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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Offense Not Far From Playoff Caliber

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Can Rod Smith Help Lighten Ezekiel Elliott's Heavy Workload?

Through 13 weeks of the 2018 NFL season, we've learned the Dallas Cowboys strength lies on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, they rank as the second best scoring defense in the league and are coming off a great performance against the league's premium scoring machine, the New Orleans Saints. It's clear that the Cowboys' defense is playoff caliber. The question is, can the offense aspire to make this team into a serious contender come January?

Currently, the Dallas Cowboys average 20.6 points per game, which ranks 24th in the league. Overall, it's been a unit that has underperformed most of the season. Only six times this year have they put up more than 20 on the scoreboard.

Regardless, this offense is starting to take shape. Believe it or not, Cowboys Nation shouldn't be that concerned about this team's offense moving forward. The thing is, the unit is talented and is moving the ball efficiently.

When the season began, the Cowboys didn't have any go-to guy on the passing game. Not a tight end, not a wide receiver. That much has changed since the team traded for Amari Cooper. The Dallas Cowboys now have a wide receiver whose presence is consistently felt on gameday.

Since his arrival to the team, the offense has ranked among the best in the NFL in many important categories. Out of 30 receptions with the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has moved the chains 23 times. Literally 77% of his catches are for first downs. That's impressive. Not only that, but the entire team ranks third on third down conversions. Dak Prescott has completed 72% of his passes since he started sharing the field with Amari Cooper, which also ranks third on the NFL.

On the running game, Ezekiel Elliott continues to build his case for the top running back in the league. He ranks second in scrimmage yards and second in first downs in the entire NFL. He's accounted for six 100-yard games.

Bobby Belt on Twitter

You can win (and have won) with this. Dak is moving the ball downfield at an above average pace. The key now is for the offense to execute better in the red zone.

The tweet above is a great example of how the Dallas Cowboys are moving the ball on offense. They're moving the chains, they're getting yards and most importantly, they're controlling the time of possession. Even though the offense only scored 13 points versus the Saints, the fact that they held on to the ball with long drives helped a lot. For 37 minutes, the Cowboys had the ball. Keeping an offense like Drew Brees' off the field is important to win big games like this one.

But even more important, is scoring. This is where the Cowboys have struggled all year. Yes, they control the time of possession. Yes, they get first downs. But once the they're knocking the door on opponents' red zones, everything seems to crumble.

At times, it's play-calling. At times it's execution. If the Cowboys are able to fix this as they begin the regular season's final stretch, this is a serious contending team. You see, they should be able to fix it. We're talking about a team with a great WR1 in Amari Cooper, an All-Pro RB in Ezekiel Elliott and an above-average offensive line.

This offense is really not far from being a playoff caliber unit. If they fix their red zone efficiency, this team will be no joke on the playoffs and could make a serious run for the big one.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Offense Not Far From Playoff Caliber" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

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4 Comments
  • Derek Robinson

    You are spot on. Just a little more focus and a little better execution. That should solve our problem. I’ve always thought that we had enough talent to compete for a SB. Just were not polished enough. Maybe we still aren’t. But i do know we are peaking at the right time.

  • Matt

    Yup. Just a good QB away from an elite offense

    • cashmagnet

      AGREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!!!!!!

      Clifford
      Sta. Monica

  • cashmagnet

    I’ve reached the point where I can’t stand Dak Prescoott… He doesn’t see wide open receivers, or he MISSES receivers when they’re wide open, or he doesn’t make critical third down chain moving throws in high stakes situations, or he does some times but not others which makes you wonder why he doesn’t do it more often. But Dak and his sock puppet coach both have just enough good personnel surrounding them that they generally win anyway….just not the BIG one….

    What’s it been—three playoff victories in the past 25 years for Dallas??? Yes, his offensive line has had a patchwork quality to it ever since their three Pro Bowlers have gone down with injuries or illnesses or whatever…But even when he’s had time to throw, too often he f*cks things up when it’s mattered most…today’s game providing yet another case in point. His screw ups have the cumulative effect of demoralizing a defense which has overall has been somewhere between pretty darned good and great–particularly over the past five contests. But the way things are going it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they indeed “choke” away a game they should have won handily…

    All of that noted, this coaching staff will NEVER do what’s necessary and develop either one of the quarterbacks behind Prescott—particularly 6’5” Mike White who has far better touch and a much stronger arm…

    Disgusted,

    Clifford

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Division Clinch with Shutout Loss at Colts

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Can't Finish Drives, Division Clinch with Shutout Loss at Colts

What is there to say about the Dallas Cowboys week 15 performance? After five straight wins, the last three coming at home, the Cowboys have only a return home to look forward to, facing the 5-9 Buccaneers on Sunday after a 23-0 defeat at the Colts.

Shutout for the first time since 2003, the Cowboys playoff hopes didn't take a hit despite the Redskins and Eagles winning on the road. Washington's last-second win went final just before the Colts ran the clock out on a game the Cowboys simply weren't ready for.

