giants to rush up the middle at will. However, the game ultimately came down to a play that couldn’t have been scripted any better for Cowboy haters, as Terrance Williams made the bone-head decision to turn back towards the middle of the field rather than getting out of bounds to stop the clock with only 10 seconds remaining. With no timeouts, the Cowboys ran out of time at the Giants’ 40 yard line, which coincidentally is exactly where they needed to be for a game-winning field goal try by Dan Bailey.
As for Dak Prescott, his debut was ok. He showed poise in the pocket at times, but there were too many other times when it seemed like he was simply throwing in the general direction of his receivers and hoping for a miracle. Dak finished his debut going 25 of 45 for 227 yards with no Touchdowns, no Interceptions and an overall passer rating of 69.4. Not exactly the triple digit rating we were all hoping for, but if it wasn’t for a horrible drop by Beasley in the red zone, it would’ve have been a little better.
[ecko_pull_quote alignment=”left” source=”Ezekiel Elliott”]I think I was average, you know – average. [/ecko_pull_quote]
Ezekiel Elliott didn’t live up to expectations either, averaging just 2.4 yards on 20 carries for 51 total yards. Every time he touched the ball he was met by a wall of defenders at the line of scrimmage. After the game, Zeke acknowledged his lackluster performance, saying “I think I was average, you know – average. That’s not why I was brought here to be average, so we’ve got a lot of work to get done. A lot to work on.”. Alfred Morris seemed to have better luck finding the holes, gaining 35 yards on 7 touches (5.0 YPC). Maybe the defense played Morris a little looser, maybe not.
But the most shocking stat was Geoff Swaim having a bigger day than Dez Bryant. The 2nd string TE out of the University of Texas hauled in one pass for 21 yards while the star wide receiver was nearly X’d-out (pun intended), finishing with only 8 yards from one catch. Dez had a couple opportunities for big plays in the end zone, but failed to come down with the ball in either instance. The timing and feel between Dak and Dez will come with continued practice and they will eventually find their rhythm, but for the sake of Cowboy Nation, I sure hope it’s soon… Star CB Josh Norman awaits Dez next week in Washington.
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When Romo went down in Seattle, I honestly thought his career was going to end essentially where it began (The Bobble). He eventually got up and walked off of the field, but the damage was done to his back. Romo is going to miss at least the first month of football, but will the Cowboys’ fate change while Dak has control of the ship? I don’t think so. With Romo, I had the Cowboys starting 3-3 in the first six weeks and making a strong push at the end of the year to finish around 10-6 or even 11-5. That hasn’t changed, and here’s why.
1. In September, Dak needs to play slightly below the level he played in the preseason. I know I know, it’s the “Preseason”, but look around the league and see how well other rookie quarterbacks played in the “Preseason”. It’s not even close. Goff (LA), Wentz (Phi), Lynch (Den), Hackenberg (NYJ), Brissett (NE), Kessler (Cle), and Cook (Oak) were all drafted ahead of Dak. If these seven teams could get a mulligan, how many would draft Dak after the “Preseason”? My gut tells me six of these teams would take Dak right now, and I’m not so sure that number isn’t seven. The Cowboys got very lucky to grab Dak with the 135th pick of the draft. They were also fortunate Kellen Moore was injured to allow Dak more reps in training camp and the preseason. Is he going to struggle in his first month of the season? Absolutely, but he will still manage to keep the offense productive and the Cowboys heads above water.
2. The Cowboys boast the best offensive line in football, and probably the deepest group of running backs in the league. What else could a young quarterback ask for? Let’s see, maybe a Hall of Fame tight end as a security blanket, and throw in an All-Pro receiver while you’re at it. Dak will have advantages that almost no rookie quarterback in recent memory has been afforded. This is a dream supporting cast, and almost too good to fail. To be successful, Dak will need to be slightly more active than your average bus-driving quarterback, which his raw talent will allow him to do.
3. This defense isn’t as bad as we all thought it was going to be a few months ago. We shouldn’t be surprised Marinelli pulled another rabbit out of his hat with this group. In the preseason, this defense showed itself to be very capable of being a middle of the pack defense. In the combined four quarters played by the starters, they only allowed 17 points. Is it the next generation Doomsday D? Not even close, but this defense will be good enough to allow our offense to control the game and
win fifty percent of our first few games.
Dak has the tools and supporting cast to be successful while Romo recovers from his recent back injury. It takes defenses 4-6 weeks of game film to understand a quarterback’s tendencies, and Romo may return before defensive coordinators have time to do so with Dak. Dak may not be ready to take the Cowboys deep into the playoffs this year, but we may not need him to this year. After its all said and done, Romo’s injury may have allowed the Cowboys to have their cake and eat it too. Dak develops in his rookie year and gains valuable experience, and Romo rides in on his white horse and leads the Cowboys BACK to playoffs. Don’t panic just yet, this injury may be a blessing in disguise.