While the Dallas Cowboys’ lopsided loss to the Atlanta Falcons was one of the more painful in recent memory, not all was totally disastrous.
Watching the offensive line, particularly left tackle Chaz Green, get dismantled for four quarters may leave you feeling otherwise, but one player had arguably his best performance of the season. This player has been playing some really solid football since returning to full health after the bye week, and is going to be needed even more if veteran leader Sean Lee is forced to miss more game time.
This player is linebacker Anthony Hitchens.
Hitchens missed the first four games of the 2017 season due to fracture in his right knee. His first game back came against the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers, and Hitchens looked a step behind much of the afternoon. Since that lackluster performance in week five, Hitchens has found his home and looks to have re-gained his playing shape.
Hitchens finished last Sunday’s game with a team-leading 10 tackles, 1.5 of which came for a loss. Clearly the best run defending linebacker the Cowboys had this week, Anthony Hitchens played with a burst we haven’t seen from him since maybe his rookie year.
In fact, Hitchens was so quick to diagnose and defend runs that he knocked Falcons running back Devonta Freeman out of the game on the very first drive.
Considering it was such a brutal loss, Hitchens’ solid play is getting lost in the analysis shuffle. The majority of the team had a poor day, but Anthony Hitchens clearly came to play in Atlanta.
As I alluded to earlier, Hitchens is going to be an even more important piece to this defense for the rest of the season. Sean Lee is once against hobbled with a leg injury, and may need to miss some more time. We all know how weak the linebacker depth is for this team, but Hitchens may be the long silver-lining to this awful Lee news.
Hopefully, both Lee and Hitchens will be healthy and available next Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.