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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys at San Diego Chargers Game Preview

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Chargers_Cowboys_Foot_Ellw_article_story_main With the New York Giants sitting at 0-3 and the St Louis Rams getting destroyed by the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night, the quality of the Dallas Cowboys' two wins in 2013 thus far leaves much to be desired.

Nonetheless, the Cowboys enter this Sunday's game with the San Diego Chargers on top of the NFC East with a 2-1 record. The Cowboys recovered from September 15's heartbreaking loss to Kansas City to dominate the Rams in a 31-7 blowout. The Cowboys pounced on the Rams early, owning a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, before jumping out to a 24-0 lead by the middle of the third quarter. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford found himself constantly harassed by Dallas defenders, who sacked Bradford six times, the most notable of which came in the third quarter when LB DeMarcus Ware recorded his 115th career sack, surpassing Cowboys legend and Super Bowl XII co-MVP Harvey Martin for the most in Cowboys history.

The Cowboys' next opponent, the San Diego Chargers, sit at 1-2 on the season, but still boast an arsenal of deadly offensive weapons. The Chargers, who rank 11th in the NFL in total offense on this season, have had a very Jekyll and Hyde season. After a nightmare Monday Night opener, which saw the Chargers blow a 28-7 lead en route to a 31-28 loss to the Texans, the Chargers slowed down the famed Chip Kelly offense on the road in Philadelphia, using a game winning Nick Novak field goal to beat the Eagles by a 33-30 score. Last week, disappointment again struck San Diego as they fell to the Titans in an suspenseful 20-17 game.

With a lineup featuring QB Phillip Rivers, WR Eddie Royal and TE Antonio Gates, the Chargers' offense is still very much a force to be reckoned with. However, in both of San Diego's losses, they've failed to get any sort of rhythm going. They gained 539 yards in their win over Philadelphia,  but the offense sputtered in their two losses, gaining under 300 yards in each game. If the Cowboys seek to avoid another letdown to an AFC West opponent, it is imperative that Monte Kiffin's defense continues to improve. The new and improved Dallas defense was on full display against the Rams, allowing St Louis to tally just 232 yards (including a mere 35 rushing yards) and one 3rd down conversion in 13 attempts.

The Cowboys, who rank 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (66.2), shouldn't have too many problems with San Diego's run game (headlined by Ryan Matthews, who has picked up 164 yards through the first three games), but the secondary will have to be on full watch for Rivers, who has accumulated a 116.2 passer rating thus far this season (2nd in the NFL to Peyton Manning). Rivers has been criticized for his turnovers, but has thrown just one interception so far this year. In order to control Rivers, the secondary will have to focus not only deep threats like Royal and Gates but short threats like RB Danny Woodhead as well. Woodhead is listed on depth chart as the team's third running back, but he currently leads the Chargers with 17 receptions.

Of course, as we discovered in the Kansas City game, the defensive performance means nothing if the offense can't capitalize. After the first two games, it was quite clear the Cowboys were having problems in the red zone. It's nice to see Dan Bailey put one through the uprights and all, but the only way Bailey should see the field in the red zone is if he's on for an extra point. Its come back to haunt Dallas already this season. For example, up 10-7 on the Chiefs, the Cowboys opened the 3rd quarter by moving inside the Kansas City 10, but couldn't punch it in. Bailey's field goal made it 13-7, but the damage was done. Armed with momentum, the Chiefs took the ensuing possession into the end zone, giving them a lead they'd never relinquish.

