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Cowboys Defense Flying Under the Radar, Playing Better Than Most Think

Matthew Lenix



Cowboys Defense Playing Better Than It's Getting Credit For

It's very easy to focus on the offensive side of the ball when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys when you have stars like All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, and Amari Cooper on the roster. Prescott and Cooper are both on pace to have the best seasons of their respective careers and Elliott is firmly in the mix for his third rushing title in four years. Quietly, however, the Cowboys defense is having another good season. Maybe not quite to the level of the 7th ranked unit they were a year ago, but a good year so far nonetheless.

When you can stop the run as a defense it makes life much easier for the entire unit while simultaneously forcing the opposing offense to be one-dimensional. The Cowboys have been one of the NFL's best since 2016 at stopping the run finishing 8th, 1st, and 5th over that span. Currently, the Cowboys are 13th vs the run, still putting them in the top half of the league. Their ranking would be a lot higher without 100-yard performances from Saquon Barkley and Aaron Jones, considering no other running back has gained more than 69 yards against them. The Cowboys defense may have taken a slight step back vs the run but they are still very good.

In a passing league, it's paramount to have a defense that can compete at a high-level vs the pass even with all the rules that make it difficult to do so. The Cowboys defense is currently ranked 9th vs the pass. They have only allowed two quarterbacks to pass for over 300 yards in their first seven games. While the ability to create turnovers in the secondary still needs improvement with only three interceptions they have been one of the best in the NFL as far as giving up yardage.

In 2018, the Cowboys finished 7th in total defense. Fast forward to 2019, they are on pace to be one of the leagues best again. They are 8th in total defense so far this season and seem to be hitting their stride only allowing 13 points in their last six quarters of play. Also, they have held four of their seven opponents under 300 yards of offense, which is hard to do in today's NFL.

The most important statistic on defense isn't yards allowed, sacks or interceptions, it's points allowed. Going into Week 9 the Cowboys are allowing 17.7 points per game, which ranks 7th in the NFL. This is a continuation of last season when they finished tied for 6th in the same category. A big reason for this the fact that this defense has held four of it's seven opponents to 17 points or less. If your defense can hold teams under 20 points you're going to win a lot of ball games.

Lastly, there's the red zone category. Offenses in today's NFL are too talented to consistently stop them from getting inside the 20. Having said that, it's important for your defense to rise to the occasion in these situations, and the Cowboys are doing just that. They are only allowing touchdowns on 45.8% of the red zone drives they face, good for 5th best in the NFL. They may bend a little but they very seldom break which is exactly what you want from your defense.

The Cowboys defense may not have produced some of the splash plays from a year ago so far but make no mistake about it they are still one of the leagues best. Elliott, Prescott, and Cooper may grab most of the headlines but if the Cowboys want to make a second consecutive playoff appearance this defense needs to continue and even elevate the level it's playing at going forward.


Player News

Report: Cowboys G Connor Williams to Undergo Arthroscopic Knee Surgery, Expected to Miss a Few Weeks

Matthew Lenix



Report: Cowboys G Connor Williams to Undergo Arthroscopic Knee Surgery, Expected to Miss a Few Weeks

The Dallas Cowboys received a bit of bad news today. According to ESPN's Todd Archer, Guard Connor Williams will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday.

Todd Archer on Twitter

Connor Williams will have surgery on his knee Tuesday but the hope is he will be able to return after a few weeks. Xavier Su'a-Filo will likely move into the left guard role, which is how the Cowboys handled Williams' absence last year because of a knee...

Williams suffered the injury in Sunday's 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. This is a minor procedure but will keep Williams sidelined for a few weeks. Backup Guard Xavier Su'a-Filo is expected to fill in during his absence, just like he did in 2018 when Williams missed time with a knee issue. More to come.

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Game Notes

Jason Garrett Reminds Everyone That Kellen Moore Calls the Plays

Jess Haynie



Jason Garrett, Kellen Moore

There's a lot of blame game being played around the Dallas Cowboys right now after a demoralizing home loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Even the head coach seems to be getting in on the act as Jason Garrett went out of character and got unusually specific in explaining Kellen Moore's responsibility for play-calling.

Garrett is not known for calling people out. In fact, many fans have criticized him for not being more critical of his players. He tends to speak in vague, nebulous terms when it comes to discussing the Cowboys' weaknesses or failings after a loss.

