After an impressive all around performance a week ago against the New York Giants, here we are again looking for answers after a deflating 24-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks were the better team Sunday, but they weren't ten points better. The Dallas Cowboys hurt themselves -- with the officials help -- with a lot of mental miscues. Whether it was a drop that led to an interception or a blown coverage or a penalty that stalled or extended a drive, the Dallas Cowboys didn't really give themselves a shot at winning this football game.
Every game matters and in a week where every other NFC East team won, this loss hurts even more. There were several stand outs from Sunday's game, and here are this week's 3 Stars.
Earl Thomas, Safety
This one hurts to write as I've been in the camp hoping that Earl Thomas would have a star on his helmet for months now.
The drama surrounding the Earl Thomas saga has been relentless, yet he put on an incredible performance in front of the Dallas Cowboys that should assuage any distraction or drama-filled narratives out there.
It was a heck of a game from the All-Pro safety that showed what kind of impact he can have on the outcome of a football game. Thomas was the best Seahawks player on the field today and certainly answered any question of whether he's motivated or not.
The guy is a player and the Dallas Cowboys might have messed around and hurt their chances at signing him in the offseason by not going to get him this year.
Seattle Seahawks Offensive Line
For a team that had allowed the most sacks in the NFL through the first two weeks of the season, the Seattle Seahawks' Offensive line did an amazing job of protecting Quarterback Russell Wilson.
After allowing six sacks in each of their first two games, they only allowed Wilson to get sacked twice. The Dallas Cowboys had come into the game second in the NFL in sacks. They handled the Cowboys' blitz packages and stunts very well and Russell Wilson helped himself by getting the ball out of his hands quickly.
The Seahawks offensive line paved the way for Running Back Chris Carson to run for 102 yards on 32 carries. Not a huge number when you look at his yards per carry (3.18), but they were tough effective yards that kept the Dallas Cowboys defense on their heels and extended drives.
Where would this team be without Ezekiel Elliott?
Terrible, that's the answer.
I know that there is still gnashing of teeth when people talk about the 2016 NFL Draft and who the Dallas Cowboys selected at number four overall. A lot of people wanted Jalen Ramsey, and for good reason, but Ezekiel Elliott is a game changer in his own right. Even when everyone is looking to stop him, he makes things happen to move the ball down the field.
Elliott ran for 127 yards on 16 carries (7.94 yards per carry), and aside from the fumble was the best player for the Dallas Cowboys tonight.
If you haven't figured it out by now, Corner Back Byron Jones is the Dallas Cowboys' best corner. After Russell Wilson tried Jones' side of the field in the first half, with little success, he began looking elsewhere to get the ball moving through the air.
Any success they had through the air was to the middle of the field or to the left side of the defense.
Looking at you Chidobe Awuzie.
Was it just me, or did it seem like Seattle Seahawks Defensive End Frank Clark was in Dak Prescott's face a lot?
You saw that too?
I would have thought that he would have had more than just one sack in the game. On the Dallas Cowboys first possession of the second half, Clark beat Left Tackle Tyron Smith on a straight speed rush with a little fake inside before getting past Smith in an instant. Tyron isn't typically beaten that easily and though Clark didn't come away with a sack, he certainly provided pressure to keep Prescott off balance.
Leighton Vander Esch
Rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch led the Dallas Cowboys in tackles with 11 (9 solo) and a tackle for loss. He played a really good game with family and friends on hand.
Earlier this week, I relayed a stat on Twitter that Anthony Brown had allowed the fewest receptions per slot coverage snap in the NFL in the first two weeks of the season.
Brown stood out to me several times in this game. On special teams and in his defensive role, he made several open field tackles that either went for a loss or no gain. He's a gamer.
Brown may not be the best corner on the team or in the league, but he's got the drive and tenacity that you need from a slot corner.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Who were your 3 Stars of the game?
NFC East Showdown: Cowboys Offense Primed to Dominate Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys are probably as confident as they have been all season as an offense after completely manhandling the Jacksonville Jaguars defense last week. They were able to put up 40 points on the Jaguar's top-ranked defense and now have to do the same against their division rival, the Washington Redskins.
I don't think there would be any argument if I were to say the Washington Redskins defense isn't nearly as talented as the Cowboys faced last week with the Jaguars. In fact, the Redskins are ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every defensive category, which should have Dallas' offensive players primed for this matchup.
As things stand right now, the Washington Redskins are giving up 21.2 points per game which ranks 24th in the NFL. They are also giving up 344 total yards (25th in the NFL) and 227.2 passing yards a game (24th). The lone bright spot of their defense is stopping the run, where they are currently ranked 12th in the NFL and are only allowing 116.8 rushing yards to opposing running backs.
Luckily, the Dallas Cowboys and Quarterback Dak Prescott looked to have found a groove with their passing game last week against the Jaguars top-ranked passing defense. With the Redskins ranked near the bottom of the league in passing defense, I think the Cowboys should and probably will build upon the success they had last week.
Now, I fully expect the Cowboys passing game to find success once again against the Redskins, but I also believe Running Back Ezekiel Elliott to dominate on the ground like he has in the past against Washington.
Zeke only played in one game against the Redskins last season, but absolutely dominated in that contest. He rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns a year ago and I wouldn't be surprised if he is close to that milestone this week as well, even if it is against the strength of Washington's defense.
I'm really hoping I'm not a being a little overconfident here, but I guess I'm just buying into the success the Cowboys had on the offensive side of the ball last week. The offense finally started to do the things that have made them successful in the past and I'm expecting that to carry over into this week.
