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10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Ugly Win In Minnesota

RJ Ochoa

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Dez Bryant

Listen to an audio version of this article on Bumpers!

https://bumpers.fm/e/b10s9g0gqlqg02jlo820

I want you to do me a favor. Look at the date, please. It reads December 2nd.

I just wanted to make sure that was well-known so that the amazingness of this could be fully digested – the Dallas Cowboys are 11-1. Happy #VictoryPoloMonday to you and yours!

That’s right, the Dallas Cowboys were on the right side of a 17-15 slobber-knocker type of game against the Minnesota Vikings in what was easily the closest Thursday Night Football game of the season. Every week a new squad gives America’s Team all they can handle, and in the last eleven efforts they’ve all failed.

It was hardly a walk-in-the-park type of victory, though. Many members of Cowboys Nation were on pins and needles to the very end. What was our experience? What did we learn? Here are my 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Ugly Win In Minnesota.

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This Team Is Different, They Know How To Win Ugly

Cowboys Headlines - 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Ugly Win In Minnesota 1

Typically the wins we enjoy most as football fans are the ones when we’re scoring at will, putting together highlight after highlight. The truth of the game is that winning isn’t always that sexy.

You have to be able to win ugly in the NFL, in every sport really. This is what quality teams do. This is what elite teams do. This is what championship teams do.

It’s easy to win games like when we played Cincinnati many moons ago and everything’s going your way. It’s extremely difficult, and says more about your mental discipline, when you can win without that benefit. The Cowboys shot themselves in the foot over and over (shout out Gavin Escobar and Doug Free), let Sam Bradford be functional, and didn’t consistently do anything on offense.

Normally that script would dictate a loss… not with this team. They’re different.

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Lucky Whitehead’s Fumbling Is Starting To Become A Real Issue

Early in the second quarter the Cowboys ran a jet sweep, a play that’s brought us much joy, with Lucky Whitehead. After picking up the first down, which is notable, Lucky tried to dance a bit and had the ball jarred loose. Argh!

ESPN Stats & Info on Twitter

Lucky Whitehead has fumbled 4 times on 26 career touches. He has 3 fumbles on 10 touches this season.

We’ve seen the Cowboys send Cole Beasley out to return punts occasionally, seemingly because Lucky Whitehead can’t be trusted. Lucky is awesome, his Snapchat game is extremely on point, but that reality is just that – reality.

Lucky Whitehead can’t totally be trusted with the football in his hands. That’s a bad thing when it’s the most important element to his job.

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Anthony Hitchens Had, But Not According To The Box Score, An Amazing Game

Cowboys Headlines - 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Ugly Win In Minnesota 2

Anthony Hitchens posted this on his Snapchat Thursday night after the game. He probably means the popular video game Call of Duty, but he was definitely on duty against the Vikings.

For so long, literally years, it’s been nothing but Sean Lee and Sean Lee alone as far as the Dallas Cowboys linebackers are concerned. We’ve been teased by certain guys like Rolando McClain and Justin Durant, but the constant common denominator has been Sean Lee… until now?

As of late we’ve seen Damien Wilson (shout out to 2014 Training Camp’s pet cats) really come on, and on Thursday night Anthony Hitchens reminded us that he’s a baller and shot caller.

Hitchens had an incredible interception that was negated thanks to a penalty by Orlando Scandrick, who we’ll get into in a bit. Hitchens nearly had a second interception later in the contest… it was his night.

Matt Eberflus has done an amazing job year after year with what he’s had to work with at linebacker for the Cowboys, Anthony Hitchens is the latest example.

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Orlando Scandrick Is Not Who He Once Was

Last season was obviously very difficult for the Cowboys thanks to a multitude of injuries, cornerback Orlando Scandrick’s season-ender at Training Camp among them.

Was it really, though? Would Orlando Scandrick have seriously improved the 2015 Dallas Cowboys? The 2016 iteration of Scandrick doesn’t necessarily suggest that.

ESPNDallas on Twitter

Orlando Scandrick angry about being benched for rookie Anthony Brown https://t.co/vdATHQOQ9o #Cowboys

There was a point in time where Scandrick was the best corner on the Cowboys. Morris Claiborne took that title when he was healthy earlier this season, and now the Cowboys are prioritizing Anthony Brown over Orlando.

