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10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Thrilling Win In Pittsburgh

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Headlines - 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Thrilling Win In Pittsburgh

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I stubbed my toe on Monday morning. You know what that's like... it's the smallest of pains, but it looms so large. It's both annoying and agonizing. After I shrieked I audibly said, "Oh well. 8-1!".

8-1. It's so beautiful.

The Dallas Cowboys have the best record in the NFL, and they achieved it by ripping victory out of the jaws of one of their oldest rivals - the Pittsburgh Steelers. I witnessed the game in person and have some thoughts, here are my 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Thrilling Win In Pittsburgh.

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There Is Nobody On Earth Like Dez Bryant

Cowboys Headlines - 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Thrilling Win In Pittsburgh 1

The devotion, discipline, and overall character of Dez Bryant has been questioned time and time again over the past six and a half seasons (can you believe it's already been that long?). That needs to end now. Forever.

Dez Bryant suited up and played for the Cowboys on Sunday in Pittsburgh just 24 hours after learning that his father had passed away. The impact of this on someone is not measurable, and Dez Bryant is no exception to that. He managed to play through this, and did so heroically.

Dak Prescott looked Bryant's way more than any other Cowboy (9 total times) and connected with him six times for a whopping 116 yards, not to mention a 50-yard touchdown. Dak also told Dez that his father had "the best seat in the house" for the game, and what a house it was Sunday evening.

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Leon McFadden Deserves A Lot Of Credit

Cowboys Headlines - 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Thrilling Win In Pittsburgh 2

Had the Pittsburgh Steelers won this contest - they didn't, suckers - the play of the game would have undoubtedly been the fake spike that Ben Roethlisberger turned into an Antonio Brown touchdown.

Jason Garrett said in his Monday Press Conference that Leon McFadden, unlike his teammates, was not caught off guard by that play... and the film backs that up.

While every other Cowboy was repeating their post-Cleveland mannequin challenge, Leon McFadden was playing football. He ran step for step with Antonio Brown, he just got beat. It happens. That's the best wide receiver in the NFL, but Leon McFadden was prepared for him. Kudos.

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Terrance Williams Is Very Valuable To This Team

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In the days of the offseason, the cries for Brice Butler to replace Terrance Williams as this team's number two wide receiver were very loud. When Terrance had a mental lapse in Week 1 (the Cowboys only loss) those reached uncontrollable levels.

Terrance Williams has been huge for this team, in many different ways. Near the end of the first quarter Dak Prescott found Ezekiel Elliott on a screen pass that went 83 yards to the house, but that doesn't happen without Terrance.

Williams threw a block at the Pittsburgh 45-yard line that gave Zeke the final level of freedom to score on the play. Simply put, the touchdown does not happen without Terrance Williams. Give the man some love.

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DeMarcus Lawrence Is Beginning To Dominate

The Cowboys are masters of duct tape when it comes to the pass rush. You know how to run? Cool, Rod Marinelli will make it work. It certainly felt like this was the strategy through the first four games of the season when DeMarcus Lawrence was absent due to suspension.

//insidethestar.com/cowboys-headlines/history-indicates-demarcus-lawrence-is-about-to-dominate/

DeMarcus was all over the Steelers throughout the contest. His stat line only credits him with four tackles, but it was because of DLaw and his consistent pressure that the Cowboys were able to keep the Steelers at bay.

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Dak Prescott Can Definitely Do Things Tony Romo Can't

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The quarterback discussion - controversy is such a tired word - in Dallas still has life in it in my opinion (check back here at Inside The Star later in the week), but there is truth to the claim that Dak Prescott can do things Tony Romo seemingly can't anymore.

Take a look at the Dez Bryant touchdown from Sunday. Seconds after this I said to my Dad in the stands, "We haven't seen Tony Romo move in the pocket like that in quite some time."

Ryan Shazier breaks through Lance Dunbar and Jason Witten to generate some serious pressure on Prescott. Dak plants his right foot and explodes to his left, evading Shazier, and immediately plants his feet before delivering a ball that travels about 50 yards. As Tony Romo apparently mouthed on the broadcast moments later, it was a dime.

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The Cowboys Could Go The Whole Season Without Allowing A 100-Yard Rusher

Cowboys Headlines - 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Thrilling Win In Pittsburgh 5

Rod Marinelli's defense is through nine games and they have yet to let an opposing running back hit triple digits when it comes to yardage. Stand up and applaud them, please.

