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Dallas Cowboys Still Plagued by Red Zone Struggles

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys Still Plagued by Red Zone Struggles

Heading into Thursday night's game with the New Orleans Saints, the Dallas Cowboys offense has struggled in the red zone and in particular inside the 10 yard line. Last night against a very explosive offense, the Dallas Cowboys were doing a great job at moving the ball and playing keep away from the Saints offense, but once they got inside the red zone, found it difficult to come away with touchdowns.

It's an issue that has reared its ugly head all season, but would have been a huge talking point had the Cowboys lost on Thursday Night Football.

You see, the Cowboys had four drives that got them in the red zone against the Saints and were only able to come away with seven points one time. They kicked field goals on two of their other attempts (once when they had 1st and goal at the six), and Dak Prescott fumbled on their second to last drive when they were attempting to seal the game.

Obviously some credit goes to the New Orleans Saints defense, they contained what the Cowboys wanted to do in the scoring areas, but a lot of the blame falls on the play calling, the offensive line, and your quarterback.

On the Cowboys first drive of the game, they were moving the ball well and had just hit Michael Gallup for 40 yards to get them to the New Orleans Saints six yard line. They had first and goal from the six and from there netted -2 yards of offense. They handed the ball to Ezekiel Elliott for a gain of one and after an incompletion to Dalton Schultz -- don't get me started on their TE usage -- Dak Prescott was sacked for a loss of three yards forcing a Brett Maher field goal.

On the sack, Amari Cooper was doubled, which took away Dak's first look, but Scott Linehan had Cole Beasley running a short comeback. That's it? Cole Beasley's strength is in his lateral change of direction ability. At least run him on a route that’s going to allow him to beat his man with his quickness. Don’t ask Cole Beasley to box out his defender. Beasley may not have a lot of size, but he's an excellent red zone weapon because of his ability to get open in confined spaces.

Getting a lead is great, but when you kick field goals after getting first and goal from the six against an elite offense like the Saints, you're more than likely to lose. Field goals don't win you football games very often in the modern NFL.

On the Cowboys second venture into the red zone, they had first and 10 at the 20. After an Eli Apple defensive holding call, they had first and 10 at the 15. Rod Smith carried the ball for a loss of one and then on second down, Dak Prescott found Ezekiel Elliott on the screen for a 16 yard catch and run for a touchdown to give the Cowboys a 10 point lead.

I'm not a huge fan of Rod Smith the runner. I think he offers more as a receiver, because when he tries to run wide, it typically ends in a loss.


On the Cowboys next trip into the red zone, the Cowboys had third and seven from the Saints 17 and Prescott is sacked for a loss of seven and the Cowboys have to settle again for a field goal after an excellent drive that started at the Dallas Cowboys two yard line.

On the second to last drive, the Cowboys started with the ball at their own 20 yard line with 9:15 seconds left on the clock. They proceeded to go on a 15 play, 85 yard drive that took 6:33 off the clock before Dak Prescott was sacked and fumbled giving the Saints the ball at the New Orleans 15 yard line.

Again, on that drive, the Cowboys had the ball first and 10 at the 11 yard line. This is a situation at a time in the game where you have to come away with seven points to finish off what many people considered the best team in the NFL.

When they had it first and 10 at the 11, they only ran Elliott one time and then elected to throw it twice. The second down throw was a smart play. A quick little tunnel screen to Michael Gallup who picked up four yards to make it a more manageable third down.

Third down would have been a great time for an RPO or quick play action to make the defensive line hesitate even a bit before getting to completely focus on Dak Prescott. Instead, Prescott was sacked and fumbled the ball to again kill a red zone opportunity, but this time he fumbled and turned it over to the Saints.

Thursday night they only used play action six times. When they used it, Dak was perfect going 6/6 for 92 yards and a touchdown.

The Dallas Cowboys are on a trajectory to make the playoffs in 2018 and if they want to make some noise once they get there, they have to be a better red zone team. On the season they are sitting at 27th in the NFL in red zone percentage at 48.6%.