Scandrick is still good for an occasionally solid play, but it’s obvious now that there was far too much hope/hype put into who he could be post-injury.

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All I Want For Christmas Is A Tight End 2

Cowboys Headlines - 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Ugly Win In Minnesota 3

When you have Jason Witten – who was held without a catch in a game for the first time since 2008 on Thursday – on your team, you really don’t have a right to complain about the tight end position. Well here I am complaining! I break all the rules!

The tight end depth on this team was sneaky deep way back in the offseason: Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, and Gavin Escobar. When a 2nd Round Pick is option number four you really messed up that 2nd Round Pick you’re sitting pretty.

Injuries to Hanna and Swaim have found them on IR, so Gavin Escobar is back to his 2014 role of Tight End Numero Dos. While the role might be the same, the job performance isn’t. Gavin Escobar almost singlehandedly lost this game for the Cowboys with penalty after penalty. Santa, hook it up man.

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Maliek Collins Makes The Draft Class All The More Special

“Hey you can have Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Maliek Collins, and Anthony Brown. Also you’ve got Jaylon Smith on ice for a hopeful future. Plus you have Rico Gathers.” This is what the Dallas Cowboys Front Office told us at the conclusion of the 2016 NFL Draft. Christmas season is now, but the presents landed way back then.

Zeke, Dak, and Anthony all play sexy positions so it’s easier to see their big plays, but Maliek does all that dirty work that Rod Marinelli loves so much. He was, and has been, on fire last night.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

Maliek Collins has finished each of the last 3 plays.

The most difficult thing going on in the lives of Dallas Cowboys fans right now is picking which rookie is the most awesome. Seriously.

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Dak Prescott And Dez Bryant Have Figured It Out

Dez Bryant

Every offensive element to the Dallas Cowboys game last night is pretty rough when you look at it in the box score, but one particular statistical line makes you happy. Dez Bryant caught 4 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.

When Dez Bryant visited with the NFL Network guys postgame he was asked about the transition from Tony Romo, who he had great chemistry with, to Dak Prescott. Dez simply said that Dak was phenomenal and that they work hard and trust one another. That’s evident.

We hadn’t truly seen Dez Bryant be Dez Bryant until the game against the Ravens when he had two touchdowns for the first time since Week 17 of 2014. He and Dak have found what makes their duo work, and goodness it is great.

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The Cowboys Offensive Line Is Free Fallin’

Dak Prescott

Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” debuted in 1989. Current Dallas Cowboys Right Tackle Doug Free was five years old at the time. Fast forward 27 years and Doug is the one who’s causing the Cowboys Offensive Line to free fall.

Look, the Dallas Cowboys have the best offensive line in the NFL. This is, at times, in spite of Doug Free. It very obviously wasn’t Doug Free’s night in Minnesota, but it really is no secret that the right side is the achilles heel of Zeke’s fortress.

This is a, thankfully, long bit of rest that the Cowboys are facing before their trip to New York next Sunday night. We’ll see a lot of discussions about La’el Collins and Chaz Green, and right now Doug Free is giving us every reason to have them.

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The Cowboys Are So Good, They Are Saving Thursday Night Football

When you’re the Dallas Cowboys, everybody wants to watch you. When you’re the best team in the NFL, everybody cares. When you have the two hottest rookies on the planet, people are totally and completely overwhelmed.

It’s no secret that fans dislike Thursday Night Football. In fact, there have been rumblings that the NFL is considering dealing away with the mid-week games altogether; however, the Cowboys may have saved it.

Natalie Ravitz on Twitter

Last night’s game is the most-watched #TNF game ever! @dallascowboys @Vikings @nbc @nflnetwork #fastnationals

If you have a problem the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott, and Ezekiel Elliott can probably fix it. Unless that problem is that you don’t like winners or people eating things. We can’t fix that.

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This Was The Most Important Win Of The Season

Cowboys Headlines - 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Ugly Win In Minnesota

The Cowboys may have won in ugly fashion against the Vikings, but this is far and away the most critical win for this football team.

In 2014 the Cowboys fell down 0-21 early in the game while in St. Louis. They rallied, ran the ball, and won the game in dramatic fashion. All throughout the magical ride that 2014 was, it was that game that gave the Cowboys the realization that they were never out of it.