But in a radio appearance this morning, Garrett didn't mince words on who was deciding the plays during the Cowboys' final drive.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Jason Garrett on @1053thefan on the two run plays late: "Kellen's calling the game. In that situation it's 2nd and 2. He felt like he had a good opportunity against a favorable box to run the ball in those situations. On each of those plays we had options beyond just the run.

Jason did try to excuse his offensive coordinator's decisions with some context, but he also made sure to clarify who was responsible for those calls. It was not very Garrett-like, and it may speak to his own growing frustration and concern over his future.

Garrett is on the final year of his contract and the Cowboys' front office has made it clear that any extension depends on the results of the 2019 season. With Dallas now dropping to 5-4 and only leading the division by a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Philadelphia Eagles, the future is increasingly unclear.

Jason Garrett famously uses "we" and "us" terms when talking about the negatives, not wanting to assign blame to any particular player or person when things aren't going well. That he strayed from this well-established behavior today may be an anomaly, but it shouldn't be ignored.

With a tough second-half stretch coming in this 2019 schedule, Garrett may be starting to feel like a dead man walking. We'll see in the coming weeks if this leads to anymore shifts in his usual demeanor with the media.

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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys Good, Bad, and Ugly from Week 10 Against Vikings

Brian Martin



Dallas Cowboys Good, Bad, and Ugly from Week 10 Against Vikings

Well Cowboys Nation, the Dallas Cowboys let yet another winnable game slip to their grasp Sunday night after the devastating 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. By my count, that's three out of four games the Cowboys probably should have won this season. But, probably… maybe… and should have don't mean diddly squat in the NFL.

I'm not going to beat around the bush today because I would likely end up going into a long winded rant about what took place last night. So, let's go ahead and jump right into this week's edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. As always, please feel free to use the comment section to voice your opinions and thoughts on the subject.

The Good

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Unlike in weeks past, I had absolutely no problem deciding what to go with this week for this category from the Dallas Cowboys Week 10 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. I don't think anyone would argue that the good had to be Quarterback Dak Prescott's play and the Cowboys overall passing game. This unit was the sole reason they had a chance to win at the end.

Prescott was simply phenomenal Sunday night. He threw for 397 yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception. He was on point last night and was dropping dimes all over the place. It's one of the reasons why both Amari Cooper (147 yards, 1 TD) and Randall Cobb (106, 1 TD) both went over the 100 yard mark in receiving, and Michael Gallup wasn't too far behind (76 yards, 1 TD). All in all it's an MVP caliber performance from No. 4, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to seal the victory.

The Bad

Brett Maher

Dallas Cowboys K Brett Maher

I thought and thought about what I wanted to go with in this category and I'll have to admit, I had a hard time deciding. There were individual players who deserved a nomination here, but in the end I think the bad for the Dallas Cowboys was them getting off to yet another slow start against the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, it's been a trend for them this season.

It all started when Jason Garrett decided to send out Kicker Brett Maher to attempt an ill-advised 57 yard field goal. Maher is capable of making such kicks, but there's a time and place to use that kind of weapon. Last night on the opening drive of the game was not one of those times. After the missed FG, the Vikings had excellent field position and scored a quick TD. Not long after they scored another TD to go up 14-0 after another stalled drive by the Cowboys offense. It's a hole they were never quite able to dig themselves out of.

The Ugly

Dalvin Cook

Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook

Deciding what to go with here in this category was pretty easy after narrowing down what I wanted to put in the bad category. I think the ugly for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings was their defensive play. In all honesty, it was absolutely sickening to watch the Vikings have their way with the Cowboys defense. Dallas has far too much talent on that side of the ball to be manhandled like they were.

The tackling was atrocious and so was the execution. I'm pretty sure the game plan was to neutralize Dalvin Cook the way they did Saquon Barkley in Week 9, but the league's leading rusher (Cook) would have none of that. He pretty much did what he wanted. He ran through arm tackles and had room to run, whether it was as a rusher or receiver. It looked a lot like what Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones did to the Cowboys in Week 5. It was completely inexcusable and unacceptable!

What is your good, bad, and ugly from the Dallas Cowboys Week 10 matchup?

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