The Cowboys came into 2020's season opener with sky high expectations under a new regime, but their loss to the Rams felt more like the Jason Garrett-era than anything else.
Mike McCarthy is already feeling the wrath of Cowboys Nation, but let's dive into my game notes for a review of how this 20-17 loss came about.
- Let's start with the quarterback. Simply put, Dak Prescott was good on Sunday night. He finished 25/39 for 266 yards and a touchdown, and added 30 yards on 3 carries, but there's just something there with Dak when you're watching the game (yeah, I'm going to be that guy for a second). He always felt in control of the offense, and if it wasn't for some shaky offensive line play and untimely penalties, this offense's output would've looked a lot better. He made the throw to Michael Gallup at the end there, but the OPI ruined his chances.
- Speaking of the offense, the offensive line had an…ok night. Struggling with Aaron Donald is expected, but it did feel like the offensive play callers didn't trust Terence Steele much of the night. Steele had a fine game considering the circumstances, but I think the overall conservative nature of this offense on early downs was due to a lack of confidence in the pass protection. Let's hope Steele did enough to earn a bit more trust next week.
- Ezekiel Elliott looks good. I mean, as good as he's looked in maybe four years. He's in great shape, and was able to get involved in the passing game early on. Elliott is a heck of a security blanket for a quarterback to have, but it was nice to see him make a play after the catch for that touchdown in the first quarter.
- Defensively there were two stars: rookie Trevon Diggs and veteran Aldon Smith. Diggs made a huge third down stop coming down hill to defend the run in the fourth quarter, giving the Cowboys offense a final chance to win the game. He was sticky in coverage all night, and almost came away with the first interception of his career. Smith? Oh he just created the first turnover of the season, getting in Jared Goff's face so Chidobe Awuzie could reap the benefits with the pick. Smith looks powerful, and that is a welcomed site for a defense which had a slow start but decent finish to their opener.
- This linebacker situation could get ugly. I may be pessimistic but I'm starting to wonder how much career Leighton Vander Esch has left, which is unfortunate for him of course. Jaylon Smith earned a ton of training camp hype, but he once again looked slow in coverage. It was more 2019 than 2018 for Smith Sunday night, and you have to worry if that's just who he is. I'm still higher on him than Twitter seems to be, but it wasn't too pretty against the Rams.
- Next Sunday will be a more true test for this defense, playing a traditional drop-back passing team loaded with weapons at receiver. The Cowboys can't afford to fall to 0-2, so their offense gameplan may need a complete overhaul ahead of their first home game of 2020.