The Cowboys were looking to get back to winning after last week’s big loss in Denver, but this game started to look like a repeat performance. Thankfully, Dallas found their mojo before halftime and bounced back for a 28-17 road victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Dallas only had 49 yards of offense and three punts on their first three drives. The defense also struggled early, giving up over a hundred yards to Carson Palmer in the first quarter alone. But the Cardinals missed a field goal to keep things within one possession, and then DeMarcus Lawrence started to make some noise. By the end of the game, Lawrence’s presence was deafening.
With 3.5 sacks in the first two weeks, Lawrence nearly doubled his total with three more tonight. When he wasn’t getting a sack, he was chasing, bumping, or otherwise pressuring Palmer on every other play. It was, by far, the most dominant performance by a Cowboys pass rusher since the peak of DeMarcus Ware’s career. It was also the catalyst that seemed to rally the defense, and the team as a whole, and change the momentum of the game.
Like most of the team, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were slow starters but big finishers tonight. Zeke couldn’t find room on several early carries but then broke loose for a 30-yard run that seemed to get things moving. Prescott came alive shortly thereafter, finishing the game with a rushing touchdown and two through the air.
- Perhaps the most important plays were the ones that didn’t happen tonight; turnovers. The Cowboys never turned it over, which had a lot to do with their ability to stay in the game early and then never give it back in the second half. After throwing two picks last week, Dak looked like his old self again with smart, efficient play.
- While Lawrence was the star of the show on defense, he wasn’t a solo act. Maliek Collins was credited with two sacks of his own and Tyrone Crawford also got one. Damonte Moore nearly had one more if Carson Palmer hadn’t barely crossed the line of scrimmage. What’s more, Lawrence had a fourth sack taken off the board by a penalty.
- Dez Bryant’s touchdown showed his grit and physicality, pushing his way through multiple Cardinals to get to the goal line and then get pushed through by Travis Frederick. He only had two catches for 12 yards on the night, but that one play was a reminder of the impact Dez can still have when he gets the ball with a little room to run.
- Speaking of room to run, Ryan Switzer finally got to show his stuff on punt returns and did not disappoint. With Jon Gruden playing his hype man from the booth, Switzer showed his vision and quickness in squeezing out some yards despite narrow lanes. It certainly whetted our appetites for what’s to come.
- Brice Butler caught Prescott’s other touchdown and it wasn’t easy. Prescott scrambled to his right and launched into the endzone to allow Butler to make a play. Brice had to go up with a Cardinals defender on him and secure the ball. It was a great play for any receiver, but especially a guy who’s battled drops.
- Rookie CB Jourdan Lewis showed some growth tonight with a few good pass breakups, but his best plays were in run support. More than once, Lewis reacted quickly to close on the runner and then finished plays with solid tackling. Much more development and he may not be giving back his spot in the top three.
- The Cardinals will go from battling the Cowboys to rooting for them next Sunday as Dallas will host the Los Angeles Rams. In one of the bigger surprises so far of 2017, the Rams are leading the NFC West with their 2-1 record.
- The NFC East now has three 2-1 teams; Dallas’ victory moved them into a three-way tie with Philadelphia and Washington. The Giants are a delightful 0-3.