The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a disappointing week one effort that saw them fall at the hands of the Carolina Panthers 16-8. On the offensive side of the ball there wasn't a lot to get excited about, but the defensive side showed the potential that we've been excited about all offseason.
They're a unit that has lived up to the high expectations placed on them during the preseason. They have the talent and the coaching to make plays and to help keep opposing offenses at bay. Hopefully the offense can turn it on and make this a complete team.
They'll need to figure it out in a hurry with division rival the New York Giants coming to town in an must-win week two matchup.
Yes, you read that right. This is a must-win game for both of these teams.
HOU @ TEN LAC @ BUF DET @ SF NYG @ DAL SEA @ CHI Over 90% of 0-2 teams miss the NFL playoffs. We have five elimination games this week https://t.co/Y37WqHG7SM
Both the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants opened the season with a loss, which means that the loser of this game will have a slim chance to make the playoffs. As Justis Mosqueda points out, teams that start the season 0-2 have only made the playoffs 10% of the time.
So, pretty much a must-win. The Dallas Cowboys have playoff aspirations in 2018 and if they want to make the playoffs, they need to win this game.
The Dallas Cowboys have done it before. As Jerry Jones pointed out on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday morning, they started 0-2 and won a Super Bowl. It can happen, but it puts your team playing catch up to make the playoffs.
Well, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, lets take a look at this week's matchup.
The Dallas Cowboys lead the all-time series 64-46-2. Under Jason Garrett's tenure, they're 9-7 including winning the last two games in 2017.
It was an important opening week for Dak Prescott last season as the narrative that he couldn't beat the New York Giants was being thrown around like it was a fact. He made short order of that narrative with a 19-3 victory in week one last season.
Then again in December of last season, amidst a really poor stretch of football, Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys went out and beat the Giants 30-10. In that game Dak threw for 332 yards, three touchdowns and posted a passer rating of 137.1. The Dallas Cowboys played that game without Ezekiel Elliott.
Inside The Numbers
One of my favorite stats when we talk about the New York Giants is to remind everyone that Eli Manning has averaged an interception per game for his career. He continued that pace in week one with an interception against the Jacksonville Jaguars, which isn't necessarily an indication of Eli's play as the Jaguars boast the best secondary in the NFL.
Eli Manning could be in for a career year with new Head Coach Pat Shurmur, who helped Case Keenum cash in with the Denver Broncos after his stellar year in Minnesota.
The Dallas Cowboys had opportunities to create turnovers last week, but were unable to cash in. They'll get chances again this week, but the need to catch those balls that get thrown the defenses' way.
The amount of times that Dak Prescott has had a passer rating over 90 in the last eight games. Prior to week nine of 2017, he had a passer rating greater than 90 18 times in his first 25 games.
Something is different about Dak Prescott over the last eight games of his career. Whether it's coaching or mechanics or play calling or his supporting cast, something's different.
He needs a bounce back game.
Dak Prescott's 83.3 completion percentage when getting rid of the football in under 2.5 seconds is third in the NFL. He was 10 of 12, had a quarterback rating of 95.5, and was only sacked twice. On the flip side, when he held the ball longer than 2.5 seconds, he was 9 of 17, had a passer rating of 67.5, and was sacked four times.
Moral of the story. Get the ball out of your hands quicker Dak.
The New York Giants allowed 4.9 yards per carry to the Jacksonville Jaguars in week one. The Dallas Cowboys were slightly better with a yards per carry allowed of 4.6.
In week one, both the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants allowed less than 5 yards per play. The Giants only allowed 4.9 yards per play which was 11th in the NFL in week one. The Dallas Cowboys only allowed 4.8 yards per play, good for ninth in the league.
Both teams will have a chance to improve upon that number in week two if Dak Prescott or Eli Manning prove incapable of pushing the ball down the field.
The Dallas Cowboys six sacks allowed in week one to the Carolina Panthers is tied for the second most allowed in the NFL in week one with the Buffalo Bills and the Seattle Seahawks. Only the Cleveland Browns had more sacks allowed.
Dak Prescott held the ball an average of 2.98 seconds per attempt last week. Excluding Lamar Jackson, who only had six pass attempts, Prescott's average time to attempt was the fourth longest time in the NFL. Only Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, and DeShaun Watson had longer times to attempt in the opening week of the season.
Cole Beasley's seven receptions are tied for 15th in the NFL. Equal to Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, Tyreek Hill, Larry Fitzgerald, Golden Tate, and Jarvis Landry. His 73 yards receiving is 30th in the NFL after one week.
This has a chance to be a huge year for Beasley as he's on pace for 112 receptions at this point and his first 1,000 yard season. That would be really good timing for him in a contract year.
