Stop me if you’ve heard this season that football is a team game.
Ok, now please read on. When rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott rattled off 11 straight wins before Sunday night, plenty in Cowboys Nation arbitrarily discussed which star was the reason for the success at The Star.
Now following just their second loss of 2016, the calls for Dak Prescott to be replaced by Tony Romo have been fired up once again.
But football is a team game, and the Cowboys are still committed to Prescott – as they should be. So, what needs to improve on the offensive side of the ball for the Cowboys to bounce back against an athletic and fast Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense?
Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Brice Butler need to take advantage of single coverage opportunities.
— ✭CowboysFilmRoom✭ (@DCfilmstudy) December 14, 2016
The New York Giants put a ton of money into their secondary this off season, and they have also seen young guys like Landon Collins really step up, so it was never going to be easy for Prescott to carve this defense up on the road.
Dez Bryant was essentially locked down for the second time this season by Janoris Jenkins. Failing to win off the line, Bryant played to Jenkins’ strength by allowing him to get physical with him and carry him off his routes.
Scott Linehan also did the Cowboys’ best WR no favors, failing to find ways to get Bryant involved with drags, slants, or other high-percentage throws.
With the offensive line play stepping up compared to where it was in week 1 against the Giants, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley also struggled to create separation despite the time Prescott had to find them.
Beasley drew a tough match up with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was able to (like Jenkins against Bryant) jam him at the line and not let him away from his long range and reach.
Collectively, this unit will have to be much better against a Tampa defense that has not allowed an opposing wide receiver to gain more than 85 yards over their last three games.
The Buccaneers have locked down the Seahawks, Chargers, and Saints over this stretch, and will be fired up to appear on Sunday Night Football for the first time since 2008 – winners of their last five.
The pressure for the Cowboys falls on everyone to get this much-needed win. While I’ll be focusing on the wide receivers, their success will be determined by Scott Linehan’s play calling, as well as the running game and offensive line play.
The world is not ending. The Cowboys offense is still a match up nightmare for most teams in the NFL. If you think they’ve been “figured out” more and more over these past few weeks, you’ve set your expectations too low for a group of wide receivers that are going to start making more plays.
Against the Giants (which is old news at this point), their shiny new secondary held up to escape with a three point win. Jason Garrett’s focused squad will not let it happen again, nor will Dez Bryant and his WRs.
Sunday Night Football is fast-approaching again, and the bright lights of Dallas will bring out the best from the silver and blue.