The Dallas Cowboys evened their record to 1-1 on the season with a 20-13 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football in a performance that was a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Like almost every team in the NFL, they aren't without their issues, but Sunday night against the Giants was a move in the right direction. There were a lot of players who made an impact in last night's game, but here are my 3 Stars in the Dallas Cowboys win over the New York Giants.
First ✭ - Tavon Austin
Tavon Austin was electric on Sunday night. On the opening drive, he quickly beat his man on a play action double move and caught a beautiful ball from Quarterback Dak Prescott that went for a 64 yard touchdown. It was a huge play that flipped the script on what happened last week against the Carolina Panthers when they struggled to move the ball for almost the entirety of the game.
Tavon Austin finished the day with 79 yards receiving on two catches (two targets) and added a carry for 15 yards for 94 total yards on three touches.
His route running when he got the opportunity was really, really good. He was quick.
The "Austin Effect" had a huge impact on the game as well. Even when he didn't touch the ball, his presence posed a problem for the defense. When he's on the field, the defense has to account for him because if they don't, he could be gone in the blink of an eye.
Every time that the New York Giants defense had to think about Austin in motion was a good thing for the Dallas Cowboys. The "Austin Effect" opens up so much more running room for Ezekiel Elliott and opens lanes for Dak Prescott to throw into. If you go back and look at the fourth and inches quarterback sneak by Dak Prescott, you'll see the Giants linebackers focusing on Tavon Austin in motion coming across the formation and not on Prescott as he snaps the ball and easily picks up the first down.
This was a much better use of Tavon Austin than his 10 snaps a week ago. He impacts the game in so many ways it's criminal not to have him on the field more than that.
Second ✭ - Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie
New York Giants Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and he was pretty much a non-factor for this primetime game. You can't undersell how important Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie were to slowing down Beckham.
He finished the day with four catches for 51 yards on nine targets. It was a very quiet day for the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL because of the play on the outside by Jones and Awuzie.
Byron Jones was credited with six solo tackles and Chidobe Awuzie had eight solo tackles. According to Next Gen Stats, Beckham only averaged 1.6 yards of separation per pass attempt. For reference, the league average is 2.76 yards of separation per pass attempt.
For the most part, he was locked down by Jones and Awuzie on the outside.
Third ✭ - Dak Prescott
The passing numbers for Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott may not be stellar, but when you consider his rushing numbers as well, you see how important his play was to the Dallas Cowboys victory.
He finished the day 16/25 for 160 yards and a touchdown through the air and had six carries for 46 yards rushing on the ground.
In order to win football games in the NFL you have to score points and Dak Prescott led his team to 20 points. With this defense, that's going to be more than enough to win a lot of football games.
On the team's final touchdown drive, he was brilliant in orchestrating a 14 play drive that lasted more than eight minutes on the play clock. On that drive, Prescott was responsible for converting three first downs, either with his arm or legs.
When it mattered most, he orchestrated an excellent drive in the fourth quarter that was capped off by an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown rush.
For the most part, even when under pressure, Dak Prescott looked more under control and more poised than he did week one. Even when he had pressure in his face, he did what he had to do to buy time to either make the play or to throw the ball away to avoid the sack.
Prescott needs to continue to show this kind of promise week-to-week if he's going to be the franchise quarterback that we all thought he could be a year ago.
This game was a step in the right direction.
Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard
No matter who is orchestrating this defense, Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard had the Dallas Cowboys ready to play tonight. They kept Eli Manning under pressure the entire evening and had six different players credited with sacks in the game.
They had a great game plan to keep the New York Giants offense from beating them with big plays down the field. With as much pressure as the Giants were facing it was predominantly short passing attempts from Eli Manning. The entire defense did a really good job rallying to the football and limited the damage underneath.
After taking criticism all week-long, the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator had a really good night. After not really getting Tavon Austin involved in week one, he got the speedy wide receiver involved early in the game for the team's first score of the night.
Linehan got Tavon Austin on the field early and fairly often, which opened things up for the rest of the offense throughout the game.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Now that you've seen mine, show me yours. Who were your 3 Stars from the Dallas Cowboys win over the New York Giants?
Remembering the Cowboys NFC East Clinching Win Vs. Colts, 4 Years Later
The 2014 Dallas Cowboys season still feels like a landmark in the rich history of this team. Going deeper into Cowboys annuls is nothing more than a hopeless drift through wasted time that all of us are guilty of, though looking ahead at the 2018 team also leaves just distant memories of 2014.
Perhaps it was the memorable and painful way this season ended, with Dez Bryant's catch in the divisional playoffs at the Packers being played on loop ever since. This clip has surely overshadowed the way Dallas clinched the NFC East in 2014, with a 42-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys find themselves in a similar position Sunday, beginning a stretch of three straight "win and you're in" games. The NFC East will belong to the once 3-5 Cowboys with a win over the Colts, Buccaneers, or Giants.
In that 42-7 drubbing of the Colts four years ago, Tony Romo threw three first half touchdowns to three different targets. At halftime, the Cowboys were on their way with a 28-0 lead, jumping out to a 42-0 advantage before Matt Hasselbeck would throw a garbage time touchdown (yeah, I feel old writing that too).
