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Game Notes

Cowboys Wishlist: DeMarcus Lawrence Outplays J.J. Watt?

Mauricio Rodriguez



DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys need a win today versus the Houston Texans to improve to a record above .500. Looking to net their third win of the season, they're facing a high-powered offense led by sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson. On the other side of the ball, a solid front seven that includes Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt will be the biggest challenge for an offense that saw its best performance of the season a week ago.

Even as a 1-3 team, the Texans could make things complicated for the 2-2 Cowboys. Let's hope they're able to walk away with a win on this week's Sunday Night Football. Here is your weekly "Cowboys Wishlist."

Wish #1: DeMarcus Lawrence Outplays J.J. Watt

Wearing #4 and playing in Texas are not the only things Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott have in common. They will also be facing at least a premium pass rusher tonight. This week we've seen many discussions about Jadeveon Clowney's career compared to that of the Cowboys' DE DeMarcus Lawrence.

But Watt and Lawrence come into this game with similar sack numbers. D-Law leads the longtime veteran by only half a sack (Lawrence has accounted for 5.5 sacks and Watt for 5). However, Watt has forced four fumbles. My main wish today is to see Lawrence outplay the Texan's great defensive end. Deshaun Watson has been hit 42 times this season (most in the NFL) and I expect Dallas' pass rush to explode Houston's offensive line.

Sean's Scout: Evaluating Byron Jones at CB in Cowboys' Retooled Secondary

Wish #2: Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie Limit Powerful WR Duo

Week 2 was a successful day for the Dallas Cowboys' secondary when they were able to limit one of the best wide receivers in the league, Odell Beckham Jr. This time, they'll be facing another elite wideout in DeAndre Hopkins. On top of that, Will Fuller is having himself quite a season averaging 15.5 yards per reception and being responsible for 3 touchdowns.

Watson is not afraid to sling the football and will be challenging the Cowboys' secondary. Byron Jones, on the other hand, has been playing at an elite level so far but Chidobe Awuzie has a lot to improve on. Awuzie's stats might  tell a worse story than what it really is, though. He's played well, but can definitely do more. Let's see if they're up for the test.

Wish #3: Michael Gallup First TD

Gallup hasn't seen as many action as Cowboys Nation hoped for through four weeks. He only has five receptions in the season, but last weekend he made one hell of a catch on a contested ball. The throw by Dak Prescott was good but the catch was impressive.

Despite an early lack of production, I still believe the product out of Colorado State has what it takes to become a very important weapon in Scott Linehan's offense.

As the Cowboys' continue to wait for a WR to emerge as the #1 guy, I wish the third round rookie scores his first career touchdown in Houston.

Wish #4: Don't Leave Many Points on the Field

As fun as the Cowboys' game versus the Detroit Lions was, the truth is a lot of points were left on the field by Dallas. What was a dramatic two point win with a successful comeback drive could've been a more dominant performance had the Cowboys not finished so many drives with field goals.

A win is a win, but as the season continues and the Cowboys face stronger opponents (look at the schedule, they are heading directly into a tough stretch of games) the four point difference between a touchdown and a field goal will cost them games. That's why for tonight's game, I wish the team is effective once they're in scoring range.

Brett Maher

Wish #5: Brett Maher Continues to Impress

Having said that, if the Cowboys do end up in a position were field goals need to be made, I'm hoping the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week steps up as he has done ever since he missed that kick on week 1 versus the Carolina Panthers. Since then, he is 8/8 including a game-winning kick against Detroit.

If Maher keeps this up, fans won't be as sad when watching Dan Bailey wear purple for the Minnesota Vikings. Moving on from the second most accurate kicker in NFL history was a questionable move by the team's front office, but it's one that is looking pretty smart so far.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Wishlist: DeMarcus Lawrence Outplays J.J. Watt?" 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 @MauNFL.


Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Turned Their Back on Prescott’s MVP Performance

Mauricio Rodriguez



Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Turned Their Back on Prescott's MVP Performance

The Dallas Cowboys have lost games to the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings. Last Sunday Night, the Cowboys hosted the Vikings on primetime and lost in a game that went down to the wire. It felt like the toughest loss of the season. Why? Let's dive in to this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday.

Cowboys Turned Their Back on Dak Prescott's MVP Performance

Cowboys Nation was shocked with the Cowboys' play-calling late in the game and for good reason. After starting the drive backed up at their own five, Prescott completed six of seven passes for 79 yards. Then, on second down and two to go, the Cowboys ran the ball with Ezekiel Elliott for no gain. On a short yardage down, that was comprehensible. Maybe not ideal, but understandable. On third down, though, they handed it off again to Zeke.

In the game in which Dak Prescott was playing at an MVP level, with less than two minutes on the clock, the Cowboys took the ball away from him to put the game on the star running back who was having a rough day with less than 50 yards against a stout Vikings defense.

Now granted, the play on third down seemed to be an RPO concept with Jason Witten as the pass option. But why are you giving Dak one pass option when he's dominated all night? Why are you instead trusting Elliott in a game in which he failed to average three yards per carry? Prescott was unbelievably clutch, throwing for almost 400 yards, three touchdowns and a 100% conversion rate on 3rd & 7+.

This was by far the number one reason why the loss to the Vikings was so frustrating to watch. The Cowboys have a franchise quarterback. But they need to learn to trust him as such and put the games on his hands when needed. Not on their running back, regardless of how much they pay each.

Coaching Staff Must Improve If Cowboys are to Reach Their Goals

Jason Garrett Must Be More Aggressive in Fourth Down Decisions

It's easy to say this in retrospective, but I believe the Cowboys didn't make the right decisions when facing fourth down last Sunday night. The first notorious decision came in the second quarter, when the Cowboys faced 4th & 4 with the ball on the Vikings' 40 yard-line. Being behind 14-0, they decided to punt.

It turned out fine for the Cowboys in the end, tying the game 14-14 later in the second. But the analytics trend in the NFL really has evidence to back up the fact that Dallas should've gone for it in such a critical spot.

In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys decided to kick the field goal being on their opponents' five. Down 21-28, Brett Maher went out to kick the field goal, which put the Cowboys behind by four points instead of seven. They still needed a touchdown to take the lead with ten minutes left on the game.

Kevin Brady took a deeper look at the Cowboys' win probabilities on this article for Inside The Star.

Kevin Brady on Twitter

was working on a post for @InsideTheStarDC on this last night. here's the estimated WP for each scenario on that fourth and goal.

The Baltimore Ravens are taking the league by storm using analytics and making the right decisions in fourth down. Yet, some teams in the NFL are not catching up. The Cowboys are one of those teams.

Cowboys Defense Exposed Again

The main reason the Cowboys lost to the Vikings was coaching and that's clear. But defense earned the second place. Kirk Cousins played a good game versus Rod Marinelli's unit, despite the box score suggesting otherwise. He made a couple of impressive throws at AT&T Stadium while Kyle Rudolph finished night with two touchdown catches and a two point conversion.

Dalvin Cook, one of the toughest offensive weapons to face in this league totaled 183 yards last weekend. It's not easy to face Cook and limit him and the Cowboys failed to do so. The linebackers had a very rough day overall and there wasn't a single performance to point out as a positive.

Slow Starts Won't Stop

Every week. Every week we talk about how this Cowboys team started slow against any opponent. In six games, they haven't scored a TD in the first quarter. Not even at the beginning of the season, when they went 3-0 against poor teams did they start a game on the right foot. Who to blame? Both players and coaches, but I'd lean toward coaching first.

