The Cowboys sit at 1-1 after the opening two weeks of the season, with a noticeable shift in how the team wins games.
Everyone loves the high-octane offense that the Cowboys have produced over the last few years. Dak Prescott was throwing for colossal yardage, receivers in CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper (now with Cleveland), and others were putting up huge numbers.
But with several key offensive weapons unavailable or no longer with the team, there has been a discernible difference in what makes the team go.
#Cowboys defense vs. an "angry" Bengals offense in W2:
9 QB hits
Seems like 0-2 Cincinnati is inconsistent and not sound in their technique. Hit or miss, even.
We all know what last year looked like. A 12-5 record with the offense averaging 31.2 points per game (ranked first) and in eight games, had over 400 total yards of offense, adding two games where Dallas exceeded 500 yards of total offense, and you get an idea of exactly how easy it was for them to move the football.
CeeDee Lamb (1,102 yards, six touchdowns), Amari Cooper (865 yards, eight touchdowns), Michael Gallup (843 yards, five touchdowns), Dalton Schultz (808 yards, eight touchdowns), and Cedric Wilson (602 yards, six touchdowns) all showed that the Dallas offense could put up points at will.
With Cooper and Wilson gone, along with a rather beat-up offensive line, the once much-vaunted offense is a shadow of its former self. The fear factor is no longer there.
In the first two games of the 2022 season, we have seen the defense take huge strides yet again. While stopping the run seems to be still problem number one that needs fixing, the pass rush and coverage led by Trevon Diggs continues to be a strength.
The Cowboys defense has played Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Julio Jones, Chris Godwin, Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, Ja'Marr Chase and Joe Mixon and allowed 36 total points and 2 TDs.
So, after years of being so offensively dominant, there is now a natural thought that the Cowboys go as the defense goes.
The Cowboys' defense has not allowed more than 19 points in the opening two games and has not allowed more than 347 total yards per Pro Football Reference. Against Tom Brady and Joe Burrow, that is some feat. That'll work. Six times last year, the Cowboys' defense kept teams under 20 points.
With Mike McCarthy having to lean more on Dan Quinn's side of the ball to help bail out the offense's deficiencies, Dallas could turn its persona into a defensive beast that is tough to score against. While unlikely to match its 35 turnovers from last season, the Cowboys' defense will need to get its fair share of takeaways in 2022.
Against the Buccaneers, the defense (Micah Parsons) sacked Tom Brady twice, had six tackles for loss, and had four quarterback hits. On Sunday against the Bengals, Dallas sacked Burrow six times, had eight tackles for loss, and had nine quarterback hits along with a forced fumble. Parsons and Dorance Armstrong combined for four sacks, four tackles for loss, and seven quarterback hits alone.
Through two games last season the Dallas Cowboys defense had generated 6 turnovers.
Through two games this season the Dallas Cowboys defense has generated just 1 turnover.
Regression was inevitable, but they are finding ways to still contribute and be great.
Well done, DQ.
— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) September 19, 2022
That is some start to a season, and for many, it has become clear that the team will go as the defense goes. The offense still needs to do its fair share of the workload though. Long, sustained drives are sometimes necessary, and when the defense creates a turnover, cash in.
For years we have admired the offensive power of the Cowboys. Now, there is a shift in how the team goes, given the power of Dan Quinn's unit.
Make no mistake, even with Dak Prescott and Michael Gallup back; this is a defense-first football team. What is the old saying? Defense wins championships, hmm, interesting.