The Cowboys moved the ball well at times but failed to ever come away with points, opening the door for the Colts to expose this defense like it hasn't been all season. The Cowboys front four was hardly a factor on defense, allowing Colts Running Back Marlon Mack to average 5.1 yards a carry. Scoring the Colts only touchdowns, Mack and Andrew Luck assured the Cowboys running game wouldn't be a factor with their 10-0 halftime lead. Down to three backups at LG, C, and RG, Quarterback Dak Prescott stood little chance to bring the Cowboys back as the second half quickly got away from Dallas.

Internally, the Cowboys will have much more to say about their effort on Sunday, but here are just a few of my observations in the first somber edition of Sean's Scout since week nine.

  • The Cowboys defensive problems up front extended well into the second level, with Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith both playing one of their worst games of the season. 

The Colts took a blocked Brett Maher field goal 44 yards for the game's opening score. Mack accounted for 34 of these yards and the touchdown. On his seven yard run to set up first and goal, Smith was caught taking a poor angle on Mack. The Cowboys were aggressive rushing up the field on the play, with Smith ending up being in the best position to slow Mack.

Vander Esch was sealed and couldn't fight to get off, which happened again three plays later on third and goal. Leighton looking like a rookie for the first time was just the start of the Cowboys problems, and with Sean Lee being active yet conceding starting snaps to him, it shouldn't take long for Vander Esch to figure things out again.

  • Jamize Olawale's dropped touchdown on third and goal to bring up a failed fourth and one was the moment the Cowboys were taken out of this game. 

This sequence was particularly deflating because the Cowboys did a great job getting down the field to have an opportunity to score. The fourth down decision to run out of a heavy formation, inviting extra defenders to the line of scrimmage, looks especially egregious when stacked against the Amari Cooper rush that picked up the Cowboys initial first down. Rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz got involved, Elliott ripped off a 24 yard run, and the Cowboys still came away empty on this drive.

A year removed from coaching the Cowboys linebackers, Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus had his way with Scott Linehan's offense all afternoon, stymieing their most promising drive after Olawale should have scored easily.

  • The Cowboys only chance to get back in the game was taken away from them by a Joe Looney holding call, just another example of players that had carried them through a winning streak not playing up to standard. 

The Colts took the second half kickoff down the field to extend the lead to 17-0. On fourth and two on the ensuing possession, Prescott hit an injured Cole Beasley for 18 yards to the Colts' 23-yard line. The Cowboys red zone offense certainly doesn't provide the confidence that Dallas would finish the drive, but Looney's hold negated Beasley's catch and forced a punt.

The Colts tacked on a field goal and finished out the game without the Cowboys threatening again. Looney played down to the level of Adam Redmond to his left, who replaced Xavier Su'a-Filo, and Connor Williams in for Zack Martin - though I thought Williams held up fairly well and should be in play to earn more snaps wherever needed.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys can regroup and still accomplish everything they set out for this season, forced to make this loss to the Colts and afterthought like their last one to the Titans became. A five game win streak as a response is out of reach, but a streak of just one is all Dallas needs to clinch the NFC East and focus on improvements for the playoffs.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Division Clinch with Shutout Loss at Colts" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Dallas Cowboys

Next Day Rant: Too Many Letdown Games Under Jason Garrett

Jess Haynie

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Jason Garrett

Yesterday's 23-0 shutout in Indianapolis was one of the ugliest losses the Dallas Cowboys have had during Jason Garrett's tenure as head coach. Even though it probably won't cost them a playoff spot this year, let alone the NFC East title, it still reminds us of a painful history with Garrett's teams.

It takes me back to those 8-8 seasons during  Jason's first three years as head coach, when playoff hopes were dashed time and again by that inevitable letdown loss in December.

In 2011, the Cowboys were 8-6 with two games to go. The NFC East was all bunched together, with the division title and playoffs in reach. Dallas fell flat in a 20-7 home loss to the Eagles, then got walloped 31-14 in New York.

2012; Dallas is again 8-6. They lost at home, in overtime, to a Saints team that finished the year 7-9. It robbed them of the chance to make their Week 17 finale against Washington, the eventual division winner, a meaningful game.

2013; Dallas is 7-5 after Thanksgiving. They go 1-3 to finish the year, losing to two teams who finished the year with just 8 wins each.

This loss reminded me of those years, where the team just didn't look hungry or emotionally prepared to play despite having everything to play for. For as much as we've credited Jason Garrett for his work as a motivator and leader, these blemishes can't be ignored.

Colts

The Indianapolis Colts ran over the Dallas Cowboys in their 23-0 shutout victory (Week 15, 2018).

To be fair, yesterday's game was a recipe for a loss. The Cowboys were riding high on their five-game win streak. They knew that all they needed was one win in their next three games to clinch the NFC East.

Meanwhile, the Colts are part of a cluster of teams vying for the last Wild Card spot in the AFC. One loss could be the difference between playing football in January or preparing for the offseason.

One team was comfortable and maybe a little complacent, and the other was desperate. Throw in home field and having a better quarterback, and Indianapolis was rightly favored to win the game.