This game will serve a lot of the same purpose. It’s a big confidence boost when you completely dismantle an opponent, but it’s an even bigger team-wide confidence surge when you win simply because you won. It’s who you are.

A win against the Vikings was also enormous because the New York Giants lost to them. This gives the Cowboys another victory over a common opponent with the G-Men (they also have the Packers win as well). Huzzah.

What were your takeaways from the Cowboys ugly win in Minnesota? 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 Ugly Win In Minnesota” in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!

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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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3 Comments
  • Russ_Te

    On the Whitehead fumble, I give him partial but not total fault. Defender had the right angle to punch it out from behind. It’s a given with Whitehead that what he gives you is speed and not strength.

    That so called jet sweep – end around, etc is one of Linehan’s best ideas. It hits too fast for defenses to stop it LOS, unless a DB is completely free. Even then Whitehead will probably outrun him to the edge. After you crack that open you can decoy with it and make defenders stay home while Elliott goes other side with the ball.

    They had a similar pitch play for Murray in 2014, very flat to LOS and it hit the defense immediately. They need to bring that pitch back for Elliott, and also get a screen play worked in for him. Dorsett used to kill teams with the screen, Elliott would obviously do the same.

    It’s probable though that they have some plays deliberately not used yet, so there is no film on them for the playoffs.

  • Russ_Te

    I peg this win as a confidence builder of sorts – still get the W on an off night – but the other games like Pittsburgh & Philly where Dak drove the team to winning points in the 4th and in OT, probably did more. Everyone knew the guy had it at that point as a legit QB – finds his A game in the clutch.

    He showed that a bit last night but that turnover they got on the punt was the difference in the game. Several times they had a big play and it got called back – one of those games.

    But they get 10 days rest for the Giants, and plenty for the coaches to harp on. I think the offense will be much sharper, however a monster cold blast is about to hit the Midwest & not sure if it may still affect New York City by then.

  • Gbear

    I heard another report that it was the second most watched game, 2014 Chiefs vs whoever, it wasn’t the Cowboys. I disagree this was most important game, I’ll always feel the most important victory is the 1st one, each one after becomes different but important in its own right. This last one was different than any of the others, it was important to face the adversity, it was more important to overcome it. A game like that builds on the confidence of the team and provides them w/the experience they may need to call on later. They have to understand, the other 31 teams and their fans hate us even more than usual because we’re winning. We are getting the very best of every opponent trying to knock us off. The victories here on out may be just as difficult to come by. Go Cowboys #Dak4MVP #Zeke4ROY

Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Pursue Veteran Backup at Quarterback?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Cooper Rush
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys only have two quarterbacks under contract right now, starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. With only three years of combined experience between them, one could argue that a veteran presence would be useful. Should Dallas make a veteran QB a free-agent priority in the 2018 offseason?

Of course, there’s plenty of other QB experience on the Cowboys staff. Head Coach Jason Garrett played professionally from 1989-2004, and started his coaching career with quarterbacks.

Scott Linehan has been coaching offense with an emphasis on the passing game for 30 years.

Kellen Moore, who is taking over for the departed Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach, has played very recently and will bring a fresh perspective.

However, losing Wilson’s experience from the room, and the lack of any veteran player at QB, shouldn’t be dismissed.

Dak Prescott has said veteran Mark Sanchez — who was with Dallas in 2016 — was a major help during his whirlwind rookie season. Tony Romo enjoyed veteran advice from guys like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton throughout his playing career.

This isn’t to say Dallas would want to bring in a veteran to knock Cooper Rush down the depth chart. After a surprising preseason, Rush took the backup job from Kellen Moore and certainly has intriguing upside.

If the Cowboys were to add a veteran, that player would have to come in with the understanding he’s competing with Cooper and may not be guaranteed a job.

The good news is that it’ll be a buyer’s market for veteran quarterbacks this offseason.

Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Matt Moore could all be available. Even a player with more pedigree, such as Sam Bradford, may have trouble finding starting work with many jobs taken among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Dallas could even consider bringing back Mark Sanchez, given his previous relationship with Dak Prescott. He only had a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.

Given Prescott’s seeming durability, Dallas will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018 and for years to come. Because of that, they may be content to focus on Dak and Cooper Rush, and just get through the offseason with training camp bodies.

