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PHI 37, DAL 9: Cowboys Squander Early Opportunities

Jess Haynie

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The Philadelphia Eagles struggled early, appearing out of rhythm following their bye week. They punted on five drives and had a missed field goal on another. The Dallas Cowboys failed to take advantage of that opportunity and only had a 9-7 lead after two quarters.

Then the NFC East leader woke up after halftime.

The Eagles scored touchdowns on their next three drives in the third quarter and finally put the Cowboys away with a touchdown off a Dak Prescott fumble. The Cowboys wouldn't score another point after halftime and were barely able to function on offense.

Missing Tyron Smith for the second-straight game, the Cowboys could not protect their quarterback. Prescott was sacked four times and pressured into three interceptions, a new career high. He only managed 145 passing yards, mostly short throws to Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams with no real gains after the catch.

Alfred Morris stepped up with 91 rushing yards on just 17 carries, but his production came in bursts.  He broke a couple of big runs but did not have sustained, consistent yardage throughout the night to help settle the offense.  Dallas faced far too many 3rd-down plays and had to leave guys back to help Byron Bell at left tackle, crippling the offense.

The slow first half for Philly gave Dallas a chance at a bigger halftime lead, but they couldn't get in the endzone. With the defense expected to struggle without Sean Lee again, the Cowboys couldn't afford field goals. Those first-half failures left the door wide open for the Eagles to come back.

Other Notes

  • Ryan Switzer took the opening kickoff 61 yards, his first big return of the year. Unfortunately, Dallas did not have any plays on offense that were as exciting.
  • Despite eight catches tonight, Dez Bryant remains tied with Bob Hayes at 71 receiving touchdowns for the franchise record. He will get two more opportunities in the coming weeks to become the all-time leader in front of the home crowd.
  • The Cowboys did not record a sack tonight, something that wouldn't have surprised us in 2016 but seems shocking now. DeMarcus Lawrence was close on several occasions but Carson Wentz showed off his elusiveness throughout the night.
  • While Dallas still desperately needs Sean Lee back in the lineup, Jaylon Smith looked sharper tonight than earlier this year. Confidence in his body and recognition of plays will continue to improve for the redshirt rookie, and tonight was a sign of progress.
  • Dan Bailey could be back on Thursday, but give some credit to Mike Nugent for a solid run in his absence. After going 3-for-3 tonight, Nugent is 7-of-9 since joining the Cowboys.
  • The Cowboys will host the 3-6 Los Angeles Chargers this Thursday for the annual Thanksgiving game. They put a 54-24 beat down on the Buffalo Bills earlier today, but that was thanks largely to five interceptions from the Bills' new starting quarterback, Nathan Peterman.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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1 Comment
  • Russ_Te

    The Eagles had just so-so offensive numbers tonight except for a couple of gash runs from Ajayi. I’m still trying to figure out how you dominate that game on the road without big offensive stats – except of course they were +4 in turnovers and got 4 sacks.

    That LT is a siv and the Cowboys must address it in the offseason is clear, but while Atlanta’s sacks seemed to wreck the game for Dallas, tonight it seemed it was more that this offense is out of whack without Elliott – and Garrett has no answers for it.

    Dak forced that deep ball to Dez double or 3x covered – something he was not doing last year. QB’s will naturally try to do more when they have diminished support due to injuries, so it’s understandable but not something he can keep doing. And we’ve already seen it numerous times this year, even before the offensive injuries.

    This is an adjustment phase of Dak’s game where he has to learn to play with less pass protection and less run support. Defenses are not going to be as worried about or as keyed to stop the run if they are not facing a premiere RB. He will work through it and get back to Dak football, but this is the throes of it right now. No fun at all.

    Garrett will rightfully be killed again this week in the press so I will not focus there, except on what seems to be a lethargic passing game in general. When Dak has time, there are no big plays available. Dez is short-arming a big catch the team needed down the sideline 1st half, and Williams is popping up another ball that goes INT. Witten is giving you no threat and Beasley is locked down by what seems to be blueprint coverage schemes now.

    You badly need a spark offensively. You have Butler and Gathers available and it’s past time to deploy them.

    It should have happened after Atlanta. The season is gone and now it’s time to play other backups also. Dak needs reps but Cooper should get the last 2 starts of the year – let’s see him. Gathers, Noah Brown,
    Switzer, Awuzie, on and on.

Game Notes

Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Less Is More For Sean Lee And Cowboys' LBs?

The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.

We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.

Dallas Cowboys

  • TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
  • DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
  • WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
  • OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
  • DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable

Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.

Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving.  Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.

Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.

Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.

While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.

Indianapolis Colts

  • G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
  • LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
  • S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
  • WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
  • TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
  • S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable

The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.

Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.

Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.

Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.



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Game Notes

Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

Sean Martin

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Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.

The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.

David Moore on Twitter

Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.

Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.

While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.

Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.

The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.

Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.

The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.

Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.

Tell us what you think about "Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts" 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

#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone

Kevin Brady

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Fantasy Football - Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings - Week 2 2
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.

This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.

In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.

There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.

For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.

Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.

Bob Sturm on Twitter

I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.

Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.

Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.



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