There are some guys who just play better when the lights are brightest. Deion Sanders had such a knack for making plays in on the biggest stages that he in fact earned the nickname "Primetime."
The Dallas Cowboys took the field during the nationally televised Sunday Night Football game last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. The pressure gets to some people, but not the ones that we're here to discuss. These are the biggest moments that earned the biggest roars from the crowd. Welcome to the Plays Of The Week. It's good to have you. Enjoy!
Cole Beasley Loops Around For The Score
The Dallas Cowboys failed to produce a single touchdown in their Week 8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. That trend broke midway through the first quarter when Matt Cassel found fan-favorite Cole Beasley for the first points in the game.
Cole ran a great loop-type route against Malcolm Jenkins. It's very difficult for defensive backs to match up with Beasley because of his small size.
He's so fast and so shifty that this play is nearly unstoppable in short-yardage situations. It was refreshing to see the Cowboys use it to their advantage - something they'd failed to do over the previous five games. There's no doubt that the double team of Dez Bryant helped the play, but give kudos to Cole for getting it across the goal line.
Cole Beasley Sprints Through Four Defenders For His Second Score
With just over two minutes left in the third quarter the Dallas Cowboys hadn't scored any points since Cole Beasley's touchdown way back in the first quarter... then Matt Cassel threw it to Cole again.
It was a very simple throw - just about 10 yards. Cassel made one read and then saw Cole with inside space. As he had done on the previous score, Beasley shook Malcolm Jenkins.
Cole went in and out, back in, then in and out again. After catching the pass he sprinted through four Philly defenders all the way to the endzone. It was a very familiar play for Cowboys fans as it's the type that we're used to seeing from Beasley. Cole is a fantastic weapon for any quarterback, as he showed in this game, and he's going to be pivotal as the Cowboys look to get things back on track soon.
Luck Whitehead Announces Himself To The World
After Cole Beasley tied things up the Cowboys were driving... until Matt Cassel threw a pick six. It seemed to take all of the air out of AT&T Stadium, until Lucky Whitehead re-inflated it.
The Cowboys were massively in need of a spark at this point and Luck Whitehead delivered.
Lucky fielded the Eagles kickoff in the endzone, dodged some tackles, and sprinted all the way down to the Philadelphia 23-yard line.
The Cowboys kept Lucky as an ideal replacement for Dwayne Harris who left for the New York Giants. He's got amazing speed and an incredible ability to stop and start again. It was all on display as he helped set up the play of game for the Cowboys.
Dez Bryant Goes "Above The World" For A Touchdown
This is one of the greatest plays that I have ever seen. Let's start at the beginning.
This is a pivotal point in the game. After just surrendering a touchdown and getting a big return - it would have been disappointing to come away with only a field goal. Cassel needed to make a play.
Matt Cassel gets a brief look at everything before he starts to sense the pressure coming from Tyron Smith's side. He has to figure out what to do very quickly.
He knows that Tyron Smith is going to buy him a second, maybe two, but that's it. There is still nothing open downfield and considering that this is third down there is no second chance. Something has to happen now and it has to happen fast.
Cassel rolls right in an effort to buy more time. Tyron finishes his block so he knows that he's clear back on the left side.
Now he's in a new pickle. Doug Free is about to lose his block. The right side, the safe side, is about to become compromised! What to do next?!
Matt Cassel then decides to roll BACK TO THE LEFT SIDE... which is now safe and sound. His vision is now 180 degrees away from where it's supposed to be.
The objective at this point is just to buy time and figure things out as he goes along. He knows that he's got receivers downfield by now, but he's going to have to make a decision in a matter of seconds. If he's going to throw he knows that he has to set his feet because he's running to his left and a throw across his body is a big no-no.
Then a glimmer of hope appears! Dez Bryant is there! "I can throw it to him!" Cassel is thinking. He does what every quarterback is taught to do... set those footsies.
This is it. Throw it and pray. Let Dez go be Dez. You've done what you can, Matt. Now let that ball fly!
It is at this moment that the collective breaths of Cowboys Nation were being held. We are a fraction of a second away from what is arguably the most impressive play of the season - save for Tony Romo's game-clinching touchdown back in Week 1 on this same field.
Terrance Williams is almost the literal version of us as he is staring up hopefully as the one-of-a-kind Dez Bryant looks to make a spectacular play. "Is this possible? Is it really going to happen? I can't take it anymore! Show me!"
Dez Bryant is a monster. He simply wants it more than anyone else around him. He is unquestionably the most talented player on the field and he goes up and gets it. There is no other way to put it.
I know that we were Terrance before, but now we are all Lucky Whitehead. Completely off of our feet staring up at the wonder that is Dez Bryant. "When are we landing? Is this going to hurt? Are you about to crush me, Dez?".
