About midway through the 2nd Quarter the Dallas Cowboys were down 21-3 to the visiting Green Bay Packers. It appeared that they'd lost their rhythm after the first-round bye and too much meaningless football in Weeks 16 and 17. Dallas' was gone and Aaron Rodgers was having his way with them.
Just as I was starting think about having to write that story tonight, the Cowboys started to show some fight again. Narrowing the deficit to 21-13 at halftime, Dallas continued to rally and fought their way back to a 28-28 tie in the closing minutes. Mason Crosby and Dan Bailey traded long field goals and, with just 35 seconds left, the Packers got the ball back.
That's when Rodgers, who'd been great all night, showed why he is arguably the best quarterback alive. Running away from the rush, he hit Jared Cook on the sideline for a 36-yard gain. Crosby came back out and hit another long field-goal as time expired.
Game over. Season over.
The young Cowboys showed that the playoffs weren't too big for them. They even took the early haymakers from Green Bay but fought back to make it a classic playoff showdown. Unfortunately, Rodgers got to take the last counter-punch before the bell.
- The box score says Aaron Rodgers was sacked three times, but don't let that trick you into thinking our pass rush was effective. Rodgers was able to sit in the pocket most of the night or roll out and find receivers on the extended play. All three sacks came from defensive backs; none of the defensive linemen were able make their presence felt. It was reminiscent of how Dallas lost in 2014.
- Dak Prescott finished his season with the same poise and clutch play that we've seen all year. He threw for 302 yards and three touchdowns, plus ran in a critical two-point conversion, and had a 103.2 passer rating. He rose to the challenge of the 18-point deficit and gave us everything we could've asked for.
- Similarly, Ezekiel Elliott left no doubt in his performance. With 125 yards and a 5.7 average, the only question is why he wasn't getting the ball more. Dallas passed the ball 38 times tonight and Zeke had just 22 carries. The pass-run ratio was even worse earlier in the game. As Elliott was getting solid gains from the beginning, it's hard to understand why Scott Linehan didn't lean on Zeke more.
- You know he won't care because it came in a loss, but Dez Bryant did everything he could to avenge the 2014 game. Dez looked the part of the franchise WR tonight with 132 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches.
- This was likely Doug Free's game last game as a Cowboy. The notorious penalty magnet was back at it tonight and threw in some poor blocking. The Cowboys can save $5 million off his $7.5 million cap hit next year. He should be a goner.
- Packers' cornerback LaDarius Gunter should have nightmares now anytime he's about to face the Cowboys. He was abused in their Week 6 meeting and again tonight, being on the losing end both Bryant touchdowns and several other big plays. I'm sure Julio Jones is very excited to see him next week.
- Almost a hero of the night was safety Jeff Heath, who had a sack and interception. Having to play because of Morris Claiborne's injury and the Packers' frequent use of a five-receiver set, Heath nearly had a second pick late in the game but it got waived off on a pass interference call.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition
In the NFL, the third preseason week is often referred to as the "Dress Rehearsal." It's usually the week in which starters get the most playing time. That has changed lately, with plenty of teams deciding to take care of their key players instead of risking them on the field. However, the Dallas Cowboys have played their starters on their first two games and there's no reason to believe that will change versus the Texans today.
Here is my wishlist for the Cowboys vs Texans "Dress Rehearsal!" Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Justin Phillips Locks Up a Roster Spot
Phillips has been one of the most surprising players this offseason and preseason. The Cowboys are set at linebacker, but Phillips has made sure to be a tough guy to cut. Last week, he had a remarkable interception against the Rams. Despite making a first step toward the line, he managed to adjust and made the play. He has followed it up with more plays in practice.
If he keeps it up, the Cowboys won't be able to cut him. He has the potential to be a force on special teams and a quality backup.
Wish #2: Devin Smith Makes Things Interesting
The battle for the final wide receiver spots is at full-go. Devin Smith has shined lately, and has risen as a serious candidate to make the roster. However, it seems like other wide receivers have the upper-hand as of now. Earlier this week, I made my Cowboys WR Power Rankings and had Devin Smith at #7.
His TD catch versus the Rams last week was pretty impressive, and I wish he makes a few more plays to make the debate all the more interesting.
Wish #3: Tony Pollard Does It Again
Fifth-round rookie Tony Pollard
stole was the show last weekend as he racked up 51 total yards (five carries, one catch) and a touchdown on Dallas' first offensive drive. He looked impressive as the starting running back, giving us just what we wanted to see.
While many have advertised him as a gadget player, Pollard proved he can actually be a "standard" RB. He ran between the tackles, showed power, balance and great vision. I'm ready to watch it again, this time versus the Texans.
Wish #4: Taco Charlton Shines Rushing The Passer
Taco Charlton has made a couple of plays in preseason on his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Rams, he batted down two passes and looked good separating from opposing offensive linemen. Charlton has gotten praise from some analysts during these first two preseason weeks.
But I want to watch some quality pass rush from his part. Right now, the Cowboys' roster counts with some promising players, including rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson. While they're currently below Taco, he must prove he belongs on the roster.
DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win
Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.
Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.
As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.
Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.
Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.
A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.
Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.
"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli
Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.
Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.
#DALvsRAMS: Tony Pollard Proves he’s no Longer Darrell Henderson’s Backup
For the better part of three years Tony Pollard was forced to play second fiddle to Darrell Henderson during their time with the Memphis Tigers. But, Saturday night in the second week of preseason Pollard emerged from the shadows and proved he's no longer Henderson's backup.
Tony Pollard put on an impressive show Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams. He touched the ball a total of six times and turned it into 51 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 42 yards on the ground, averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and had one reception for 9 yards. All in all it was an impressive performance and one that arguably outdid his former teammate, Darrell Henderson.
Tony Pollard is starting to look like a real weapon for the Dallas Cowboys. It's still a small sample size, but in the first two preseason games he's proven the jump up in competition isn't too big for him. As a runner he's been decisive, picking up what yardage is given and not dancing around. He hasn't been utilized much in the passing game yet, but that time will come.
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't be happier with the way their rookie RB has performed thus far. He's everything they've said he was, and quite possibly much more. Maybe those Alvin Kamara comparisons weren't that far off after all.
We all know Ezekiel Elliott will return to the Dallas Cowboys at some point, but for now Tony Pollard doesn't look completely out of place as their lead back. He still needs to work on his pass protection, but everything else he's been asked to do he's excelled at.
I don't know about you, but I'm excited about seeing what No. 36 can do when these games start to matter in 2019. He will once again have to accept a backup role like he did behind Darrell Henderson in college, but you can bet the Cowboys coaching staff will reward him based on his play so far in preseason.
Pollard's versatility to be a weapon as both a runner and receiver in the passing game should make him a unique chess piece in the offensive game plan each and every week. He's been exciting to watch so far and we haven't even seen him in the return game yet, which was a big part of his game in college. I'm personally expecting big things from him this season. What about you?
What do you think of Tony Pollard's preseason performance so far?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Zeke Holdout: Remember, Owners Agreed to Renegotiating Contracts
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Michael Gallup Showing WR1 Talent in Amari Cooper’s Absence
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
5 Dallas Cowboys Backups Who Have Earned More Playing Time
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Line Looking Absolutely Stacked
Player News2 days ago
Report: Cowboys Offer Ezekiel Elliott a Contract to Make him the NFL’s Second Highest-Paid RB
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 3
Game Notes2 weeks ago
3 Studs and Duds From Dallas Cowboys Preseason Week 1 Matchup
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 2