Bottom line, there's a huge problem with the way this football team prepares for gameday and the Cowboys need to figure it out fast. Their backs are against the wall and playing from behind every game costs games. At 5-4 and headed toward tough opponents in the second half of the season, it's time to put an end to such starts.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Turned Their Back on Prescott’s MVP Performance" 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

Though Comeback Bid Fell Short, Dak Prescott Proves He’s Elite

John Williams



Though Comeback Bid Fell Short, Dak Prescott Proves He's Elite

A loss is a loss. There are no moral victories in football, especially when your favorite team falls to 5-4 on the season and into a tie atop the NFC East (tiebreakers notwithstanding). Here we sit, however, in the middle of week 11 and the Dallas Cowboys will be fighting for their playoff lives every week from here till week 17. What could have been a one-game lead in the division was lost as the Dallas Cowboys allowed the Minnesota Vikings to come into AT&T Stadium Sunday night and steal a game on the road.

In the loss, the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff continued to play a familiar refrain as they "established the run" to the tune of 22 carries for 53 yards as a team, the longest run of the night coming from Tavon Austin on a reverse. The running game struggled the entire night as Mike Zimmer's defense beat the Dallas Cowboys offensive line and didn't allow Ezekiel Elliott any running room.

Because the running game was so bad, the Cowboys were forced to throw, and throw a lot. After getting down two touchdowns early in the game, Dak Prescott and the passing attack found their mojo and brought the game even before the Vikings scored on a last-second field goal to close the first half. In the second half, the teams traded leads before the Cowboys couldn't convert on 4th and 5 after having 2nd and 2 at the Vikings nine-yard line.

Though the game didn't end with another "W" being added to the win column, the Cowboys won a bit in another way. They saw their franchise quarterback thrive in a situation when the running game wasn't working.

On the night, Dak Prescott completed 28 of 46 passes for 397 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on the hail mary at the end of the game that was just out of Blake Jarwin's reach. He finished the game with a passer rating of 101.4. You remove the hail mary interception and Prescott's passer rating jumps to 112.9. Prescott had a passer rating of 87.5 on the night, which illustrates just how important he was to the Cowboys' offensive success.

Prescott averaged 8.63 yards per attempt and completed an insane 17 passes that traveled 10 yards or more. For comparison, Kirk Cousins only completed two passes on the night on balls thrown at least 10 yards or more. Dak was slinging it on Sunday Night Football.

Dak carried the Cowboys on a night when the defense struggled to get stops and the running game couldn't get anything going. Under pressure, Prescott was dynamite. Per Pro Football Focus, Dak was under pressure on 44.7% of his dropbacks, which was the fifth-highest number for week 10. While under pressure, Prescott completed 11 of 20 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns for a passer rating of 104, the fourth-highest number from week 10.

When situations get tough, Dak Prescott generally finds a way to rise to the occasion. In long, down and distance situations, Dak's been money all season when facing second and third and long and he was again on Sunday Night Football.

Patrick Conn on Twitter

This is nuts: Dak Prescott on 3rd & 6+ 7-9, 120 yards, 5 first downs, 1 TD, 155.8 Passer Rating When it was 7+ yards: 6-6, 95 yards, 4 first downs, 1 TD, 158.3 Passer Rating

Time after time the running game put the offense in a hole and Dak dug his way out of it. It was incredible to watch him and the passing game work on third downs. From the 10-minute mark of the second quarter on, with Dallas trailing by 14, Prescott put the Cowboys on his back and led them to score on four straight possessions.

On their second to last drive, the Cowboys started with the ball at their own six-yard line and from there, Prescott completed passes of 20, 10, 13, and 20 yards to get them inside the Minnesota Vikings 30-yard line with a little more than two minutes to go. After a 2nd and 6 pass to Jason Witten for a first down and an eight-yard slant to Amari Cooper, the Cowboys were at the Vikings' nine-yard line with 2nd and 2 and about a minute and a half remaining.

On 2nd and 2 and 3rd and two, the Cowboys ran a couple of run-pass options (RPOs) and the Vikings played them perfectly. Ezekiel Elliott had nowhere to go and the Cowboys ended up turning it over on downs. On those two RPOs, Dak Prescott made the correct read by giving the ball, however the offensive line just didn't provide any push, which had the coaches watched the previous 58 minutes of the game, they would have seen that the running game was struggling to get anywhere.