They just came off a huge win, which could have been better if they were able to capitalize in the red zone at a higher frequency. The Cowboys are now serious contenders in the NFC, but to get to the Super Bowl and bring home their sixth Lombardi Trophy, they have to be better in the red zone.

In the playoffs, field goals won’t cut it.


Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Zeke Had The Exact Kind of Game Cowboys Need

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Ezekiel Elliott Should be rid of all Rust

It's pretty difficult to deal with the hype of being 2-0 to open a 2019 NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys have done just that with a revamped offense and a quarterback that's thrown seven touchdowns in the process. They currently sit alone atop of the NFC East and although it's too early to know what kind of team this will be when it's all said alone, we're excited.

Let's dive into this week's takeaways!

We Need Robert Quinn Back

The Dallas Cowboys defense hasn't been as bad as many would think. They've had a few bad moments but the talent is still there and should be improving as the season goes on. Last Sunday, what was most frustrating to me was the lack of a pass rush. DeMarcus Lawrence had a pretty good game, even though his stat line doesn't look very pretty. The pressure was there constantly and he forced a handful of bad plays from Case Keenum. Tyrone Crawford managed to sack him once.

Breaking News: Robert Quinn Suffers Fractured Hand

Other than that, for most of the game the pressure was scarce. Fortunately, the Cowboys are getting Robert Quinn back from suspension this week. Having two quality edge rushers will boost a defense that has the potential to be great, but has only been "good" two weeks into the season.

Ezekiel Elliott Had The Kind of Game The Cowboys Need

Zeke was back for a heavier workload in week 2 after having a snap count in the season opener. It may have not felt like it, but the Cowboys' star running back had a pretty good game versus the Redskins. On 23 carries he had 111 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

In contrast of recent years, Elliott had a great game without the team heavily leaning on the running game. Dak Prescott threw the ball 30 times and Zeke still had a great game. This is what Cowboys Nation should want out of Kellen Moore's offense.


Elliott has two rushing touchdowns in the season, compared to six in all of last year. This is a product of an offense that's now dangerous in many ways, specially in the red zone. You gotta love what Moore is accomplishing so far.

Slow Starts Can't Continue to Happen

The biggest issue with the Cowboys in the first two weeks of the season has been their slow openings. In both games they've started trailing early. The worst thing about it is that it's been due to giving up big plays (like Saquon Barkley's big run in week 1) and quick, unsuccessful drives on offense (like a three-and-out drive followed by a drive that ended in an interception last Sunday).

Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Giants and Redskins didn't pose much of a problem. But when we reach the tougher stretches of the schedule, we know how quickly a game can turn south. Not every rival will be as unforgiving as the 0-2 foes they've faced so far.

DAL 31, WAS 21: Dak Prescott Dominant In Comfortable Win 1

Dak Prescott Continues to Prove He's It

Last but not least, we'll talk about Dak Prescott. Once again, he looked great. He finished the day with 269 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that came on a tipped ball from Randall Cobb's hand. He threw an absolute dime to WR Devin Smith, giving him his ninth 50+ yard touchdown pass of his career (ranking third in the NFL since 2016 behind Tom Brady and Philip Rivers).

All game long, he was precise against Washington's defense. He dealt three touchdowns to three different players and was making throws with anticipation and poise. If you're not sold on Dak Prescott yet, I don't know if you'll ever be.

He also looked well as a runner, specially on that 42-yard run where he stiffed arm Josh Norman. I hope the Cowboys continue to use him in the running game.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Zeke Had The Exact Kind of Game Cowboys Need" 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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Dallas Cowboys

Brees Out for 6 Weeks, How Much Will Cowboys Win Streak Last?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Brees Out for 6 Weeks, How Much Will Cowboys Win Streak Last?
Brad Mills / USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys are off to a hot start in 2019. Two weeks into the season, they're showing off a 2-0 record as they've outscored their opponents 66-38. The offense has been on point through two games under Kellen Moore's coordination. There have been some issues, but these have been largely outnumbered by the positive things.

