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The last time that the Dallas Cowboys hosted the Baltimore Ravens, they entered the contest with nine wins to their name. It was December 20th, 2008... and it was the last game ever played at the historic Texas Stadium.
The Ravens would win the game and spoil the farewell, and they would do so thanks to their rookie quarterback and big-time ground game. Doesn't that sound familiar?
I remember this loss painfully, because I was there. I watched the Ravens ruin our party, and I watched the literal "party" held after the game as Cowboys legends were honored to close out one of the most storied stadiums in professional football history.
This time around the Cowboys are the ones with a rookie quarterback and elite ground game, and if there's anything that comes close to what the Texas Stadium farewell felt like... well it's surely Tony Romo's press conference this week.
Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens is about a new chapter, a new beginning. We were robbed of that opportunity eight years ago, and we're rectifying that situation this time around on our way to nine wins. Welcome to my 5 Bold Predictions. Let’s roll.
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Dan Bailey And Justin Tucker Will Cover Over 200 Yards Through Successful Field Goals
An underrated element to this Sunday's game against the Ravens is the matchup of the kickers. Yes, kickers!
Dan Bailey and Justin Tucker are arguably the two best in the game today, in fact they are arguably the two best all time. Bailey and Tucker, respectively, have the best and second-best field goal percentages in NFL History. Yowza!
Considering the Ravens are bringing a top-ranked defense to town and the Cowboys will be able to limit the Ravens struggling offense, I expect there to be a fair share of field goals attempted on Sunday. When you add up all the yardage... it'll be over 200 yards. Bam.
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Dak Prescott Sheds A Would-Be Terrell Suggs Sack
This week Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs
did exactly what Rex Ryan did with Julian Edelman got creative and playfully took on the persona of "Hacksaw Smithers" to interview Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Suggs has been playing fairly well in 2016, and he's a huge reason for Baltimore's top-ranked run defense. Here's the thing though, Dak Prescott isn't human. I've seen enough football games and cool superhero movies to know that the good guy always wins, and Dak Prescott is the good guy.
Close your eyes and imagine this. Suggs tears through Lance Dunbar a la Ryan Shazier (that was sad, by the way), he opens his arms, Dak Prescott shimmies his way out of it, Suggs falls to the ground with a big Lennay Kekua hug, and Dak scores. Huzzah.
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Alfred Morris Breaks Free For A 77-Yard Touchdown
You might ask yourself... why is RJ being so specific here with a 77-yard touchdown? Why Alfred Morris? I've got you, friend.
It was a 77-yard Willis McGahee touchdown that effectively sealed the deal for the Baltimore Ravens in their victory at Texas Stadium in 2008. Wills McGahee was Baltimore's back-up running back, so it stung a little bit more than usual. It's time for revenge.
Alfred Morris got the most carries (save for the Browns game, and I mean... it was the Browns) he's had this season since Cincinnati when the Cowboys won in Pittsburgh. Considering Dallas will be on a short week following Baltimore (they play Washington on Thanksgiving) it's not beyond normal reason to expect Morris to get work.
Work your way to a 77-yard touchdown, Butler. Work work work work work.
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Jason Garrett Wins A Challenge For The First Time In 2016
The 2016 Coach of the Year Jason Garrett - yes, acknowledge it now please - has only thrown that glorious red challenge flag once this season. That lone instance happened on Sunday Night Football when Dallas hosted Chicago and Jason Garrett foolishly thought Jason Witten broke the plane. It was not a good challenge to be honest. It wasn't even kind of good.
This is seemingly going to be a rough-and-tough type of game with Baltimore's feisty defense looking to try and prove itself against the league's MVP Ezekiel Elliott - yes, MVP.
There's going to be a point where Jason Garrett reaches for that red handkerchief and tosses it out to an imaginary person running a go route, and he's going to win. Huzzah.
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Gavin Escobar Gets Back In The Endzone
The Cowboys put tight end Geoff Swaim on IR earlier this week, so Gavin Escobar (who's in a contract year, mind you) will see a lot more work as this team's second tight end once again.
For some reason Gavin Escobar fell out of grace with the Cowboys and went unused for what felt like forever. Once upon a time he was a lethal redzone threat that many members of Cowboys Nation barked over and over for to be used more.
With Swaim on IR the Cowboys aren't going to have much of a choice. The Ravens are smart and they're going to pay attention to the top threats on the Cowboys offense, and that's going to free Gavin Escobar up for a chance to score. Boo-ya.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #1
Remember, if you want YOUR Bold Prediction featured here, tweet it at me! It’s that simple! Here are this week’s contributions, thanks to all those who shared!
@rjochoa bold prediction for Sunday: dad gets nicked up a little bit and Romo has to play a few plays
Rob K send a follow-up tweet to this specifying that he meant Dak and not Dad, but either way it's spicy. The Tony Romo press conference from earlier in the week was very powerful, and many Cowboys fans are still trying to deal with the aftermath.
