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Cowboys vs. Lions: Sunday Preview

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys vs. Lions: Sunday Preview 4

As great as it is that the Dallas Cowboys are in 1st place in the NFC East, the four wins they've accumulated so far in the 2013 season leave much to be desired, as they've yet to defeat a team with a winning record. Dallas hopes to end that trend this Sunday, when they head to Ford Field to take on the 4-3 Detroit Lions (1:00 EST, FOX).

While it may too early to think of the playoffs, if the season ended last week, the Lions would snag the final playoff spot in the NFC. They missed a huge opportunity to take over first place in the NFC North last week, as they fell to the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-24. Despite the loss, QB Matthew Stafford (28-51, 357 yards, 3 TD's) was able to hook up with WR Calvin Johnson (9 receptions, 155 yards, 2 TD's) for several highlight reel worthy catches, at the duo led the Lions back from a 21-10 2nd half deficit to tie the game. However, Mike Nugent's game winning 54 yard field goal gave the Bengals a win that moved them into a tie for 2nd place in the AFC with Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys picked up what was probably their biggest win of the season in Philadelphia last week. After a rough couple of weeks, the Dallas defense stepped it up in a big way at Lincoln Financial Field last week in a 17-3 victory. The Eagles accumulated just 278 yards, and most of those came late in the 2nd half when Dallas had the game in hand. The Eagles went just 4-18 on 3rd down, and were forced into three turnovers. The win gave the Cowboys sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

Dallas's offense did not have an awful game in Philadelphia, picking up 368 yards and 17 points in the win, but it's never a good sign when your punter is on the field nine times, as Chris Jones was last week. With the combination of Tony Romo (28-47, 317 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT last week) and Dez Bryant (8 receptions 110 yards) going up against Stafford and Johnson, this game has the potential to be on offensive shootout. Combine that with the fact that Dallas's defense ranks 29th while Detroit's ranks 31st, and we could see a team score 30 plus and still lose.

Obviously, all eyes will be on the Bryant vs Johnson matchup. Both are two young talented receivers who can change the course of the game with one reception. With the two engaged in a small war of words this week, it's going to be an interesting game to see which receiver will step it up. The Cowboys faced some offensive weapons last week in Philadelphia, and held them in all in check. LeSean McCoy entered the game leading the league in rushing, but picked up only 55 yards on 18 carries. Likewise, WR DeSean Jackson was held to 3 receptions for a season-low 21 yards. Perhaps the biggest difference, though is that unlike Philadelphia's God-forsaken quarterback situation (Nick Foles and Matt Barkley combined to go 22-49, 194 yards, 3 INT's), Detroit has the talented Stafford under center. So far this season, Stafford has completed 61.4% of his throws (of which there are many as his 290 attempts lead the league) has thrown for 2,129 yards, and 15 touchdowns, all of which are on pace to best his totals from last year.

Returning to the Bryant vs Johnson factor, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that Dallas and Detroit will use their respective secondaries to double team the two superstars. This means that somebody or somebodies are going to have to step it up. Despite DeMarco Murray scheduled to return from a knee injury, I'd rather take Detroit's healthy duo of Reggie Bush (426 yards) and Joique Bell (204 yards) than a returning Murray who may not be 100 percent upon his return.

Dallas, however, owns a huge advantage in their other receivers. The Lions will still be missing WR Nate Burleson, and TE Brandon Pettigrew has only 194 yards on the year. Other than Johnson, Detroit's top receivers are Bush and Bell, followed by WR Kris Durham (21 receptions, 256 yards, 1 TD). I'm not saying these guys aren't talented players, I just trust Dallas's more experienced corps in this situation. WR Miles Austin may still be recovering from another injury (he had no catches last week) but TE Jason Witten remains dependable. In addition, youngsters like rookie Terrence Williams and sophomore Cole Beasley continue to mature every week. Williams scored a touchdown for the 3rd consecutive game, and Beasley has become one of Romo's most trusted targets.

The last time Dallas faced Detroit, the Cowboys suffered heartbreak as they blew a 27-3 lead en route to a 34-30 loss in 2011. However, I think this is a different Dallas team. Romo showed last week he can use the conservative approach to his advantage (let's face it, those two interceptions last week weren't his fault), and that only works in Dallas's favor. If the Cowboys can neutralize Megatron, Stafford will panic, and that will lead to turnovers. Don't expect the Cowboys to hold the Lions to three points like they did last week against the Eagles...but don't expect the offense to take it easy on Detroit's dilapidated defense either.

Prediction: Cowboys 38, Lions 30



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1 Comment
  • Ken

    Wasn’t even going to watch the game till I read your preview- I enjoy a shootout every now and then.

Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Will McClay Breaks Down Cowboys Vision for New WR Amari Cooper 1

Just when all hope was lost, the Dallas Cowboys went on the road and surprised fans with a 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Both on defense and offense, it was a game that showed us plenty of silver linings to be excited about. While a playoff run certainly remains pretty difficult to accomplish, at least the team isn't leaving without a fight.

The last Cowboys' victory came approximately a month ago, so it is with great pleasure that I share with you this week's edition of "Takeaway Tuesday!"

Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time

Vander Esch Among Best Cowboys' Players

Just before last game, I wrote about how Leighton Vander Esch could be in contention for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Playing on Sunday Night Football (on national TV), the rookie helped his case a lot with 13 solo tackles and an interception.

Little by little, he's making sure the Cowboys know they can move on from frequently injured Sean Lee down the road. Vander Esch can play. Forget about him being an impressive rookie, he's currently one of the best players on this roster.

Scott Linehan Shouldn't be Off the Hook

As any Cowboys fan, I loved the win. There were quite a few things to like about the offense on Sunday, but there's no denying play calling could've been way better. As much as the Dallas Cowboys are still in the hunt in a mediocre division, Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan should remain on the hot seat.

Ezekiel Elliott took the Cowboys to the 5-yard line by leaping over a human at full speed and right after the Cowboys stopped using him on that drive. Against the Titans, the offense found itself on third and 16 twice and ran a running back screen pass. In Philadelphia, they were on third and 16 once and they ran a RB screen once again.

Dallas has left a lot of points on the field this year and in big part thanks to play calling. Linehan shouldn't be safe right now.

Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It

After two games wearing the Star, Cowboys Nation is feeling a lot better about trading a first rounder for Amari Cooper. On the field, he's proven to be an impact player. An impact that has been felt immediately, by the way. Out of 11 catches, Cooper has gotten the Cowboys' offense ten first downs.

Versus the Eagles, though, his impact is felt beyond his single stat line.

On Sunday Night, he accounted for six catches and 75 yards. He helped QB Dak Prescott get 270 yards through the air and most importantly, to spread the football.

Bobby Belt on Twitter

7 different Cowboys have a reception of at least 13 yards tonight.

That stat above is an underrated one. No wide receiver in next year's Draft would have the kind of impact Amari Cooper is having on this football team. In the long run, lots of people could be eating their words after heavily criticizing the Cowboys' trade for the two-times Pro Bowler wide receiver. Hopefully, that's the case.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It" 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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Game Notes

Cowboys Wide Receivers Now a Strength They Can Count On

John Williams

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Cowboys Wide Receivers Now a Strength They Can Count On

The Dallas Cowboys (4-5) came away with a big win over the Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) on Sunday Night Football 27-20 and the wide receiver group had an excellent day. What once looked like a weakness for the Cowboys, now looks like a strength on \ offense. With Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley, and Allen Hurns, the Cowboys have four players that can hurt opposing defenses all over the field.

Since the Amari Cooper trade two weeks ago, the Cowboys wide receiver group has been better positioned moving forward to help Dak Prescott and the Cowboys move the football. With Cooper, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, and Allen Hurns, the Cowboys have really nice depth.

On Sunday Night Football each of the Cowboys top four receivers had a reception that went for more than 20 yards. They accounted for 11 of the team's 14 passing first downs. Of Quarterback Dak Prescott's 270 yards passing, wide receivers accounted for 186 or more than two-thirds of the passing yards. Explosive plays from the wide receivers was something that was lacking for much of the season, but they seem to be turning it on at the right time.

On Sunday night, they all had their moments in the Cowboys win.

Per Pro Football Reference, Cooper was the leading receiver on the team with six receptions on 10 targets for 75 yards. Five of those receptions went for first downs and he averaged 12.5 yards per reception.

Michael Gallup led the wide receiver group in snaps on Sunday and logged another nice game as he continues to assert himself during his rookie season. It may not have been as explosive as the three receptions for 83 yards that he put up against the Washington Redskins a few weeks ago, but he had possibly one of the plays of the game.

With the Dallas Cowboys attempting to extend their lead with under two minutes to play in the first half, they faced a 3rd and 15 from their own 35 yard line with 0:58 seconds left on the clock. Scott Linehan dials up a tunnel screen to Gallup who goes for 25 yards  helping to set up the touchdown just before half time. If Gallup doesn't make that play, with help from the blocking downfield, the Eagles get the ball back with enough time to tie the game or potentially take the lead. It was a huge play in the game to allow Dallas to go up by 10 at half time.

Cole Beasley's line wasn't flashy, but he was his typical efficient self, hauling in three receptions for first downs and making a play for 15 yards to get the Cowboys into the red zone after the Eagles had scored on the previous possession in the third quarter to make it 13-13. Beasley's catch helped the Cowboys answer the Eagles touchdown with a touchdown of their own to retake the lead 20-17 in the fourth quarter. Beasley finished the night with four receptions for 37 yards on five targets.