Truth be told, such a start was expected. Well, maybe not Dak's seven touchdowns and 674 yards, but having two wins to start off the season certainly was. The Cowboys opening three-game stretch looked like an easy one from miles away. Dallas faces the Miami Dolphins next Sunday and they're already favorites by 20.5 points in the betting world.

Things weren't expected to heat up for the Cowboys until week 4 and now it seems like that won't happen.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees suffered a hand injury against the L.A. Rams last Sunday and will require surgery. A torn ligament on his throwing hand thumb will keep him out for at least six weeks. This is a heavy blow for a team expected to be a Super Bowl contender.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

From our breaking news segment on @nflnetwork: #Saints QB Drew Brees needs thumb surgery and is out for roughly 6 weeks. Teddy Bridgewater is the new starter. https://t.co/x4g6yVVIZm

With Teddy Bridgewater set to become the Saints' starting quarterback, odds will likely shift in the Cowboys' direction when both teams face each other on September 29th, a matchup that will take place under the lights on Sunday Night Football.

For the Cowboys, it means an increased chance of winning on week 4. I'm not going to lie to you, I would 100% rather face a Saints team with Drew Brees under center to enjoy a good football game, but it is what it is. You hate to see a great football player like Brees deal with injuries like this.


The Saints are still a very complete football team and shouldn't be underestimated, but it's hard to picture them being as productive offensively without their elite quarterback. Having said that, the Cowboys' schedule looks very favorable for Dallas.

These are the rivals that the Cowboys will face prior to the bye week:

  • VS Miami Dolphins
  • @ New Orleans Saints
  • VS Green Bay Packers
  • @ New York Jets
  • vs Philadelphia Eagles

The toughest rivals on that slate are clearly the Packers and Eagles. It won't be easy, but should the Cowboys stay healthy, beating both definitely seems possible. Before that, I won't be surprised if the Cowboys reach the bye week with a 7-0 record.

This team has been pretty impressive through two weeks and if they clean up their slow starts, watch out for a long win streak. Looking at the games after the bye week, the biggest challenge definitely are the New England Patriots on week 12.

I don't want to sound overly optimistic, but I truly believe a long win streak is ahead of the Dallas Cowboys. Such a start to the season wouldn't be all that new for the Dak Prescott "era." Although they lost their season opener in 2016, they went on to win 11 straight on route to the #1 seed in the NFC.

We'll have a better idea of where the Cowboys stand after they face better competition. Right now, we need to handle the hype of a satisfying 2-0 record.

How long do you think the Cowboys win streak will last?

Tell me what you think about "Brees Out for 6 Weeks, How Much Will Cowboys Win Streak Last?" 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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Player News

REPORT: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Out 4-6 Weeks With Ankle Injury

Jess Haynie

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Xavier Woods

Another tough injury coming out of last week's game against Washington; Cowboys starting Safety Xavier Woods is now expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain injury.

This comes just a day after Dallas lost WR Michael Gallup for 2-4 weeks after surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

Cowboys FS Xavier Woods is expected to miss four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain, source said. A blow to the secondary with #Saints, #Packers among upcoming opponents.

The next man up at safety appears to be Darian Thompson, who has been with the Cowboys since midway through the 2018 season. He was re-signed as a free agent last March and is one of the key reasons that Dallas chose not to keep veteran George Iloka at final cuts.

Michael Gehlken on Twitter

Cowboys S Darian Thompson will make his first start Sunday since joining team in 2018, source said. S Xavier Woods is sidelined with high ankle sprain.

Earlier this morning, it was reported that Dallas is working out free agent safety Josh Jones. He was a 2nd-Round pick of the Packers in 2017 who was released last month after falling down the depth chart and demanding a trade.


Dallas still has Kavon Frazier and Donovan Wilson on the roster for safety depth. While many fans would love to see Wilson get the start this week, Darian Thompson's game and athleticism are more suited to play the free safety role.

Thompson also has experience, having started 17 games from 2016-2017 with the New York Giants. He was their 3rd-Round pick in 2016.

Thankfully, this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins gives the Cowboys a soft opponent with which to make these adjustments. But missing Xavier Woods is going to hurt; he is a rising star on defense and easily their top player at safety.


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