Just like in this match up, the Cowboys are fresh off a win over the Eagles, as they were in 2014 before rolling to the division title. Four starters from Jason Garrett's first NFC East clincher remain on his roster, though only two will play, speaking to the strides Garrett has made to salvage his reputation this year.
The 2014 Cowboys established themselves as the run-first team that's very much still in tact thanks to Ezekiel Elliott. Only Giants rookie Saquon Barkey has more rushing yards over the last five weeks than Elliott. While Barkley continues to impress for a team that will not make the playoffs, Elliott is carrying the Cowboys closer to the postseason with every carry.
Unlike 2014, the path out of the Cowboys backfield to the top of the division hasn't been as straight. The '14 Cowboys featured a veteran lineup on both sides of the ball, focused on weekly improvements yielding a 12-4 record.
The only time the Cowboys have won more games under Garrett was in 2016, where the Cowboys altered the future of the franchise again with a new-look team that went 13-3 before losing in the divisional round to Green Bay again.
Neither 12 or 13 wins is attainable this year for the Cowboys, but the best of both recent divisional championship seasons is. Wins over the Saints and Eagles have brought back the miraculous 2016 feel Quarterback Dak Prescott's rookie season brought to Dallas. For going through both that season together, as well as a nine win campaign in 2017 that serves as Prescott's "down year", the Cowboys staffers that remember 2014 should be nostalgic at kickoff Sunday.
With the NFL being such a week-by-week, day-by-day, and even minute-by-minute experience, taking the chance to add perspective whenever possible is refreshing. The Cowboys arrival as perennial contenders in 2014 can come full circle with a new cast of players and familiar coaching staff here in week 15.
Remember just how much this team has been through to reach this point the next time you call for sweeping changes to America's Team, and if you're feeling lucky, a prop bet on Garrett having blue Gatorade dumped on him before night's end could go a long way.
Cowboys Wishlist: Connor Williams Turns It Around
The Dallas Cowboys are on the road again as they travel to Indianapolis to face a hot 7-6 Colts team that's trying to sneak into the AFC Playoffs. It will be a tough challenge for a team that's struggled when playing out of AT&T Stadium but the Cowboys have changed a lot since they were a 3-5 unit. This time, they're one of the hottest teams in the NFL and are one win away from clinching the NFC East.
We surely are in for a great game. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy this week's edition of "Cowboys Wishlist."
Wish #1: Leighton Vander Esch Outplays Darius Leonard
As impressive as Leighton Vander Esch has been for the Dallas Cowboys, he's not alone in the Defensive Rookie of the Year race. On today's game, he'll meet his match in Colts LB Darius Leonard. A second rounder himself, Leonard leads the league in tackles with 135. He also is responsible for 11 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception.
Vander Esch, otherwise known as "Wolf Hunter" doesn't have such incredible stats, but playing time is a big reason why. His play has been pretty impressive, though. Ranked as the top rookie linebacker by PFF, hell be out there to prove who's the better player. I really wish he outplays Leonard en rout to the DROY award.
Wish #2: No Turnovers From Dak
455 yards, three touchdowns and another game-winning drive were more than impressive from Dak Prescott. I really have faith in him as the Cowboys' QB. But we can't ignore the three turnovers he was responsible for in such a close game versus the Philadelphia Eagles.
This game will be different. The Colts are a legit threat in the NFL right now and the Cowboys won't be the home team. Without Martin on the field, Prescott is likely to be pressured. If that's the case, he needs to watch out and avoid fumbles in the pocket.
It's really important the team takes care of the ball if they want the win versus Andrew Luck and company. I specifically wish Dak Prescott has a good game and does something he's done fairly well throughout his career: take care of the ball.
Wish #3: Connor Williams Turns It Around
Expectations were sky-high for second round pick Connor Williams. A starter in week 1, injury and poor play sidelined him in favor of Xavier Su'a-Filo. With Zack Martin out for the game, Williams has another opportunity to shine. This time he'll be lining up as the team's right guard between C Joe Looney and RT La'el Collins.
It's very important to remember Williams is only a rookie. Just because we're used to offensive line rookies to have immediate success for Dallas doesn't mean every one the team brings in will be as great starting off. A rough start is not the end of the world for Williams. Also worth noting, the majority of his playing time came under now-fired OL coach Paul Alexander. I'm convinced he'll turn things around and will become an important player for the Cowboys soon.
For now, I wish he takes advantage of the opportunity to play and does a great job to be considered again for the LG spot once Martin returns.
Wish #4: Amari Cooper Keeps It Up
The impact Amari Cooper has had on this team is quite frankly unbelievable. He should really be seen as this season's savior for the Cowboys. While the defense is winning games, without Cooper the offense would still be terrible and results wouldn't be the same. He has more than justified the first round pick the Jones traded away to get him.
In a big, road game like this one, I hope he keeps it up and has another huge performance. Whether it is multiple scores or a 100-yard game, I simply want to see him shine again.
Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report
The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.
We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.
- TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
- G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
- DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
- WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
- OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
- DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.
Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving. Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.
Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.
Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.
While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.
- G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
- LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
- S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
- WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
- TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
- S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable
The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.
Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.
Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.
Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.
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