The Dallas Cowboys picked up an important road win over an NFC opponent yesterday in Detroit. But even with some clear on-paper advantages due to injuries and overall roster strength, Dallas still allowed the Lions to stay within striking distance. It caused many, including me, to come away with the game discouraged despite the victory.
The final score of 35-27 tells part of the story. The Lions were missing their key offensive offensive players for both parts of the offense, QB Matthew Stafford and RB Kerryon Johnson, and yet scored four touchdowns.
Dallas won thanks to Detroit’s complete inability to slow down Dak Prescott and the passing attack. Dak put up a whopping 444 passing yards and three touchdowns, moving the Cowboys with ease against a hapless Lions’ pass defense.
But as that final score indicated, Dallas needed every bit of that passing production to win. Another weak game from Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack, poor overall defense, and continued special teams mistakes all helped keep the Lions close and took this game down to the wire.
The Cowboys even started off with their typical early mistakes and lack of execution. Zeke fumbled on his first carry and set Detroit up for an early 7-0 lead. Dallas then went three-and-out on the next drive, followed by a drive that went 14 plays but only produced a field goal.
Trailing 7-3 at the end of the first quarter, it looked like a potential repeat of some of the bad losses the Cowboys have had so far in 2019. They were shooting themselves in the foot again.
Thankfully, the team figured things out before the game was out of hand. Dallas rallied in the second quarter with 21 points and took a 24-14 lead by halftime. They did enough in the second half to hold that lead and secure the win.
But “just enough” against a losing team missing its starting quarterback, even on the road, is not a good look for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. That’s why, despite the win, I’m still very worried about what’s to come for the Cowboys this season.
After getting shredded by the Minnesota Vikings’ rushing attack last week, Dallas still looked inept against much inferior talent. With QB Jeff Driskel also doing some damage running Detroit had 121 total rushing yards on the day.
Driskel was efficient through the air as well. He put up a 109.3 passer rating with 209 yards and two touchdowns. The Cowboys did a nice job of taking WR Kenny Golladay out of the game but still allowed enough opportunities, including some big plays, for Detroit to stay competitive.
Dallas’ passing game certainly outproduced Detroit’s, as it should have, but that wound up being a necessity. Ezekiel Elliott was once again stymied with just 45 yards on 16 carries; an ugly 2.8 YPC average. He did have the two touchdowns but this was hardly the kind of bounce-back week many were expecting for Zeke.
The Cowboys also looked bad again on special teams. Tavon Austin, perhaps still reeling from the issues with his late-game fair catch in the Vikings game, made some bad choices in the return game yesterday. Tony Pollard also goofed a couple of times, and Dallas had to overcome bad field position more than once.
Had we gotten a Brett Maher field-goal miss or a dumb Jason Garrett clock management or play review decision, it would’ve been Cowboys Blunder Bingo.
These blunders and general weaknesses didn’t cost Dallas the game yesterday, but they will this week when they travel to New England. They will against the likes of the Bills and Rams in future weeks, and probably in Week 16 against the Eagles.
The Cowboys got away with one yesterday. But if they have any hopes of winning the NFC East and doing something in the playoffs, the overall level of play has to improve from what we’ve seen