The Cowboys took small steps to resolving those issues last Sunday. In their four trips to the red zone, the Cowboys scored two of their four touchdowns, including a Tony Romo to Dez Bryant hookup and a DeMarco Murray run, each from two yards out. Romo and the offense will have a golden opportunity this Sunday, as San Diego's defense gives up just over 470 yards a game, worst in the AFC and second-worst in the NFL (besting only the Redskins). The passing game in particular could have a field day with the Chargers' pass defense, which does rank dead-last in football. Someone, however, will have to step it up in the absence of WR Miles Austin, who will sit out Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. Romo will undoubtedly seek out Bryant plenty of times on Sunday, but when Dez is double teamed, as likely will be the case for most of the game, one of the Cowboys' younger receivers must step it up. They do have TE Jason Witten, who always provides a spark, but this is a golden opportunity for rookies WR Terrence Williams and TE Gavin Escobar. While Escobar made an impact last week, scoring his first NFL touchdown, Williams has yet to do any of note this season. No doubt he'll be asked to step up with Austin out and fellow WR Dwayne Harris (hip) also hurting (Harris has said he will play).

On one hand, the Cowboys need to enter next week's highly anticipated date with Denver with some sort of momentum if they want any chance to knock off a Broncos team that looks to be Super Bowl favorites at this point. At the same time, they cannot be caught looking ahead to Denver's visit. In order to beat San Diego, Romo and the offense must take advantage of a shaky San Diego defense to not only build confidence for Peyton's trip to AT&T Stadium, but also build some ground on the NFC East as well. Despite the supposed resurgence of Rivers and the fact the Boys will be in their unlucky blue jerseys this week, I don't see Romo and his comrades passing up the opportunity to torch a defensive unit that allowed Jake Locker to accumulate 299 yards and 96.6 passer rating.

Prediction: Cowboys 28, Chargers 20



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1 Comment
  • Ken

    Great read. Very fair snapshot of where the team find itself,

Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Seahawks

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Seahawks

Like the majority of you, I was expecting the Dallas Cowboys to build off of their win over the New York Giants and put together a much better performance than they did against the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, I should've remembered that the Cowboys don't have the best track record when playing in Seattle.

If I would've been paying attention to the Cowboys history when playing in Seattle, I would have been much more prepared for the manhandling that took place a few days ago. Dallas just seems cursed when they play Seattle at home. It doesn't matter if it's a regular-season game or preseason.

I hate to say it, but maybe we should start calling it the Tony Romo curse. Maybe this all started with his botched snap that ended the Cowboys playoff run in 2007. Let's not forget Seattle is also where Romo's career probably ended when he hurt his back in a meaningless preseason game in 2016. As you can see, history doesn't lie.

If I would've remembered this, I probably still wouldn't be feeling a little sick to my stomach. Unfortunately it is what it is and all we can do is move on. But, that's not going to keep me from sharing with all of you what I believed to be The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Cowboys against the Seattle Seahawks in the Week 3 of the 2018 season.

The Good

Leighton Vander Esch

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

After pretty much getting completely manhandled by the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon, I had a pretty difficult time to find some good to put in this section about the way the Dallas Cowboys played. I really had to take a deep breath and put my emotions to the side for a little while, but I did discover a few individuals that deserved recognition.

The first person I want to identify is Cornerback Byron Jones. He continues to play at a really high level and is finally playing up to that first-round pedigree. It was also really good to see Running Back Ezekiel Elliott finally find some running room and look like his old self, although he probably could've done without the fumble. Lastly, how good is rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch playing? He finished with 11 total tackles against the Seahawks.

I know it doesn't provide much comfort in the way these individuals performed since the Cowboys couldn't come away with the victory, but at least it wasn't all bad. All we can do is hope they can clean things up and take this as a learning experience.

The Bad

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

There was no shortage of bad for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon against the Seattle Seahawks, but for me it had to be Quarterback Dak Prescott and the Cowboys passing game. The struggles in the passing game is completely hamstringing the offensive productivity and unfortunately I have a hard time seeing them improving much right now.

Prescott is only averaging about 160 passing yards a game and that's just not going to cut it if this team is planning on winning many games this season. He has thrown just as many touchdowns (2) as he has interceptions (2) this year. To make matters worse, it looks as if there's a void of playmaking ability from his pass catchers.

Honestly, I don't really know where the blame should fall right now. Is it Prescott's fault or does it fall at the feet of his receivers? Unfortunately, it doesn't really matter because nothings working for either of them right now anyway.