I believe we will see Prescott using his mobility once again, although I don't know if he will rush for 83 yards. I'm also expecting to see Wide Receiver Cole Beasley heavily involved in the passing game again because Washington doesn't have a defensive back who can cover him. Of course, let's not forget Ezekiel Elliott. I'm expecting him have a big game as well.
Overall, I really don't see the Washington Redskins defense giving the Dallas Cowboys any problems on the offensive side of the ball as long as they execute the way they did last week. I know when these two teams square off against one another it's usually a slobber knocker, but I think the Cowboys are the better team and is the one that comes away with the victory.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys offense will dominate the Redskins defense?
Can Dak Prescott Continue His Washington Domination On Sunday?
There has been a lot of change within the Dallas Cowboys since 2016.
One thing hasn't changed these past two years, however, and that is the Cowboys beating the Washington Redskins. In fact, since Dak Prescott took over as the starting quarterback in Dallas the Cowboys are 4-0 against Washington. Even as the sky was falling in Dallas a year ago, and the Cowboys offense looked like the worst in football, they still found a way to dominate Washington 38-14 and snap their then-three game losing streak.
In his four career games against Washington, Dak Prescott has quarterback ratings of 103.7, 108.9, 82.2, and 93.4. To put this into context, Prescott's average quarterback rating this season is 85.5 and that is really driven by his outlier positive rating of 118.6 against the Detroit Lions. To be fair, however, his 54.5 rating against Seattle was also a heavy outlier.
Prescott isn't the only Cowboy who has exercised this dominance over Washington, though. As Staff Writer John Williams has pointed out, Jason Garrett is 11-4 against the Redskins since becoming the Cowboys head coach, and Dallas has won six of their last eight against Washington since 2014.
So heading into Sunday's rematch with their division foe, history says the Cowboys should be feeling rather confident, right?
Well there's another streak occurring the Cowboys will actually be looking to break on Sunday. That, of course, is their winless start on the road this season.
Ironically the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys have actually been a good road team until now, going a combined 12-4 the past two seasons. And, since the new stadium opened in 2009, the Cowboys have been historically better on the road than at home, making this year's 3-3 start even more bizarre.
To put it simply, "somethings gotta give" on Sunday. Either Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will continue to beat up on the Redskins and get a leg up in the NFC East, or this horrendous road start will continue for another week.
Either way, I'm sure the takes will be hot on Monday morning.
Cowboys Defense Getting Players Back at the Right Time
The Dallas Cowboys have played really well on defense this season allowing the seventh fewest rushing yards per game, the third lowest yards per carry, and the eighth fewest passing yards per game this season. They've done it for most of the 2018 season without Defensive Tackles Maliek Collins and David Irving, and Linebacker Sean Lee, who's missed the last three games with a strained hamstring.
This week the Cowboys play the NFC East leading Washington Redskins, making this a very important matchup for the Cowboys playoff chances. The Dallas Cowboys are 2-2 in the NFC in 2018, so a win against the Washington Redskins on Sunday carries much more importance. If the Cowboys have hopes of making the playoffs, they're going to have to improve their record against the NFC and they can on Sunday with their defense getting back to (nearly) full health.
Still awaiting word on Chidobe Awuzie's availability for this week.
Antwaun Woods, Tyrone Crawford, and David Ross have held up really well on the Cowboys defensive interior without Irving and Collins, which makes their return even more important. Better depth along the defensive interior is only going to help those guys have more productive snaps. Both Collins and Irving are explosive penetrating defensive tackles that give interior offensive lineman fits with their combination of strength and quickness. They play the run and pass with equal effectiveness and make life a lot easier for the linebackers and the defensive ends.
In their first game back in week six, Irving and Collins combined for two quarterback pressures, a quarterback hit (Irving) and a sack (Collins). Irving also drew a holding call on a punt.
Getting them back takes so much pressure off the defensive ends to generate pressure in passing situations. With better pressure from the interior of the defense, DeMarcus Lawrence and the other defensive ends will have better opportunities for sacks because opposing quarterbacks won't be able to step up in the pocket with as much ease as they have through the first five games of the season.
The linebacker duo of Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch have been one of the best position groups for the Cowboys this season. As good as they've been, Sean Lee is still one of the better linebackers in the NFL. Though he's leading the Cowboys in solo tackles with 43, Leighton Vander Esch probably sees a decrease in his snaps with Lee returning. They'll all play, however, and the Cowboys will look for ways to have them all on the field together.
Getting Lee, Irving, and Collins on the field at the same time with the defensive parts that the Cowboys already boast in Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Byron Jones is going to make playing offense nearly impossible.
How do you attack these guys?
The Washington Redskins rank in the bottom third in passing yards, yards per attempt, and are 18th in the NFL in passer rating. Washington ranks in the top half of the league in rushing yards per game, but rank 23rd in yards per attempt.
If there's an area where the Dallas Cowboys defense has been susceptible this season it's against the pass and having all of their best defensive players available for this week seven NFC East matchup is going to make all the difference. They'll be able to generate pressure with fewer blitzes because of the ability of Irving and Collins to generate pressure from the interior.
Though the Redskins have had some success on the ground in 2018, it's going to be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson and the Redskins run game. Lee, Vander Esch, and Smith all play the run extremely well and with the improved talent at defensive tackle, Peterson is going to find very few open lanes against the Dallas Cowboys defense.
The elite defense that we imagined this team could be may be right around the corner. Having everyone healthy and on the field together as the Dallas Cowboys get ready for the stretch run of the NFL season is huge.
Get ready NFL. Points are going to be really hard to come by.
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