However, the case can certainly be made for adding another veteran player with the desire to teach to help these young quarterbacks develop. Prescott was not the same guy in 2017 that we saw as a rookie, and perhaps the absence of guys like Sanchez and Tony on the sideline had something to do with that.

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Dallas Cowboys

Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal is a Good Hire for Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal Is A Good Hire For Cowboys

Yesterday, it was announced that the Dallas Cowboys will hire Sanjay Lal to be their new wide receivers coach. Lal spent 2017 with the Indianapolis Colts in the same position, but has made multiple stops around the NFL prior to joining the Cowboys staff.

Most recently and arguably most notably, Sanjay Lal was the receivers coach for both the New York Jets (2012-2014) and the Buffalo Bills (2015-2016). This means he coached on Rex Ryan’s staff for two different teams, with two very similar offensive philosophies.

Run the football.

As seen in the video below, Sanjay Lal has experience working as the wide outs coach for an offense with a run-first philosophy. He even says himself that their offense in New York was “ground and pound,” but notes that “without a pass game there’s no pound.”

Cowboys fans became all too familiar with the truth behind that statement during the 2017 season, as even solid efforts in the run game were rendered meaningless by their lack of explosion through the air.

Jets Nation Inside Camp: Sanjay Lal Mic’d Up

Jets wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal is mic’d up during training camp, and also discusses trying to play pro football before becoming a coach in the NFL.

A lot has been made of Sanjay Lal’s lack of 1,000-yard receivers during his time as a coach. The offensive philosophies of the teams which he coached for, however, show why this criticism is flimsy.

It’s quite possible the Cowboys will once again be without a 1,000 yard pass catcher this season, but if Ezekiel Elliott and the run game are clicking, and Dak Prescott is spreading the ball to different targets, this stat won’t mean a thing.

Lal was also the coach in Buffalo when Sammy Watkins had the best years of his career, including a 1,000-yard season.

During that stint he coached Robert Woods to productive seasons as well. Now Woods is a dangerous target for the Los Angeles Rams after being coached by Lal for multiple seasons.

These were also the same years that quarterback Tyrod Taylor was at his best.

While in New York, with the Jets, Lal’s most productive receiver was Jeremy Kerley, who finished with 827 yards in 2012 and 523 in 2013. What’s important to note here is that Kerley played as a slot receiver for much of his time as a Jet.

The Cowboys lacked any type of production from the slot in 2017, but maybe Lal can change that by getting the best out of Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer, as he did with Kerley.

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Know that some believe he had a real shot to be an OC in this league one day. https://t.co/1s21w2jZGR

All indications from those “in the know” suggest Sanjay Lal is on his way to becoming an offensive coordinator soon. Many believe he has the smarts and the football IQ to command an offense himself, as soon as he gets the right opportunity.

Maybe that opportunity will come down the line in Dallas, where he can continue to coach within that “ground and pound” style, which he has done for many years while also implementing elements of his own passing game expertise.

Everyone has been critical of the Cowboys’ inability to bring in external hires, and to spark up new/creative offensive ideas. Lal has spent time among some of the smartest offensive minds in football.

Maybe he’s the man to bring in that outside creativity this offense seems to lack.

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Dallas Cowboys

Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

Sean Martin

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Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

After hiring Paul Alexander to fill their vacant OL coaching position, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing to retool their offensive staff below Scott Linehan. Sanjay Lal has been hired to coach the Cowboys’ wide receivers, replacing Derek Dooley.

Lal has experience as a WR coach with four different teams, dating back to 2009 with the Oakland Raiders. He was promoted up to this position after serving as the Raiders’ quality control coach from 2007-08.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys have reached an agreement with Sanjay Lal to become the team’s WR coach. Lal was with Indianapolis last season and replaces Derek Dooley on the staff.

Most recently, Sanjay Lal coached the receivers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He has also been with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

In this interview with the Colts, Lal mentions being very detail-oriented with a focus on the technical aspects of playing receiver.

Lal beats out former Cowboys WR Miles Austin for this position, earning the right to lead a room of receivers in desperate need of fresh talent. In an offseason that’s been about finding fresh ideas with the coaching staff so far though, the Cowboys have a new voice on offense.

Tell us what you think about “Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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