Is this the rookie wall we all keep hearing about? For 12 weeks, we’ve been hearing non-stop about how Dak Prescott can’t be doing what he’s doing, that he can’t keep this up. After an average performance in Minnesota against a very good Vikings secondary, and whatever you want to call last night, is this it? Are the critics and history right? Twitter blew up throughout the game with pleads for Tony Romo. After the game, Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett both said they are comfortable with Dak Prescott as the QB of this team going forward. How true will that be if Dak has another catastrophic performance against a solid Tampa Bay defense this coming Sunday Night? Prescott finished the game 17 of 37 for 165 yrds, 1 TD, INTs and a Passer Rating of 45.4. That brings his rating vs the Giants to 58.6 compared to his rating against all other teams of 114.3. Is Prescott hitting the rookie wall or are the Giants his kryptonite?
The Cowboys offense missed a lot of opportunities Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. The running game was there most of the night and Ezekiel Elliott did his part rushing for 107 yards on 24 carries. However, the story is most definitely the play of QB1, Dak Prescott. Dak was awful. There is no way to sugar coat it. Poor decisions and poor throws throughout the entire game made it impossible to move the ball with any type of regularity. This team has been pretty consistent in 3rd down efficiency throughout the year, yet only converted one 3rd down out of 15 tries. There were also 0 red zone appearances. Now, this isn’t all on Dak, the Giants defensive front was getting to in the backfield on nearly every drop back. What has saved the offensive drives in prior weeks was Dak’s ability to use his feet. Last night, Dak had 1 rush for 1 yard. The ability to extend the play to find the open man simply was not there and the numerous stalled drives were a result.
The bright spot of this game was the defense, led by Sean Lee’s 18 total tackles. This defense provided 3 takeaways and held the Giants to 260 total yards, 61 of which were on one play. That one 61 yard TD pass to Odell Beckham Jr was the one mistake this defense made on the night. The Cowboys were playing man defense so Sean Lee followed the running back, leaving the middle of the field wide open. Brandon Carr couldn’t keep up and the Safety took a horrible line and whiffed on the tackle about 10-15 yards from scrimmage. Two mistakes, one play.
This game was about as even as you can get. One minute difference in time of possession, 260 total yards of offense for both teams, 3 turnovers for both teams, 1 big play resulting in a TD for both. The difference? The Giants made a 39 yard field goal, the Cowboys 55 yard attempt hit the cross bar. Looking forward, the Cowboys now have to make a decision. Learn and move forward. Or sulk and continue the slide. Tampa Bay has something to play for and has won 5 straight. They will be poised and ready. Will the Cowboys?
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.
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.