Le'Veon Bell - one of the best backs in the game - could only muster 57 yards on the ground against this crew. He is arguably the most talented running back that the Cowboys will face through the end of the regular season, and they protected their streak against him. Double digits are awesome!

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Only Good Things Come From The Lucky Whitehead Jet Sweep

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Lucky Whitehead picked up 26 yards on a jet sweep near the end of the first half in Green Bay that allowed the Cowboys to keep their drive alive and score a touchdown. I fully believe the jet sweep was the catalyst that changed the game at Lambeau Field.

On the Dak-to-Zeke 83-yard screen play touchdown, the Cowboys ran a fake jet sweep to Lucky. Look how many Steelers are concerned with Lucky, this allowed Zeke to sneak out to the opposite side of the field. This play is magic. Run it 500 times a game, please.

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Going For Two Has A Price

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Since the NFL moved the extra points back, Mike Tomlin has notoriously gone for two more than any other Head Coach in the NFL. Obviously there are pros and cons to this methodology, but there's no denying that the Steelers inability to convert any of them plagued them late.

Jason Garrett said on Monday that the Cowboys devoted a bit more time in preparation for this last week, and it obviously paid off. Coach Garrett preaches a "day by day" and "play by play" mentality, and the fact that the Cowboys were able to respond and hold Pittsburgh to no successful conversions one play after giving up a touchdown each time is highly impressive.

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Ezekiel Elliott Has Surpassed The Ridiculously High Hype

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209 yards of total offense. 3 touchdowns, including the game-winner. Ezekiel Elliott is a yardage-eating monster that the NFL has been fearful of since the moment Roger Goodell read his name aloud as the 4th Overall Pick.

Take a moment to think back on this hype. This is Ezekiel Elliott, from The Ohio State University, playing for the Dallas Cowboys, he has the best offensive line in the game, he wears crop tops, he gets analysts suspended... this 21-year old has obliterated it all.

Ezekiel Elliott is the NFL MVP. There is no debate.

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The Cowboys Took The Steelers Best Shot, And They Came Out With The Win

I highly encourage you to read what Bob Labriola wrote at Steelers.com regarding this game, this is obviously Pittsburgh's official team site so it's written from their perspective and out of total objectivity. It's phenomenal.

The Steelers played very well. Ben Roethlisberger topped 400 yards. They connected on a fake spike of all things late in the fourth quarter to take the lead... they did everything right. The Cowboys just did more, because they're an elite football team. There is no more hype, there is no hyperbole... this is the best team in the National Football League.

What were your takeaways from the Cowboys thrilling win in Pittsburgh? Let us know! Comment below, Email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!

Tell us what you think about "10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Thrilling Win In Pittsburgh" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!



I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch’s Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

Sean Martin

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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion 1

The Dallas Cowboys know what they're doing when it comes to the NFL Draft. Not to be outdone by Philadelphia, the Cowboys brought the 2018 Draft to AT&T Stadium, marking the first time the event's been held in an NFL stadium. This made Boise State Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch the first player to be drafted on the field he now calls home. Returning home this week after two straight interceptions against the Eagles and Falcons, Vander Esch is far from the controversial pick that drew jeers inside AT&T Stadium on draft night and every bit the star the Cowboys projected him to be.

The ascension of Leighton "Wolf Hunter" Vander Esch as one of the best young linebackers in the game has happened rapidly. LVE played eight man football in high school, tasked to do everything on both sides of the ball before settling into defense as a walk onto the blue turf.

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Cowboys have more than just a plan to play defense without Sean Lee. Thanks to their 19th overall pick they're thriving as one of the best units in the league, making Lee an afterthought.

Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch

Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have changed the entire makeup of the Cowboys defense, two young and athletic linebackers that should be roaming the middle of the field for a long time in Dallas.

This is exactly what LVE was able to do on his interceptions of both Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. Vander Esch defending well against the pass is probably the least surprising part of his development, as his coverage skills always overshadowed his strength against the run in college.

It just so happens that Vander Esch tallied 63 tackles in eight games before recording his first career interception, establishing himself as an all-around linebacker with no true weakness. Vander Esch has played with the power and block shedding ability that matches his sideline to sideline range and instincts, as opposing offenses have done little to slow the Cowboys new leader on defense.

LVE2

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This is Vander Esch's first interception, which set up a Cowboys field goal against the Eagles. Watch as Leighton reads the eyes of Wentz through the play, first angling towards his check down throw and then gaining depth to intercept the pass.