This is one of Dez Bryant's finer pieces of work and he gave it an appropriate celebration. Congratulations on your first score of the season, Dez. We can't wait for the ones that are on the way.
Sean’s Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals
The Dallas Cowboys are halfway through their 2018 preseason. Given the injuries they're left to deal with to Zack Martin, Xavier Woods, and Jameill Showers, the Cowboys were happy to see their first home game of the season come to an end when it did. Despite the 21-13 loss, the Cowboys starters made another strong impression before exiting for backups that once again failed to hold the lead.
This is a game I'm looking forward to getting another look at on film, but for now here are a few thoughts the first time through.
- Rookie Connor Williams is still a work in progress at guard, as he'll get himself in trouble trying to catch rushers too often.
This "catch blocking" is not uncommon for young offensive linemen, particularly ones learning a new position in preparation to start on the league's best front. On the Cowboys second drive of the game, Williams was caught back in his stance dealing with a twist from the Bengals with Left Tackle Tyron Smith.
The result of the play was an incomplete pass on third down from Dak Prescott. With Williams' footwork being as consistent as it has, I wouldn't worry too much about his upper body technique and strength improving greatly before week one of the regular season. Perhaps most importantly, Williams has looked smooth playing in space, something the Cowboys are prepared to ask the second round pick to do plenty of.
- With Randy Gregory back in the lineup, the Cowboys potential to have a great rotation of defensive ends was on full display.
The play that stands out is a tackle for loss by Safety Jeff Heath. On the play, Defensive End Tyrone Crawford did a great job setting the edge against the run, allowing Heath to come down and make the aggressive play.
Crawford created penetration against a tight end, staying disciplined in his rush lane from the right defensive end position to force the run outside.
On the Bengals' offensive series prior to this play by Heath, the Cowboys forced a punt following a missed Andy Dalton throw to A.J. Green. Despite not being tight in coverage on third down, Randy Gregory looked sharp coming off the edge to rush Dalton slightly.
With Taco Charlton also looking strong against the run, and rookie Dorance Armstrong continuing to develop as a weak side pass rusher, the possible match ups the Cowboys can create up front are seemingly endless.
Almost all of them will include last year's sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence, who was also disruptive on nearly every snap in this game.
- Give credit to Joe Looney for handling the reps he did at center, but the backup interior lineman left a lot to be desired from this position.
It should come as no surprise that Looney is a better guard than center, or that the Cowboys would look significantly worse at center without Travis Frederick in the lineup.
Overall, this was a disappointing game for the Cowboys thin offensive line depth. Paul Alexander's unit was unable to give quarterbacks Cooper Rush and Mike White a fair chance to settle into the game.
Looney's contact balance was suspect throughout the evening. Not the most powerful player, it's important for Looney to play with leverage and balance, which he did inconsistently last night.
Awaiting news on Zack Martin's first quarter injury still, the Cowboys should have already been concerned about their backups at tackle, with the guard position becoming a late concern now.
- This is becoming the standard for Jaylon Smith, but I did not see one Bengals blocker effectively slow him down.
The power that Smith is playing with is an outstanding sign for continued success. Not only is Smith physically up for the challenge of starting at MIKE for the Cowboys, but he's physically dominating opponents with strength, speed, and range.
Whether he was running laterally and avoiding blocks with great awareness, or attacking the pocket, Smith's path to the ball was rarely impeded against the Bengals.
No matter who the Cowboys lined up in their front seven, the group did a great job setting a strong tone. Antwaun Woods was once again impressive at the one technique position inside, and Brian Price made a flash play from this position late in the game as well.
Thanks to Smith's gap shooting ability, and the Cowboys willingness so far this preseason to be creative with the Notre Dame product, the team's defensive tackles don't have to be asked to do too much. Holding their spots while drawing blockers will be more than enough to free Smith and the rest of the Cowboys linebackers to make plays.
- Chidobe Awuzie's interception in the second quarter is a reminder of just how high the second-year cornerback's potential is.
Sure, Awuzie's length put him at an advantage to take a leap into year two once Kris Richard arrived as the Cowboys passing game coordinator.
Being productive on the ball, as Awuzie was here, is a testament to just how athletic he is as a boundary cornerback though. A beat late recognizing the ball coming his way, Awuzie remained in perfect position to get a hand on this pass.
Doing so with an explosive leap off the ground and full extension, Awuzie snagged the ball with one hand before bringing it into his body to secure another turnover for the Cowboys first team defense.
The Cowboys cornerback depth proved suspect beyond Awuzie and Byron Jones in this game, but being as good as they already are on the boundary is a huge step in the right direction for Rod Marinelli's defense.