But that 3-point spread was one thing, and Dallas losing 23-0 is another.

Other than their upset win over New Orleans, the Cowboys haven't exactly been taking on the cream of the NFL crop during this win streak. Atlanta is 5-9 and the Eagles and Redskins are both just 7-7.

This Colts game was a chance for Dallas to show its mettle against a legitimate playoff contender. They'd failed throughout the year, losing to Carolina, Seattle, Houston, and Tennessee. But that was before they got hot and got Amari Cooper going.

This game needed to be different. But instead, it was very familiar.

Once again, Jason Garrett's Cowboys couldn't seal the deal. They got outclassed by a team which, by all appearances, is equal to them in talent.

Is the Cowboys 2018 Season Circling the Drain? 1

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Panic mode is silly when it comes to Dallas making the playoffs. If they can't get a win over the next two weeks with the Bucs and Giants on the schedule, they don't deserve to be there anyway.

The Cowboys should still win the NFC East regardless of what happened yesterday, but now the concern is if this team is really ready for the playoffs. Because a legit playoff team just made us look like hot garbage.

In the 2014 and 2016 seasons, we've taken solace in how close those games have been. If the Dez catch had been called correctly, or if Aaron Rodgers hadn't pulled that throw to Jared Cook out of his butt, the Cowboys might have very well advanced to the NFC Championship. They were contenders, and they took those games down to the wire.

But is this Dallas team a contender, or are they going to be the champions of a weak division? Will they compete in January?

That's the scary thought that yesterday's disaster leaves me with. On average, Jason Garrett has these guys motivated to play. Even when you question the X's and O's, the team almost always seems to play hard.

But they didn't in Indianapolis. They appeared to be resting on the laurels of their win streak and seemingly inevitable division title, and that's concerning with playoff games on the horizon.

Maybe this game was exactly the kind of wake-up call that this young roster needed. This isn't 2016 again; you're not rolling into the playoffs as a 13-win juggernaut.

A good coach uses a game like this to help his team learn and grow. It's actually great for them if it eradicates any potential complacency that had set in.

But that means Jason Garrett has to overcome his history. We've been let down too many times already.



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Cowboys Nation, It’s Time To Take a Deep Breath

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Warts And All, Dak Prescott Shows Why It's Not So Easy To Move On

It's difficult to find the words after watching the Dallas Cowboys perform (if you can even call it that) the way they did against the Indianapolis Colts. The team's five-game winning streak came to an end in a disappointing showing in literally every phase of the game. The Cowboys walked away from this game with zero points on the board... zero. It's the first time this franchise is shutout since 2003.

And despite such a bad game, guess what? There's no need to panic. No, the Cowboys' season is not over. No, it's not the end of the world. Even if Cowboys Twitter tries to tell you otherwise. I'm here to ask you to take a deep breath...

The Dallas Cowboys are still one win away from being the 2018 NFC East Champions.

Now, granted, the loss was definitely painful and disappointing. It would've been great to watch Dallas get a statement win on the road against such a hot team. With the defense playing lights out all year, it was odd to watch them get picked apart by Andrew Luck and crushed by Marlon Mack. Tackling was disastrous as was the lack of pressure on the opposing quarterback.

On the other side of the ball, an already concerning unit managed to scare us even more. Play calling remains unbearable to watch, Dak Prescott continues to hold the ball for too long as he refuses to throw it away, and the offensive line's downfall continues With Zack Martin out, Connor Williams didn't really help much as the entire unit got consistently beat by the Colts' defense. Not even Amari Cooper, who had been owning the NFL since week 9, was able to put up a decent showing this time around.

Everything that could have gone wrong, went horribly wrong. And yet, the Cowboys control their own destiny.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Indianapolis 1

They don't depend on the outcomes of any third party as they did in 2017. Sitting at 8-6, abandoning all hope on this team makes no sense. In today's NFL, every football franchise is bound to have a bad game from time to time. That's why the Seattle Seahawks (who currently have a Wild Card spot) fell this week to the 4-10 San Francisco 49ers. That's also why the New England Patriots have suffered losses in back-to-back weeks. Even the Los Angeles Rams, the second seed in the NFC at the moment, were stunned by the Nick Foles-led Philadelphia Eagles!

It's a competitive league. It's as simple as that. If there's one thing we've learned this season is that once January football is on, any given team can beat any other on the Playoffs. The New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, and Los Angeles Chargers have all proven to be beatable teams.

The Cowboys falling on the road against a very legit threat in the AFC is far from the end of the season. It's high time we learn to avoid recency bias and stop making our final judgments on teams or players based on the last game we saw.

The Dallas Cowboys can still run the football. They have an offense capable of controlling the time of possession. And their defense is still a great unit with a quality pass rush and a great set of linebackers.

So, Cowboys Nation, I invite you to take a deep breath and repeat after me: "The Cowboys are still one win away from the NFC East title and are one pretty good football team." Seriously, the season is far from over.

On to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Nation, It’s Time To Take a Deep Breath" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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