Despite Jerry Jones' comments about Tony Romo - stop talking please, Jerry - it seems like this team has made its choice for the present and future at the quarterback position. The only way Romo is likely to get in is in fact via injury to Dak, but that's incredibly difficult to predict.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #2
Donny and I clearly park our cars in the same garage. Terrell Suggs did indeed play around with Dak Prescott, and it's going to be awesome to see Dak return the favor this Sunday.
While we're on the subject... how awesome is the word "spinnaroo"?
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Bonus Bold Prediction #3
@rjochoa bold prediction: Dak has a TD to 3 different players, and zeke breaks a long run at some point in game
Chase here thinks Dak is hitting a hat trick of aerial touchdowns, and that they're going to multiple people. Who could these receivers/tight ends be? Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Gavin Escobar maybe? Does Terrance Williams get involved? Brice Butler back in action? I like all of these options!
We saw Ezekiel Elliott take a screen pass 83 yards to the house last week, his longest play as a Dallas Cowboy. We've also seen Zeke take a handoff 60 yards for a score. This feels solid!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #4
This is awesome. The Cowboys have yet to score a touchdown via special teams or defensively this season, and it feels like the perfect time to end that drought.
Lucky Whitehead has come very close at points this season. Let's see him finish one off!
Brett Maher Named NFC Special Teams Player of Week 7, 2019
Brett Maher's 63-yard field goal last Sunday may have been a drop in the bucket on the scoreboard for the Dallas Cowboys. But the historical significance of that kick, and it's near record-breaking distance, helped Maher earn the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award for Week 7 of the 2019 season.
Maher went 3/3 on the day as the Cowboys routed the Philadelphia Eagles. But it was the 63-yard FG at the close of the first half which brought Brett this latest accolade. He became the first kicker in NFL history have three career field goals of 60 yards or more.
1st player in @NFL history to have three career FGs of 60 yds or more ✔️ @brett_maher is your NFC Special Teams Player of the Week! → https://t.co/MFiAnAScrY
Maher's kick was one yard short of tying the record, 64 yards, set by Matt Prater in 2013.
It was weeks like this one which helped Brett Maher keep the Cowboys' kicker job this year despite mixed results in 2018. He won two Player of the Week awards last season and showed off his rare long-range ability, but was one of the least accurate kickers overall from shorter distances.
That same mixed bag has been seen this year. Despite his work on Sunday, Maher is at just 71% accuracy on his total field goal attempts right now.
Hopefully, Brett's big day over the Eagles will spark a hot streak. His range is an incredible weapon for the Cowboys; can he consistently prove that he's more of an asset than a liability?
Takeaway Tuesday: DeMarcus Lawrence Silences Doubters vs Eagles
Dallas Cowboys fans should be happy about the change of pace in the conversation surrounding America's Team. A week ago, the talk in Cowboys Nation was all about just how hot was Jason Garrett's seat. Three consecutive losses will do that to most fan bases. Fortunately, though, we can put a pin on that conversation for a while after the Cowboys handily defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 37-10 last Sunday Night.
It was a great team performance all around, but we should dive in to the specifics. Overall, it was a good win to claim the NFC East division lead as the Cowboys get ready to rest this upcoming bye week. Let's get to this week's takeaways!
Ezekiel Elliott Played His Best Game of the Year
The way Ezekiel Elliott ran versus the Eagles' defense reminded me of his rookie season. Elliott has had a pretty good season even though the Cowboys haven't leaned as much on the running game as they had the last few seasons.
Last Sunday, he accounted for 111 rushing yards and 36 receiving yards. But it wasn't about his total yardage. What was special was the way he juked defenders, broke tackles and fought for the dirty yards.
There was a fire about #21 and I'm sure Cowboys Nation is just as excited as I am to watch it. He truly was something versus the Eagles.
Ezekiel Elliott's best game of the season BY FAR. Look at this chart from Next Gen Stats. Green lines mean 5+ yards gained or touchdown.
Not to mention, Elliott was extremely effective as he found multiple ways to have 5+ yard run after 5+ yard run. Simply put, an impressive performance from the Cowboys superstar running back.
DeMarcus Lawrence Silenced Doubters
I don't know if it was his huge contract that turned many fans against DeMarcus Lawrence early in the season, but the Cowboys' defensive end managed to silence doubters against the Eagles. On his way to one sack and one forced fumble, Lawrence dominated in the trenches.
He was solid versus the run and kept pressuring Carson Wentz all game long.
The truth is that D-Law has played well this offseason, but constant double-teams and the lack help from the interior defensive linemen have kept his box score stats down. However, when you look at more advanced metrics such as pass-rush productivity, you'll notice Lawrence is still playing at a very high level.
His play versus the Eagles proved that to many fans watching at home.
I was intrigued by the Cowboys lining him up against the Eagles' LT, trying to exploit the fact that Jason Peters was out injured. I wonder if Rod Marinelli continues to look for favorable match-ups in the future and keeps moving him around occasionally.
Amari Cooper is Fine
After Amari Cooper's quad injury against the New York Jets, reports emerged on him being in "terrible pain." Many doubted he'd even play against the Philadelphia Eagles but he did, along other key players who were dealing with injuries too. In his return to the field, Cooper led the Cowboys receiving core with 106 yards in only five receptions (five targets).
