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
DAL 27, PHI 7: Cowboys Winning Every Phase, Build Big Halftime Lead
The Dallas Cowboys certainly heard about Doug Pederson's win guarantee, but did anyone tell Pederson's team? The Philadelphia Eagles have fumbled and flopped their way into a 24-7 halftime deficit in this pivotal Week 7 rivalry game.
Two early fumbles by Dallas Goedert and Carson Wentz helped set up the Cowboys for short fields and touchdowns. Dallas has scored points on all but one of their drives in the first half.
Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his best game of 2019 so far. He has 65 rushing yards and another 25 through the air, with one touchdown coming on the ground.
Dak Prescott has been sharp with 161 passing yards on 15-of-20 passing. He connected with Blake Jarwin on the team's second touchdown of the night.
Dallas' other touchdown came on a pretty toss play to Tavon Austin, who used his athletic skills to juke one Eagle and then outrace the rest to the endzone.
Brett Maher finished the half with an amazing 63-yard field goal. He also made one from 26 yards earlier.
Standouts on defense so far include DeMarcus Lawrence, who is playing up to his verbal response to the Eagles' head coach earlier this week. We've also some big plays from Maliek Collins, Jourdan Lewis, and Robert Quinn.
Leighton Vander Esch had to leave the game with a neck injury and is questionable to return. Hopefully, the Cowboys won't need him.
Great start by the good guys! Let's keep it going!
Eagles @ Cowboys 2019: Gameday Inactives for Both Teams
Kickoff between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7 of the 2019 season is almost upon us. The teams have now officially declared their inactive players for tonight, and the Cowboys' list comes with many sighs of relief.
After a week of worrying that several starters and other key players could miss this pivotal game, Dallas should have most of them on hand.
Cowboys inactives: Devin Smith, Anthony Brown, Luke Gifford, Adam Redmond, Brandon Knight, Justin Hamilton, Dorance Armstrong.
Losing Anthony Brown, who is essentially a starter as the nickel corner, isn't great. But it will mean more playing time for Jourdan Lewis, and to some that could be a blessing in disguise.
As for Philadelphia, their inactive list features several key names
Ronald Darby is active for the #Eagles. Rookie Shareef Miller active for the first time. The inactives for tonight's game against the Cowboys: DeSean Jackson, Avonte Maddox, Darren Sproles, Nigel Bradham, Nate Herbig, Jason Peters, Tim Jernigan.
You can read more analysis of the Eagles' missing players here. But just to summarize, that's two offensive starters(Jackson, Peters) and three from the defense (Jernigan, Bradham, Maddox) who won't be playing in Dallas tonight.
Will these injuries decide the game? Will Dallas take advantage or will Philly overcome?
We're about to find out!
Cowboys Wishlist: Let Tony Pollard and Blake Jarwin Play
Welcome to primetime. Tonight, the Philadelphia Eagles will play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium for an exciting NFC East matchup. The Cowboys are slightly favored for this one, but it will not be an easy game. Both teams sit at 3-3 and will fight for the division lead. It'll be an exciting night for Cowboys Nation.
Without further ado, let's get to this week's Cowboys Wishlist!
Wish #1: Everyone Plays
After a week of uncertainty regarding the health of several key players, the Cowboys are expected to play with both their staring offensive tackles, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, WR Amari Cooper and CB Byron Jones. That's certainly surprising, but it's great news to hear ahead of such an important game for the Cowboys.
On the other hand, the Philadelphia Eagles will miss plenty of starters including OT Jason Peters. Of course, nothing will be official for Dallas until the inactives are announced. I wish the inactives list matches early reports of these key players being expected to play.
Wish #2: Return to Exploiting Play-Action
There's no way around it. The Cowboys were being very successful using play-action during the first three weeks of the season, being among the NFL teams to use it the most. For some reason, though, they seem to have walked away from it. Somehow, they figured out what was working and stopped doing it. Many have argued about how play-action works and whether or not the run must be established for it to work. Analytics suggest it doesn't work that way.
Anyway, the trend is pretty clear. Throughout the first three weeks, the Cowboys averaged play-action plays on 39.56% of their drop-backs. The last three weeks that average has been 17.3%.
It's hard to find an answer as to why this has happened to Kellen Moore's offense, but I wish they go back to what was working so effectively at the beginning of the season.
Wish #3: Let Dak Prescott Win The Game
Speaking of play-action, I truly believe Dak Prescott is the least of the Cowboys' problems right now. He's played pretty well and has shown how much of a warrior he is, specially last week when he took a beating from the New York Jets' defensive front.
I love what RB Ezekiel Elliott brings to the table, but the offense should rely on the passing game. Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are a very solid duo of wide receivers and Dak Prescott has proven he can handle the job. I'd like to see the Cowboys putting the offense on Dak's back.
The Eagles secondary has been far from decent this season, with plenty of teams airing out against them. The key to this game is the passing game.
Wish #4: First Cowboys Drive Ends in TD
The Cowboys' slow starts have really been one of the biggest issues for this football team this season. Even when they were on a win streak and faced weak opponents, Jason Garrett's team started slow on both offense and defense. That could be the difference in such an important game for the Cowboys. It's time for them to start fast, and score fast.
The Cowboys' offense has been pretty good. In fact, they rank second in offensive DVOA on Football Outsiders. If they figure out how to score early - when game scripts matter the most - this unit could be special.
Wish #5: Let Tony Pollard and Blake Jarwin Play
The Cowboys have chosen to give Jason Witten the vast majority of the offensive snaps at TE this season. As a consequence, Blake Jarwin has seen the field less than he should. Through six weeks, he's only played in 38.1% of the offensive snaps. Jarwin is young and talented and has been good when given the chance. I hope his snap count increases today.
Similarly, I wish the Cowboys' give Tony Pollard a more important role. Instead of using him as much as they did in the first three weeks, his snap count percentage has dropped all the way down to 17.68%.
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