The subtle yet effective movements from Vander Esch to undercut Wentz's throw is a fine example of how quickly LVE has picked up on Kris Richard's defense, as well as the next level game speed.

LVE1

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Sunday's interception from Vander Esch was the type of game breaking play the Cowboys needed to separate from the Falcons in hostile territory. Although the Falcons would rally to tie the game after this point, the Cowboys defense became the first to hold Atlanta under 20 points at home this season, thanks in large part to LVE as always.

The smoothness from Vander Esch on this play is exceptional, stepping up into coverage against the running back before sprinting back in position for the turnover. Calvin Ridley, drafted seven picks after Vander Esch, helps Leighton by letting Ryan's pass go through his hands.

Give Vander Esch credit for being in the right place at the right time and finishing the play. Every week, the rookie finds a way to do something memorable, and in helping the Cowboys earn their first two road wins of 2018 he finally flashed in pass coverage.

The next challenge for the Cowboys defense comes on a short week, against the division leading Washington Redskins. Though they lost starting Quarterback Alex Smith for the season on Sunday, expected to start Colt McCoy on Thanksgiving, it was Running Back Adrian Peterson that gashed the Cowboys for 4.13 yards a carry and 99 total yards in the Redskins week six win over Dallas.

Given what not only Leighton Vander Esch but the rest of the Cowboys defense has shown against the run in recent weeks, all without David Irving and most recently without either Antwaun Woods or Daniel Ross, the Cowboys should certainly be prepared to play for first place in the NFC East on Thursday.

Tell us what you think about "Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch’s Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Sean Lee: Time for the General to Surrender

John Williams

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REPORT: Cowboys LB Sean Lee to Miss Games with Hamstring Injury

“Football is a meritocracy,” said Tony Romo about this time two years ago. He’d just been told that Dak Prescott would remain the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, though Romo was deemed healthy enough to return to action. Well, the Cowboys face a similar situation with another rookie playing excellent football with a veteran on the sideline. The rookie is Leighton Vander Esch and the veteran is Sean Lee.

When Romo stepped aside he issued the words that have become synonymous with who Tony Romo is, “Football is a meritocracy.” As sad as it is when it comes to the end of a player’s career, the time has come for General Lee to wave that white flag as a full-time player in the NFL.

Lee has been one of the best linebackers in the game during his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, but has always been limited by his body’s inability to stay healthy. In most seasons, the Cowboys haven’t had an adequate replacement for Lee on the depth chart and that led to disastrous outcomes like the Green Bay and Los Angeles games in 2017.  Most years, we’d sit around for weeks telling ourselves, “if the Cowboys can hang in there until Sean Lee gets back, then they’ll be alright.” 

That all seems to be over now. The Dallas Cowboys finally have a player on the depth chart who can adequately, and perhaps more than adequately, replace Sean Lee’s production at the weak side linebacker position in Vander Esch. You don’t have to be a film grinder to see that the 19th overall pick has become a difference maker for the Cowboys and someone you can’t take off the field. He’s the future, but he’s also proving to be the now at WILL for the Dallas Cowboys and the coaching staff as well as Sean Lee need to recognize that. 

Vander Esch has two interceptions in the last two games, won defensive player of the week for his play against the Philadelphia Eagles. Per Pro Football Focus, Vander Esch is second in the NFL among linebackers in tackles and fourth in the NFL in stops. 

He’s been one of the best players on the team this season and shouldn’t come off the field, even for an All-Pro like Sean Lee.  

So the coaches have a difficult decision to make, but with the Dak Prescott-Tony Romo decision as a template, it’s not really a difficult decision. 

It’s time for Sean Lee to take a step back. He’s a leader on the defense whether he’s on the field or on the sideline. He’s a huge asset to the linebacker room in-game preparation, and he can still make plays for you when asked to do so. Lee, however, doesn’t need to see a full-time compliment of snaps when he returns unless we see a drop off in play for Leighton Vander Esch. Vander Esch’s play and Lee’s body are telling us that the time is now to make the transition to life on defense beyond Sean Lee.

Lee is still an important player to have around and he’ll get some snaps, but the WILL linebacker spot needs to be Leighton Vander Esch’s moving forward. 

Because, after all, “football is a meritocracy.” 



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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room

Sean Martin

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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room 1

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.

Jane Slater on Twitter

Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line

The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.

Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.

Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp

What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.

The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.

Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.

To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.

Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.

If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.

Tell us what you think about "Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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