Once again, his route running was on full display. He managed to burn a secondary that has been far from great this year. The Cowboys needed him to show up, and he delivered. He even caught a 44 yard pass when he absolutely destroyed Eagles DB Rasul Douglas on a double-move. Cooper would also have a diving jaw-dropping catch later in the game.
It's fair to assume he's healthy and ready to go for the rest of the season.
Cowboys Run Defense Still an Issue
Takeaways and a strong defensive performance against the pass secured the win for the Cowboys, but the run defense continues to be a problem for Rod Marinelli's unit. The Eagles running backs combined for 103 rushing yards and Dallas was beaten in the trenches a handful of times on this game.
The linebackers looked drastically better, and Leighton Vander Esch had his best half this season so far. Fortunately, it seems like his injury isn't serious enough for him to miss any additional playing time.
However, there were a handful of plays in which the Cowboys' defensive tackles were pushed around again. If I had to choose one position to upgrade, I wouldn't hesitate to address the interior defensive line. It's a problem.
This Defensive Drive Sealed the Game for the Dallas Cowboys
Things couldn't have started off any better for a Dallas Cowboys team that was desperately in need of a fast start in this pivotal week seven matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. In the midst of a three-game losing streak, tied atop the NFC East at 3-3 with the Eagles, and hosting their division rival on Sunday Night Football, the Cowboys needed to put their best foot forward early in this game.
After a couple of fumbles recovered by the Dallas defense, the Cowboys jumped out to a 14-0 lead by the midway point of the first quarter. In a two-score hole early in this contest, the Philadelphia Eagles came out guns blazing on their third offensive series of the game and marched right down the field in seven plays, aided by a couple of personal foul calls, and brought the game to within a score.
At 14-7, the Dallas Cowboys offense was then forced to punt on the ensuing drive setting the Philadelphia Eagles up with an opportunity to tie the game in the second quarter if they were able to put a drive together. Getting the score even in the first half after pretty much gifting the Cowboys with a two-touchdown lead early would be a huge momentum swing in the game and provide the Eagles with a ton of confidence.
The Dallas Cowboys defense, however, wouldn't allow that to happen.
With the Eagles pinned back on their own 10-yard line after a Chris Jones punt, the Dallas Cowboys defense went to work with some excellent team defense and individual open field tackling performances on three plays that led to a Philadelphia Eagles three and out.
On first and 10 from their own 10-yard line, the Eagles attempted to run Jordan Howard through the right side of the line. There was nowhere to go on the play as Maliek Collins got excellent penetration into the left "A gap" making first contact behind the line of scrimmage and getting an assist from DeMarcus Lawrence to finish off the run stop for just a one-yard gain.
With a failed first-down run, the Eagles were set up with a 2nd and 9 at their own 11-yard line for the first play of the second quarter. Here they run Jordan Howard off of left tackle on a shotgun sweep handoff and he's able to pick up a nice bit of yardage to set up 3rd and 4.
To me, this was a huge third-down play for the Dallas Cowboys defense. On their previous drive, they had just given up a touchdown and needed to find a way to get of the field. If the Eagles are able to pick this up, it continues to put pressure on the defense and Philadelphia has some momentum.
Needing just four yards for the first down, the Eagles had both run and pass options at their disposal. As the Eagles are in have a tight bunch on the left side, the Cowboys have seven into the box to face six blockers, including the tight end who has a wider than normal split from the left tackle. Jeff Heath is the seventh man and on the snap is able to remain untouched as Carson Wentz hands off to Miles Sanders and snakes his way through the mass of humanity to stop the running back just shy of the first down.
They had the play fairly well blocked, but nobody accounts for Heath who is able to stay clean and track down Miles Sanders before he's able to get to the first down marker.
In a game that had a ton of highlights, this was a play that may go unnoticed when people talk about the outcome of this game but was huge given the current game situation. The Dallas Cowboys needed to get a stop on defense.
The Philadelphia Eagles attempted to attack the Dallas Cowboys' defense on the ground on this drive, which has been an area of vulnerability for the Cowboys in 2019. Their attempt to ground and pound in order to gain some momentum and reassert themselves in the game didn't come to fruition because the Cowboys defenders rallied well to the football on three straight running plays. The Dallas Cowboys turned a weakness into a strength on this drive and did their part to help the offense put the game away early.
After forcing the three and out, something the Dallas Cowboys defense doesn't do a lot of this year, the offense was able to take the ball and go on a 12 play, 71-yard drive for a touchdown that took nearly seven minutes off the clock. The Cowboys were able to go up two touchdowns again on their division rival and pretty much put the game out of reach, but it wouldn't have been so had the defense not stepped up and forced the three and out on this early second-quarter drive.
The defense played arguably their best game of the season on Sunday Night Football on a night where they desperately needed to play their best game of the year. There are still nine games to go and have a pretty rough seven-game stretch coming out of the bye starting with another divisional matchup on the road against the New York Giants in week nine. If the Dallas Cowboys defense can show this kind of consistency against the run moving forward, they'll be very difficult to beat.
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