The Ugly

Chidobe Awuzie, Kavon Frazier

Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie

I was going to go with the stupid "mental" penalties the Dallas Cowboys had against the Seahawks yesterday for the ugly, but instead decided to go with the blown coverages in the secondary.

The Cowboys secondary has been playing really well so far this season, but unfortunately they blew a few assignments yesterday against the Seahawks which resulted  in touchdowns. I really thought they would be better prepared considering Kris Richard has spent nearly his entire coaching career in Seattle before joining the Cowboys, but maybe I was expecting too much.

I really thought the Cowboys secondary would shut down the Seahawks passing game, especially after what they were able to do in Week 2 against the New York Giants. The Giants have much better weapons in the passing game, but somebody forgot to tell Seattle's receivers. I still have high hopes that this was just a fluke, but I think I may temper my expectations a little moving forward.

What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Seahawks?



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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Poor Execution, Timely SEA Passing Game Doom Cowboys

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Poor Execution on Offense, Timely Seahawks Passing Game Doom Cowboys in Seattle
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Dallas Cowboys have yet another disappointing loss to put behind them, or at least attempt to, as their struggles on offense carried into Seattle for week three. A desperate team in search of their first win at home, the Seahawks took full advantage of the Cowboys lack of preparation in the first half before capitalizing on mistakes to pull away 24-13.

The Cowboys dropping their second game in three weeks, both in similarly lackluster fashion, this will be a long week at The Star before Dallas kicks off against the Detroit Lions at home on Sunday.

Perhaps the Cowboys need not look any further than their next opponent to realize not all hope is lost for 2018. Like the Seahawks, the Lions were fighting to save their season yesterday, and did so with a home win against the now 1-2 New England Patriots.

If the Cowboys are going to reclaim their status atop the NFC East at any point this season though, some drastic changes are needed on offense. As always, here are my immediate notes on a Cowboys team that relied on their defense a few too many times in this latest loss.

  • I understand the Cowboys plan to use heavy personnel on offense against a defense with as much lateral speed as the Seahawks, but once again the execution from their wide receivers and tight ends was very poor.

By inviting defenders near the line of scrimmage, the Cowboys were challenging their offensive line to beat the Seahawks off the ball and potentially create some big plays for Ezekiel Elliott on the ground. Elliott did find some success as the game became further out of reach for his team, partially because of his own miscues.

The Cowboys' offseason approach at WR is yielding no immediate results, but so too is their confidence in Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, and Rico Gathers to step up in the absence of Jason Witten. While Witten isn't the missing piece for the Cowboys pushing the ball down the field, their lack of a threat at tight end is a serious detriment to Dak Prescott.

An early second half sequence that really hurt the Cowboys in this game began with a Gathers false start, the team's second straight penalty. Byron Jones' holding penalty on a Seahawks punt backed the offense up to their eleven yard line, and Gathers' ensuing procedural penalty had Dallas driving from their own six.

The Cowboys would do well to earn a manageable third down, despite a predictable run for no gain on first and 15, but Michael Kendricks' sack of Prescott forced a three and out.

  • This will do little to take the heat off Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, but the Cowboys bigger issue on offense was execution compared to play calling in this loss.

Yes, execution is also part of coaching, which makes not only Linehan but the rest of the Cowboys coaches along with Head Coach Jason Garrett responsible for the team's floundering 1-2 start.

The Cowboys finally saw Elliott involved in the passing game on an apparent second quarter touchdown, only to have Elliott step out of bounds before the catch. Settling for early field goals with good field position is typically a sign that a team is in for a long day on the road, and this is exactly the type of afternoon it was for Dallas.

Adding another Elliott fumble and two Dak Prescott interceptions only provides further context on how well the Cowboys defense is playing, keeping this game within reach until the closing minutes.

The Cowboys offense is a house of cards right now, deliberately played by those that should have been held to higher standards as early as last season. With enough talent on this side of the ball to turn things around, the Cowboys must quickly figure out the right layers to peel away before discovering the root of their offensive woes.