Down in the depth chart with limited snaps, but not at all forgotten is Allen Hurns. Hurns only had two catches (on two targets) for 40 yards on the night, but both catches set the Cowboys offense up with first and goal situations. With 0:40 seconds to play in the first half and the Cowboys looking at a second and nine, Dak Prescott hit Hurns on a deep out route for 17 yards to the Philadelphia Eagles' one yard line. Prescott hurried them to the line of scrimmage and then snuck the ball in for a touchdown to make it 13-3 at halftime. The second reception occurred with the Cowboys facing a third and eight on the game winning drive. Prescott found Hurns for a 23 yard catch and run that helped set up Ezekiel Elliott's game winning touchdown run.

They have four players that can hurt you at various levels of the defense. All four are good to great route runners who can create separation and find the soft spots in zone coverage. Their starters with Cooper, Beasley, and Gallup are a dynamic trio, but being able to bring a guy like Allen Hurns off the bench in sub packages is huge. He's had a thousand yard receiving season in the NFL and showed that he can still win his matchups when he's not required to be a team's WR1.

The move for Amari is proving to be an excellent trade for the Dallas Cowboys. Despite the struggles last week in Tennessee, the Dallas Cowboys were able to move the ball through the air as Cooper opens everything up for everyone else on the offense. If you saw some of the windows he provided Dak, you see that Cooper literally makes everything easier.

The Dallas Cowboys took advantage of a bad secondary on Sunday as the Philadelphia Eagles were missing three of their top defensive backs, but they also looked like a unit that is starting to find a groove offensively. For the Dallas Cowboys to continue their upward trajectory that hopefully ends with a playoff berth, the wide receivers are going to have to continue to make big plays down the field.If the last several weeks are any indication, more big plays are coming.

Get your popcorn ready. 



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Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys against Philadelphia

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys against Philadelphia
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys surprisingly pulled off the 27-20 upset over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night and in turn somehow keep their playoff hopes alive. They are now two games behind the Washington Redskins, but the NFC East title is still very much within reach if they can continue to play like they did against the Eagles.

The Cowboys looked like the team we've expected them to be from the start of the 2018 season. Yes there were still mistakes, but they were able to overcome those mishaps when they needed it the most. That's not something they've been able to very much of this season.

Today, I want to share with you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly aspects from the Dallas Cowboys game against the Philadelphia Eagles. As always, please feel free to use the comment section located at the end of the article to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic.

The Good

Leighton Vander Esch

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

There were so many different directions I could've gone here for the Dallas Cowboys against the Philadelphia Eagles, but I ultimately decided that the good for me was Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch's play. He is absolutely dominating and making everyone forget about the often injured Sean Lee.

Against the Eagles Sunday night, Vander Esch was all over the field and made his presence felt in a big way. He not only accumulated 13 total tackles, but also recorded his first career interception in the NFL. His play is one of the reasons the Cowboys defense continues to play like one of the better units in the league, even without Sean Lee in the lineup.

No one's doubting No. 55 as the Dallas Cowboys first-round draft pick any longer. He is a stud and the scary thing is he will only continue to get better.

The Bad

Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys HC Jason Garrett

I hate to admit it, but I was secretly hoping the Philadelphia Eagles would blowout the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night so that hopefully it would convince Jerry Jones to end the Jason Garrett head-coaching era. So, the bad for me is that the Cowboys win likely means Garrett sticks around as the HC after this season.

I don't want you to get the wrong idea about me wanting the Cowboys to get blown out, I just didn't think they had much of a chance of beating the Eagles on the road with them coming off their bye week. I'm happy they won in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, but also disappointed Garrett may be sticking around.

I know many of you will agree with me, but I think it's time to find Jason Garrett's replacement. Unfortunately, this victory over the Eagles may delay Dallas' head coach search a little longer now.

The Ugly

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

I'm not going to beat around the bush here, I think the way the Dallas Cowboys offensive line and Running Back Ezekiel Elliott dominated the Philadelphia Eagles defensive front was absolutely ugly. The Eagles defensive line was supposed to be the strength of their team, but that certainly wasn't the case against the Cowboys.

Zeke accounted for two touchdowns (one on the ground and one through the air) Sunday night against the Eagles. He also rushed for 151 yards on just 19 carries and averaged an impressive 7.9 yards per carry. That's pretty impressive considering the Eagles were ranked second against the run in the league. But what's more impressive was the blocking No. 21 received from his offensive line.

The Cowboys deployed a beat up OL against the Eagles, but you wouldn't know that by the way they played. They were down one starter the entire game (Connor Williams) and played with two replacements for a while when Zack Martin was injured. They didn't make any excuses though and took it to the Eagles DL.

What was your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Eagles?



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