They had to settle for a hail mary attempt at the end that went just out of the reach of Blake Jarwin.

It was an incredibly frustrating sequence to end that drive with about a minute left. Your quarterback who had done all of the heavy lifting to get you back in the game and keep you in the game, deserved a shot to win the game there. A run should have never been an option. He was in a zone from the second quarter on that had you given him a shot to throw there on 2nd and 2 from the nine-yard line, you have a better shot at picking up at least another first down.

When nothing was working and the Dallas Cowboys needed Dak Prescott to be great, he came through for them. Unfortunately, Prescott's bid to bring the Cowboys all the way back fell short, but that shouldn't take away from what was an excellent night for Dak and the passing game. If there was any question about who drives the offense before that week 10 matchup, the questions should be answered now. Dak Prescott is this team's MVP.

Only two questions remain as it concerns Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. When is he going to get paid? And how much is he going to get paid? All season long, he's consistently proven that he's a quarterback worth investing in and as he continues to throw for big passing numbers, the Cowboys will be giving Dak Prescott a big-time contract.

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Game Notes

Using Win Probabilities To Evaluate Jason Garrett’s 4th Down Decisions

Kevin Brady



The Jason Garrett-Era Has Hit Rock Bottom

The Cowboys fell to 5-4 with their gut-wrenching 28-24 loss on Sunday night. But while the Vikings are certainly a quality opponent, and they played an excellent game for much of the night, it's hard not to feel like it was the Cowboys who simply let this one slip away.

How did they beat themselves, you ask? Well, with poor play-calling on early downs and questionable fourth down decisions.

It's often said that Jason Garrett is too conservative and needs to take more risks on fourth downs, but during Sunday's loss, these fourth downs can barely even be classified as risks. Punting the ball or kicking the field goal was the risk. Going for it was a necessity.

Let's take a look at the first of two super questionable fourth down calls by Garrett, using win probability estimations for each situation.

The situation: 4th down and 4, ball on the Minnesota 40 yard line. 13:39 left in the second quarter. 

  • 15% win probability pre-snap.
  • 22% win probability if they went for it and converted with just 5 yards.
  • 9% win probability if they failed to convert.
  • 12% win probability after punting and pinning the Vikings at their own six yard line.

As you can see, the Cowboys likelihood of winning this game dropped significantly early on. They went from 2.5 point favorites with about a 59% chance of winning the game before kickoff, to just 15% during their first drive of the second quarter.

Talk about a slow start.

Regardless, the Cowboys could have tried to maximize whatever win probability they had left on this fourth down by going for the conversion. As you can see, a conversion would've raised their chances by 7%, while a failed attempt dropped them by 6%. This is about equal in terms of +-, but punting did just about nothing for them.

Punting lowered their probability by 3% instantly, and they didn't even give themselves a chance to convert. They just gave up, and only gained three percentage points over the worse case scenario by doing so.

With the way Dak Prescott and this passing game executed all night, Dallas shot themselves in the foot by punting here.

The situation: 4th down and Goal, ball on the Minnesota 5 yard line. 10:00 left in the fourth quarter.

  • 25.8% win probability pre-snap.
  • 49% win probability had they went for it and scored a touchdown.
  • 22.5% win probability after kicking the field goal.
  • 13% win probability if they went for it and failed with an incompletion.

Now this one is flat-out egregious.

Rather than go for a touchdown on what was effectively fourth and five, the Cowboys gave in and attempted a chip shot field goal. Yes, they gained points and cut the lead to 4. They also lost about 3% in terms of win probability. Congrats.

Going for it and failing might've meant the end of the game, but is the goal to win now or just lose later? Dallas kicked the can here and bet on a defense that had been getting gashed all night long, rather than allowing their quarterback to try and make a play.

The Cowboys would not see the ball again until the clock was under 5 minutes, still needing a touchdown to win. A touchdown needed to be scored at some point anyway, and sitting 5 yards out from the end zone was their best shot of the night.

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