Odell Beckham Jr. just got paid and he rewarded the New York Giants with 11 catches for 111 yards in their week one loss against the Jacksonville Jaquars. Those 11 receptions are second in the NFL to Michael Thomas' 16 for the New Orleans Saints.
Beckham was most effective going over the middle of the field where he caught 6 of 8 targets for 58 yards. When he was targeted by Eli Manning over the middle and greater than 10 yards, Manning had a passer rating of 102.1. Manning's passer rating was 88.3 when targeting OBJ over the middle and less than 10 yards down field.
Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee better get ready for a heavy dose of Beckham in the middle of the field. That's the same area of the field where Christian McCaffrey did most of his damage in week one.
The amount of points the New York Giants scored in week one against the vaunted Jacksonville Jaguars defense. The Giants had a chance at the end of the game to take the lead before turning it over on downs with a little more than a minute left to play.
The Dallas Cowboys 232 total yards in week one has them ranked 30th in the NFL only in front of the Arizona Cardinals and the Buffalo Bills. Coincidentally, those are the only two teams who scored fewer than the Dallas Cowboys eight points last week.
It's only been a week, but that's not good company to be in.
Taco Charlton tied for the team lead in snaps with Defensive Tackle Antwuan Woods on Sunday with 49. That was one more than DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford.
In those 49 snaps, Charlton had two pressures, three total tackles, and a pass defensed.
Cornerback Anthony Brown received the best coverage grade from Pro Football Focus at 78.3, which was slightly better than Byron Jones at 77.
Heading into 2018, it was assumed that Brown would be the odd man out in nickel situations given the play of Jourdan Lewis in 2017, but Brown has held him off and maintained a role with the Dallas Cowboys defense.
In the loss, he was targeted only twice, allowed only one reception, and was credited with a "stop." PFF defines a stop as a play that results in a "loss" for the defense.
DeMarcus Lawrence had a heck of a game against the Carolina Panthers in week one. He totaled five tackles, five "stops," one sack, four tackles for loss, and four hurries. He was the Dallas Cowboys best player in week one and is off to a great start to lead the team in sacks again in 2018.
Saquon Barkley's 106 rushing yards are third in the NFL heading into week two. That done on 18 carries with a 62 yard long, which gives him a 5.9 yards per carry. If you remove the 62 yard run for a touchdown, then he had yard per carry of 2.58.
He's an explosive player that can take the ball for a score when he touches it. The Dallas Cowboys will have to play sound defense to limit his opportunities to get into the open field.
Stat of the Week
Last season, #Dak put up 13/18 for 183 yards, two touchdowns, and took one sack against James Bettcher's defense last year when he was the Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator.
Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons
The Dallas Cowboys are returning home for Thanksgiving with a 5-5 record, needing to earn road wins at Philadelphia and Atlanta in the last two weeks to do so. Sunday's revenge win at the Falcons did not come easy, as the Cowboys conceded their first touchdown in the final two minutes of regulation to tie the game.
Missed opportunities in the red zone and penalties all had a say in the Cowboys needing a walk off Brett Maher field goal to win. Running Back Ezekiel Elliott once again sparked the offense in the second half, as the Cowboys defense assured this game wouldn't be a shootout in the first 30 minutes.
Here are my observations on the Cowboys latest thrilling win, greatly increasing their chances at reclaiming the top spot in the NFC East considering the Redskins home loss to the Texans.
- A great down-the-line play from rookie Dorance Armstrong on the Falcons' opening possession to set up DeMarcus Lawrence's first sack.
The Cowboys came into this game thin across the defensive line. Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins and Defensive End Dorance Armstrong really took advantage of the opportunity, pushing the pocket against Matt Ryan and freeing up the Cowboys linebackers to be themselves.
Lawrence's sack was the play that got the Cowboys off the field on third down, but Armstrong meeting Ito Smith in the hole for no gain was as big of a play on second down. The Falcons were smart to test the interior of the Cowboys defense and use the power run to set up their vertical passing game, but Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard simply had their guys ready to play.
If Collins and Armstrong can sustain their high-energy level of play with Antwaun Woods and Daniel Ross working their way back into the Cowboys rotation at DT, this defense can reach a new level of play given their speed in the back seven and ability to give opposing offensive lines fits with just four up front.
- Cole Beasley did more than enough to make up for it, but his drop in the end zone on the Cowboys first scoring drive is one he'll want back for a while.
The Cowboys play calling on their first goal-to-go situation left a lot to be desired, but Beasley was still able to make a scoring play with the ball in his hands at the pylon. Beasley bobbled the ball going to the ground and couldn't come up with it.
