The Dallas Cowboys were a play or two away from knocking off the NFL's last remaining undefeated team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes, they lost by five, and moral victories don't show up in the standings, but the Cowboys were delivered a standout performance from Quarterback Garrett Gilbert in his first NFL start.
Facing a Steelers team that boasted one of the NFL's best defenses, Gilbert was remarkably poised. Pittsburgh came into the game leading the league in sacks, pressure percentage, hurry percentage, and second in the league in quarterback knockdown percentage. Led by T.J. Watt, it seemed like Garrett Gilbert would be under siege in this game. While the Steelers were able to get home for two sacks and nine quarterback hits on Sunday, Gilbert showed good awareness and escapability to minimize the damage the Steelers pressure packages could cause.
On the day, Gilbert completed 21 of 38 passes (55%) for 243 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and added three carries for 28 yards, including a couple of scrambles for first downs early in the game. Gilbert's touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb was the first for the Dallas Cowboys since the fourth quarter of the Cowboys blowout loss to the Arizona Cardinals back on October 19th.
The Cowboys had a chance to win the game after the defense gave up 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Getting the ball back with 38 seconds left to play, no timeouts, and down by five, Garrett Gilbert led the Cowboys offense on an impressive two-minute drill. The Cowboys went 58 yards in 31 seconds, getting to the Steelers 23 yard-line with just four seconds to play and one last shot into the endzone.
Though they ultimately came up short on the two-minute drill, it was an impressive display from a quarterback who had bounced around the NFL and the AAF over the last six seasons.
After last week's performance by Ben DiNucci, there wasn't much optimism that the Cowboys could find adequate quarterback play, but they found a bit more in Garrett Gilbert's performance. Despite the turnover in the endzone to Minkah Fitzpatrick, Gilbert played like a guy who could find a role as a backup quarterback in the NFL and should remain the Cowboys starter for the foreseeable future.
The Cowboys have been looking for quarterback play that could help the offense since Dak Prescott went down in their win against the New York Giants back in October, and it looks like they have a guy who can make things happen for them in the passing game.
Now, as the Cowboys sit at 2-7 and currently projected to get the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, it would seem as though their best way forward at the position is to continue giving Gilbert a look. The Cowboys could go back to Andy Dalton. Still, seeing as how he didn't show much in his short stint before being forced into the concussion protocol, the Cowboys might be better served seeing if Garrett Gilbert could be their long-term answer as the backup quarterback.
Garrett Gilbert wasn't able to come away with a win in his first career start, but he showed the poise necessary to play in the NFL against a team that has had a ton of success getting to the quarterback this season. Gilbert didn't play a clean game, but he played well enough to give the Cowboys a chance to win in their best offensive showing since Prescott was injured several weeks ago.
There are things that Gilbert and the rest of the offense can work on, but this week provided at least passable quarterback play. After having success as the leading passer of the Alliance of American Football for the Orlando Apollos, Gilbert is taking that experience to the highest stage of American Football for America's Team.