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Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Lose 2018 Season Opener 16-8

Brian Martin

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Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Fall to Panthers in Season Opener

You probably know the all too familiar feeling of spending a night out on the town and having a little too much to drink. The next morning you wake up and kind of do a quick mental recap of what exactly transpired the previous night to hopefully reassure yourself you didn't act too much like a fool. Well, that's what I'm going to do today in regards to the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season opener against the Carolina Panthers.

What was supposed to be a kind of "welcome to the world" debut for this 2018 Cowboys team Sunday afternoon quickly became a day of regret. I don't know about you, but sitting through the Cowboys matchup with the Panthers gave me flashbacks of what we all went through last season. It wasn't a good feeling and I hope that we can chalk this loss up to early-season jitters and rust.

For the majority of the game, the Dallas Cowboys struggled to get anything going offensively. They continually got behind the chains and were forced to try to convert several 3rd and long situations. They didn't actually get into Panthers territory until 9:11 in the third quarter.

I don't know exactly what was wrong, but the Cowboys offensive line really struggled with the Panthers front four throughout the game. Maybe the absence of Travis Frederick impacted their performance more than we anticipated, but something was definitely off.

Tyron Smith had a few penalties early in the game that put the offense in bad down and distances. Connor Williams struggled anchoring down against the bullrush, which wasn't that big of a surprise. Even La'el Collins didn't play up to his usual standards. Overall, the Panthers d-line got the best of the Cowboys OL Sunday afternoon.

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)

Unfortunately, the Cowboys OL struggles looked to have had a ripple effect throughout the rest of the offense. Ezekiel Elliott had a difficult time finding any running room the majority of the game. Dak Prescott had to deal with consistent pressure, which could be one of the reasons why he was a little inaccurate in the passing game. Things just didn't look good for the Dallas Cowboys offensively.

Fortunately, it wasn't all bad news. The Dallas Cowboys defense kept them in the game and actually gave him a shot at potentially coming from behind for the victory.

The Cowboys secondary particularly looked good, even without starting Free Safety Xavier Woods in the lineup. Byron Jones has found his home at cornerback. He was fantastic in coverage, as was his counterpart Chidobe Awuzie. Of course, they had quite a bit of help due to the consistent pressure the pass rush was putting on Quarterback Cam Newton.

DeMarcus Lawrence picked up where he left off last season. He was dominant in both the running and passing game, applying consistent pressure to Newton. The rest of the d-line looked pretty good as well, especially Taco Charlton, who I thought played really well. The Cowboys linebackers however had their fair share of struggles.

With relatively no preseason work, Sean Lee's rust was blatantly apparent. He was still able to diagnose plays and be in the right spot for the most part, but he missed way too many tackles. Damien Wilson was also guilty of looking a little rusty as well. It just wasn't what I expected from this group after being so highly touted heading into this matchup.

As fans, all we can do is hope that this dreadful performance is a fluke and the best is yet to come from the Dallas Cowboys. So, I'm going to take a Tylenol and hope this Monday morning hangover goes away sooner rather than later. I don't think the Cowboys made too much a fool of themselves, but that's debatable.

Did the Dallas Cowboys make a fool of themselves against the Panthers?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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4 Comments
  • David carter

    The coaching staff sure did. Might as well not have a preseason if all of the starters don’t get at least a quarter in each game. I mean we did learn that the cowboys still have no depth in the roster. Big surprise. Coaches cost us this game by not preparing the players. The axe will fall after we go 0-3. Bye bye Garrett!

  • Mr. Jaguar

    This mess has been going on since 1997. Don’t see any changes, TO change being stuck in NFL Purgatory of mediocrity, for the past 22 seasons.
    The Silver and Blue kool aid, that Jerry serves, is getting harder and harder to swallow, especially, accepting the Dak Attack friendly offense, that this organization and coaching staff have boosting about, since February 2018. It’s becoming delusional.

  • oneputter

    this team is bad! the coaching staff is bad! i was a JG fan up until yesterday, he needs to go. he has no motivation to get in his players butts. at some point it is needed. the OC is complete garbage, these counter runs and gadget plays he called are/were a joke. dak is not a good QB. he ended last year hanging onto the ball way too long, he did the same yesterday. wr’s were open, NFL open, this is not mississippi st anymore. his accuracy stinks!

    defensively, the LB’s were horrible, all of them. byron jones continues to get beat on out routes (how can you think or say he found a home at corner?!) jones got beat by Funchess…..numerous times, one of the slowest WR’s in the league. he missed tackles. jones is a 1st waste/bust! heath continues to be out of position on nearly every play.

    the team is not good. we consistently talked about trading for earl thomas, we need to trade for a wr not a safety at this point in time. and while we’re at it look for an OC and HC.

  • Hector Espindola

    Well, it is clear that the offensive coaching staff has already reached its maximum ceiling, since a season ago, because they can’t fix the problems. By the way, how can Dak improve having Moore as a QB coach? Is it a joke?

Game Notes

Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.

Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
  • DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
  • DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
  • G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable

The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.

Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.

The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.

Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.

Atlanta Falcons

  • LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT

It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.

The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.

So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.

As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.

The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.

It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.

Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.

Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.

If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.

The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.

In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.

Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.

It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.

The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.

Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

Do Or Die: Chidobe Awuzie Must Improve Sunday, Or Cowboys Season Could End

Kevin Brady

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Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys' Defense?

Coming into the season there was a lot of hype surrounding the Dallas Cowboys' cornerbacks. With Byron Jones moving from safety full time, and now second year player Chidobe Awuzie playing opposite Jones after a promising rookie season, there was a lot for Cowboys fans to be excited about.

Through the first 10 weeks of the year, though, only one of those two has maintained fans' excitement. While Byron Jones has been arguably the best cornerback in all of football, Chidobe Awuzie has been damn-near an automatic completion when thrown at.

Awuzie has a -5.8 coverage rating this season, 65th among cornerbacks in the NFL. Coverage rating is a metric which factors in how often a cornerback is targeted as well as how many passes they've defensed per target. Quarterbacks also have a 116.6 passer rating when targeting Awuzie, compared to just 64.5 when targeting Byron Jones. For comparisons sake, Jones' coverage rating is a +45! So you can see why "cornerback opposite of Jones" is becoming a need for the Cowboys.

What's perplexing about Awuzie's season, though, is that he is only giving up an average 0.95 yards of separation, 27th in the league (courtesy of playerprofiler.com). So while Awuzie is playing relatively sticky coverage, he's still being targeted often, and he's still allowing completions way too often.

This week, Chidobe Awuzie will be tested once again, this time by the dynamic passing game of the Atlanta Falcons. The match-up many fans are focusing on is that between Byron Jones and Julio Jones, but how Awuzie does against Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu may play a bigger factor in the result.

Both Ridley and Sanu are solid supporting receivers, and considering how much attention the defense typically has to pay to Julio Jones, they tend to get man coverage often. This allows for a precise route runner like Ridley to take advantage of opportunities, and come away with the types of big plays we've seen from him this year.

When matched up with either of these weapons, Awuzie will need to continue to stay close, but play and defense the ball better. He must continue to make it hard on these receivers and force them into contested catches, but hopefully he can improve on his play when the ball gets to the catch point.

Sunday will be another big test for the Cowboys' young defense. And as well as they have played most weeks, this game has the potential to be a season ender if certain guys do not step up. One of those guys who will certainly play a key role in influencing the result in Chidobe Awuzie.



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