On the next play, the Cowboys finally targeted Amari Cooper, although without Ezekiel Elliott on the field. It was the combination of Cooper on the outside and Elliott in the backfield that provided a boost to the Cowboys offense last week at the Eagles, and for whatever reason they went away from it consistently against the Falcons.
Beasley's 19 yard catch and run on the Cowboys final drive set them up to run Elliott and kick the game winning field goal, giving Prescott an easy target on a crossing route. These are the types of inconsistencies the Cowboys will have to happily live with as they review this win and prepare on a short week for the Redskins.
- Head Coach Jason Garrett should be questioned about how his offense handled the last drive of the first half.
Trailing by three in a game still looking for its first touchdown, the Cowboys came out firing with 29 seconds left in the first half before shutting the drive down themselves. After Elliott advanced the ball to the Cowboys 35 and prompted a timeout, his catch and run for eight yards was the final play of the half.
I have no problem with the Cowboys getting the ball safely into the hands of Elliott, but after gaining positive yards on two receptions it's inexcusable to sit on a timeout without attempting a pass to the end zone.
- The Cowboys play calling improved in the second half, evident on Dak Prescott's rushing touchdown to give the Cowboys a 12-9 lead.
Again, taking the good with the bad, the Cowboys did go to this zone read look one too many times in the second half. From four yards out against a defense playing without one of their most talented players in Linebacker Deion Jones, Prescott faking to Elliott and keeping himself is as smart and safe a play as Linehan could have called.
Prescott's score was followed by Leighton Vander Esch's second interception in as many weeks, allowing the Cowboys to go right back to hammering the football. It took just two carries for Elliott to cover 31 yards and put the Cowboys ahead 19-9 off the turnover.
His 23-yard touchdown was sprung by Right Guard Zack Martin, who deserves a ton of credit for not only dealing with an injury sustained last week but seemingly finding an even higher level of play since then to motivate his teammates.
Joe Looney filled in well for Travis Frederick once again, and Xavier Su'a-Filo replaced a now-healthy Connor Williams for the second straight game, making Martin's elite level of play much more important.
Martin's lone mistake in this game came at a costly moment though, as a false start penalty backed the Cowboys up before punting it back to the Falcons for the tying score. Although the penalty created a third and 13 that Dallas used to keep the clock running on a dump off to Elliott, their second down play call to go with another zone read was costly as well.
Prescott lost two yards on a play that didn't fool the Falcons in the slightest, creating the original third and eight situation.
- Chidobe Awuzie was actually in good position on Julio Jones' fourth quarter TD, but as has been the case all season he reacted late and was beat with the ball.
Awuzie ran stride for stride with Jones, doing his best to force the Falcons best receiver towards the sideline. To Jones' credit, he was able to stay true to his route and run under a perfect pass from Matt Ryan.
Awuzie's fate was sealed on the play when he failed to react in time to jump with Jones, who simply elevated over the Cowboys struggling cornerback to give the Falcons new life in this game. Awuzie has been given every opportunity to be the Cowboys starter across from Byron Jones, trusted by Kris Richard to be a valuable part of this defense.
Quarterbacks in need of a completion have been able to pick on Awuzie far too much this season. The Cowboys don't appear to be in any rush to change this, as Cornerback Jourdan Lewis is designated to handling jet sweeps for the Cowboys offense while Anthony Brown remains the starter in the slot.
It was Brown that struggled through all of 2017 before finding his form again this year, perhaps giving Awuzie some hope that he can respond sooner rather than later.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The early slate of games proved to be a massive one for NFC East implications. The Cowboys escaped Atlanta with a win, and minutes later the Texans put the finishing touches on a win at the Redskins. Much earlier in the afternoon, unbeknownst to the Cowboys fighting for their life at the time, the Redskins also lost Quarterback Alex Smith.
Smith broke his tibia on a hit from J.J. Watt, and will need season ending surgery according to his Head Coach Jay Gruden.
This division has been waiting for a team to seize control of it all season. Realizing this, the Cowboys didn't sulk through their poor start and made the right moves to play into contention - playing as the desperate team that often achieves a lot in this game through their last eight quarters.
DAL 22, ATL 19: Elliott, Maher Carry Cowboys to Season-Saving Win
A last-minute field goal by Brett Maher lifted the Dallas Cowboys to a 22-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. On the strength of 201 yards of total offense out of Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas improved to 5-5 and arguably saved their 2018 season.
Elliott had 122 yards rushing and 79 receiving today, plus scored one touchdown, to make up well over half of the team's offensive production. Dak Prescott was also solid, throwing for over 200 yards and committing no turnovers.