Whether or not this ends up being Linehan, or if he simply becomes the scapegoat for a team that's never truly wavered in their commitment to Prescott, it's hard to argue with a change in philosophy for a Cowboys offense still searching for identity.

The Cowboys certainly weren't more creative in this loss, even on their deceptive pitch to Tavon Austin for his second touchdown in as many weeks. That exact play has been used by plenty of teams in that situation this season. With each successful conversion, more teams will add it to their arsenal - the Cowboys being the latest, with nothing to truly show for it.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

That Tavon Austin TD? Yep, it's a copycat league. https://t.co/ggILr2TRGi

  • The Seahawks first touchdown came as a result of two of the worst defensive plays of the year for the Cowboys. 

After being a great blitzing team through two weeks, the Cowboys poorly executed an aggressive third down blitz with the Seahawks on their 35-yard line. The result was a 19-yard conversion to running back Chris Carson. Both Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith were picked up easily by the Seahawks pass protection on the play.

On the very next snap, the Seahawks' speed beat the Cowboys as Jaron Brown freed himself for a 16-yard touchdown. Of course, Seattle would never look back after this second quarter score to open a 7-0 advantage.

The Cowboys issues in coverage didn't stop here either, with Russell Wilson making the timely plays that Prescott left on the field. On Tyler Lockett's touchdown, pushing the Seahawks lead to 14-3, Kavon Frazier was beat to the spot in helping Chidobe Awuzie down the sideline.

Expecting the safety help to be there as it had been with Jeff Heath or even Xavier Woods (playing in his first game of the season), Awuzie still struggled to slow down Lockett, giving a below average cover player like Frazier no chance to get back in the play.

The Cowboys are committed to rotating their linebackers and safeties this season, and while the results have mostly been positive, they simply got caught with the wrong safety in the wrong spot here.

To make matters even worse, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas made these gaffs a "what could have been" moment for the Cowboys, turning the game with two interceptions against a team that may still make a push for his services.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Earl Thomas said a couple of Cowboys coaches said to him before the game, "You ready for the trade tomorrow?

  • It took a rough outing from Chidobe Awuzie to be fully appreciated, but Byron Jones was able to show why he's the best cornerback on the Cowboys right now.

On a positive note, the Cowboys are absolutely being rewarded for moving former first-round pick Byron Jones back to cornerback. This was one of the first decisions Kris Richard made upon his arrival to Dallas, looking to bring the Seahawks model to the Cowboys secondary.

Jones size and frame gave him a great chance to succeed under Richard before ever suiting up, but his awareness at cornerback has been off the charts. As opposed to dealing with players already at full speed or at the catch point when he was a safety, Jones is embracing being able to break on the ball and make more plays.

When the Seahawks needed a play through the air, they picked on Awuzie, who was exposed a bit for his tendency to sit on deep routes and react late to anything across his face. To start the game though, the Seahawks learned quickly that targeting Jones was a losing battle, unable to get anything behind him.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Week three was a great example of how much the NFL is a week-to-week league. Before kickoff in Seattle, the Cowboys were perceived to be entering an easier stretch to their season. Now, the Seahawks look like a team that can climb back into the playoff race, as do next week's opponent in the Lions for the Cowboys returning to AT&T Stadium.

It feels safe to say that at least two things are true of the Cowboys through these trying three games however. The Cowboys defense is already one of the best in the league, with the potential to get even better. Meanwhile, their offense is objectively one of the worst.

Whether or not the Cowboys offense is fixable is a question this staff must answer between now and next Sunday. As mentioned, it may feel like a long time until then, but for a team with as many issues as Dallas right now there will be little reprieve from salvaging relevancy (or trying to) in week four.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Poor Execution, Timely SEA Passing Game Doom Cowboys" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

3 Stars from Dallas Cowboys Loss to the Seattle Seahawks

John Williams

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3 Stars from Dallas Cowboys Loss to the Seattle Seahawks

After an impressive all around performance a week ago against the New York Giants, here we are again looking for answers after a deflating 24-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seahawks were the better team Sunday, but they weren't ten points better. The Dallas Cowboys hurt themselves -- with the officials help -- with a lot of mental miscues. Whether it was a drop that led to an interception or a blown coverage or a penalty that stalled or extended a drive, the Dallas Cowboys didn't really give themselves a shot at winning this football game.