I also thought that UDFA Tyree Robinson did a great job answering the bell at safety, showing up a number of times in run support with the Cowboys in desperate need of depth at his position.
It's in the slot, where Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis continue to feel the pressure of competition, that the Cowboys are struggling to find the right starter - even trying Lewis on the outside well into the fourth quarter of this game.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys will remain in their home state to conclude their training camp and preseason. Needing to see more out of their second and third team, practices will resume at The Star on Monday before another preseason game at AT&T Stadium.
This time, it will be the Arizona Cardinals coming in for a Sunday Night Football tune up. The Cowboys starters could very well see even more playing time than they have through the first two weeks, giving them a better chance of sustaining success and coming away with a preseason win.
CIN 21, DAL 14: Dak Prescott Continues Strong Preseason in Loss
The games may not count yet, but Dak Prescott looks ready for the 2018 season. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback continued his strong preseason play in the team's 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Prescott played three series, going 10/15 for 86 yards and a touchdown. He got the offense out of trouble a few times with his feet, avoiding sacks and ultimately getting the scoring pass off on a redzone scramble.
Dak's strong play has coincided with shutdown performances from the starting defense. The Cowboys' first-team defenders have yet to allow a score in two preseason games. Tonight, the Bengals were forced into four punts and two turnovers on their first-half possessions.
Overall, the Cowboys are a combined 24-7 in the first halves of their first two preseason contests.
The second half has been the problem, and for two weeks now Dallas' reserves have squandered halftime leads and given up losses. Thankfully, most of the responsible players will not be on the final 53-man roster.
- There were several concerning injuries for the Cowboys tonight. None was scarier than when All-Pro guard Zack Martin went out with a knee injury, but it does not appear to have been serious. Starting defensive backs Byron Jones and Xavier Woods also got banged up; Byron returned to the game but Woods did not. Defensive lineman Datone Jones also left with a knee injury.
- Even more concerning was the play of the second-team offensive line. Chaz Green was typically awful, but we also saw swing tackle Cam Fleming struggling and just an overall lack of protection for the backups quarterbacks. Green got benched in the second half and may have finally played his way off the team.
- Credit to Terrance Williams for getting open in the endzone to give Dak Prescott a receiver for the touchdown throw. Even with his warts, Williams' two years of experience playing with Dak can't be ignored in deciding who makes the team.
- Tight end Blake Jarwin continues to run with the starters on offense and may have quietly taken the job away from Geoff Swaim.
- Darius Jackson took advantage of some extra playing time tonight after Bo Scarbrough left with a hip injury. He broke off a few nice runs to amass 42 yards on just six carries, plus had four receptions.
- We finally get to see Dan Bailey kick a field goal again, and it was an easy 35-yarder with no issues.
- Shout out to Chidobe Awuzie for one of the pretty interceptions that a Cowboys DB has made in some time. Awuzie had to bend like Beckham (Odell, that is) to get a hand on the ball, then tipped it to himself for the pick.
- Preseason fun continues for the Cowboys next Sunday when they host the Arizona Cardinals on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
#DALvsCIN: Can WR Lance Lenoir Continue To Impress?
Entering training camp projecting who would make the final roster from the Dallas Cowboys wide receiving room was a crapshoot. The combination of misfits from other teams, unproven young guys, and a couple of Cowboys veterans makes this position group the most questioned across the entire roster.
But while Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup were stealing headlines, Lance Lenoir was making a name for himself among the Cowboys faithful.
After serving on the practice squad for the Cowboys a year ago, Lenoir seems to have entered 2018 with one goal in mind: to make the official game-day roster. And even if he falls short of this goal, it won't be due to any fault of his own.
Day in and day out Lance Lenoir has been a consistent wide out, catching nearly everything thrown his way and running some of the crisper routes on the team. Under new receivers coach Sanjay Lal, Lenoir has become a technical route runner and dangerous receiving threat.
Maybe most importantly for his future with the team, Lenoir has developed an obvious chemistry with starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has continued to compliment Lenoir throughout training camp, and you know that the Cowboys front office is well aware of Prescott's trust in Lenoir on the field.
During the preseason opener against the 49ers, Lance Lenoir caught his first touchdown of the season, dazzling with his toe-tap ability. If he is going to steal a roster spot away from one of the more seasoned wide outs, however, he will have to remain that consistent target.
This Saturday, Lenoir gets another shot to prove why he's not only deserving of a roster spot, but of a starting spot. Sure, it might be a bit of a stretch, but if he continues to play like he has during camp and preseason, Lenoir could find himself working with the 1's more frequently.
Look out for Lance Lenoir against the Bengals this week, as he makes it harder and harder for the Cowboys to cut him by the second.
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