Dallas and Atlanta traded field goals in the first half, and the Falcons took a 6-3 lead into the locker room. But the Cowboys answered with a tying field goal on their first second-half possession, then scored a touchdown on their next drive.
Maher was 3/3 on his field goals today, which included a 50-yarder. A missed extra point created concern, but the Cowboys kicker delivered in the biggest moments.
Once again, Dallas' defense was impressive and played a major part in the win. The Falcons never got into the endzone until their last possession.
- Leighton Vander Esch had another interception, securing a tipped ball that lucked its way into his grasp. He also made some big tackles and continued last week's exceptional play.
- DeMarcus Lawrence was credited with 1.5 sacks, getting him back among the league leaders with 8.0 on the year.
- Elliott was Dallas' leading receiving today. Next up was Cole Beasley with five catches for 51 yards, and Cole's day could've been better if not for a dropped touchdown pass.
- Jeff Heath nearly had his second interception of the year, but Falcons WR Julio Jones made an impressive play to hit Heath and break up the catch.
- Tyron Smith left the game on the final drive with an injury, but Cam Fleming came in and the team didn't suffer for it. We'll have to see what the short Thanksgiving week means for Smith's status against the Redskins.
- Speaking of Washington, the NFC East leaders fell to 6-4 today at home against the Houston Texans. Even worse for them, QB Alex Smith suffered a nasty ankle injury is almost assuredly out for weeks to come. Colt McCoy will be their starting QB on Thursday against Dallas.
- If Dallas wins next week, they will pull even with Washington in overall record, division record, and split the head-to-head series. With the Eagles facing a tough road game today in New Orleans, and with Alex Smith going down for Washington, the NFC East may have just become the Cowboys' to control.
Cowboys Wishlist: Snap Julio Jones’ Hot Streak
The Dallas Cowboys will try to get their second road win of the season against another inconsistent Atlanta Falcons team. As both try to get back to .500, this game will be filled with interesting matchups and implications. After upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles 27-20 last Sunday, the Cowboys need to get another upset win to keep being relevant in the league this year.
Here's this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist! I hope you enjoy and I encourage you to let me know what your wishes are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Stop Julio Jones' 100-Yard Game Streak
With the Atlanta Falcons sitting at 4-5, many have overlooked Wide Receiver Julio Jones' hot streak. In each of his last four games, Jones has accounted for more than 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Totaling 476 yards in his last four games, Jones is ready to face Cowboys' Cornerback Byron Jones.
Byron has certainly been a pleasant surprise in 2018, playing at a great level right now. He has faced Odell Beckham and DeAndre Hopkins this year and made a good job of defending these "Tier 1" pass-catchers. It's worth noting the Cowboys are not making him "travel" with these players but rather keep him on a specific side of the field. That shouldn't change against the Falcons.
Wish #2: Contain WR Calvin Ridley
Back in April, Cowboys Nation eyed Calvin Ridley as a prospect who could end up wearing the Star on Sundays. However, Dallas passed on him and the Alabama product fell right unto the Falcons' lap. He's had a pretty good season and despite sharing the field with Julio Jones, he's done a great job as a rookie averaging 14 yards per reception.
The Cowboys need to contain him. While Dallas should feel comfortable with Byron doing his job, the truth is Chidobe Awuzie has struggled at times. Not that he's suddenly a bad player, but he needs to step up his game. Lining up against Ridley today will be a great test and one I wouldn't expect him to pass easily.
Wish #3: Score 28+ Points
The Cowboys have the huge advantage of going against a defense that ranks 29th in scoring defense. They did a nice job on Philadelphia last week and should continue to build on that success to do something they haven't done much this year: score a lot of points.
Scott Linehan's unit needs to do a better, more consistent, job. They've shown us they're capable of scoring, but they've also shown us their remarkable ability to seemingly forget how to do so. Blame it on play-calling, QB play, poor offensive line or whatever you prefer, it's a flawed unit.
They need to capitalize versus a poor defense like the Falcons' to find a steady rhythm.
Wish #4: Dak Makes This Falcons' Game a Turning Point
Last year, when Dak Prescott was sacked six times in Atlanta (five times by Adrian Clayborn) something changed for the Cowboys' young quarterback. Missing RB Ezekiel Elliott and LT Tyron Smith that day, Prescott had one of the worse days in his career. It was a turning point for him as a QB and the public eye.
Now he has a chance at redemption. A shot at putting the Cowboys at .500 and reviving playoff hopes, as unlikely as it sounds.
I wish that's the case for the Cowboys young passer in Atlanta. As flawed as he is, I'm a fan of his. The kid leaves it all on the field.
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