Every game matters and in a week where every other NFC East team won, this loss hurts even more. There were several stand outs from Sunday's game, and here are this week's 3 Stars.

First ✭

Earl Thomas, Safety

This one hurts to write as I've been in the camp hoping that Earl Thomas would have a star on his helmet for months now.

The drama surrounding the Earl Thomas saga has been relentless, yet he put on an incredible performance in front of the Dallas Cowboys that should assuage any distraction or drama-filled narratives out there.

It was a heck of a game from the All-Pro safety that showed what kind of impact he can have on the outcome of a football game. Thomas was the best Seahawks player on the field today and certainly answered any question of whether he's motivated or not.

The guy is a player and the Dallas Cowboys might have messed around and hurt their chances at signing him in the offseason by not going to get him this year.

Second ✭

Seattle Seahawks Offensive Line

For a team that had allowed the most sacks in the NFL through the first two weeks of the season, the Seattle Seahawks' Offensive line did an amazing job of protecting Quarterback Russell Wilson.

After allowing six sacks in each of their first two games, they only allowed Wilson to get sacked twice. The Dallas Cowboys had come into the game second in the NFL in sacks. They handled the Cowboys' blitz packages and stunts very well and Russell Wilson helped himself by getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

The Seahawks offensive line paved the way for Running Back Chris Carson to run for 102 yards on 32 carries. Not a huge number when you look at his yards per carry (3.18), but they were tough effective yards that kept the Dallas Cowboys defense on their heels and extended drives.

Third ✭

Ezekiel Elliott

Where would this team be without Ezekiel Elliott?

Terrible, that's the answer.

I know that there is still gnashing of teeth when people talk about the 2016 NFL Draft and who the Dallas Cowboys selected at number four overall. A lot of people wanted Jalen Ramsey, and for good reason, but Ezekiel Elliott is a game changer in his own right. Even when everyone is looking to stop him, he makes things happen to move the ball down the field.

Elliott ran for 127 yards on 16 carries (7.94 yards per carry), and aside from the fumble was the best player for the Dallas Cowboys tonight.

Honorable Mention

Byron Jones

If you haven't figured it out by now, Corner Back Byron Jones is the Dallas Cowboys' best corner. After Russell Wilson tried Jones' side of the field in the first half, with little success, he began looking elsewhere to get the ball moving through the air.

Any success they had through the air was to the middle of the field or to the left side of the defense.

Looking at you Chidobe Awuzie. 

Frank Clark

Was it just me, or did it seem like Seattle Seahawks Defensive End Frank Clark was in Dak Prescott's face a lot?

You saw that too? 

I would have thought that he would have had more than just one sack in the game. On the Dallas Cowboys first possession of the second half, Clark beat Left Tackle Tyron Smith on a straight speed rush with a little fake inside before getting past Smith in an instant. Tyron isn't typically beaten that easily and though Clark didn't come away with a sack, he certainly provided pressure to keep Prescott off balance.

Leighton Vander Esch

Rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch led the Dallas Cowboys in tackles with 11 (9 solo) and a tackle for loss. He played a really good game with family and friends on hand.

Anthony Brown

Earlier this week, I relayed a stat on Twitter that Anthony Brown had allowed the fewest receptions per slot coverage snap in the NFL in the first two weeks of the season.

Brown stood out to me several times in this game. On special teams and in his defensive role, he made several open field tackles that either went for a loss or no gain. He's a gamer.

Brown may not be the best corner on the team or in the league, but he's got the drive and tenacity that you need from a slot corner.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Who were your 3 Stars of the game? 



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