Everyone expected the Cowboys to lose today but nobody thought it would happen like this. Like the first time Rocky met Apollo Creed, Dallas went the distance with the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers but ultimately fell 24-19.
While there’s a lot for the Cowboys to be proud of from this one, the loss still came thanks to some of their same, old issues. Dallas was leading 13-0 in the 2nd Quarter but gave up a touchdown and quickly lost the ball on a fumble by CeeDee Lamb, allowing Pittsburgh to throw up a quick nine points before halftime.
In the 3rd quarter, an interception by Garrett Gilbert squandered great field position after a big kickoff return from Rico Dowdle. Throughout the game the Cowboys also had several positive plays on both sides of the ball called back or nullified due to penalties.
In the end, the turnover battle and a few breakdowns on big plays made the difference as they have all season.
That said, there’s a lot of positives for Dallas to take from this one into their bye week. First and foremost was the play of Gilbert, who outside of the interception showed poise, good ball delivery, and even some scrambling skills against one of the league’s top defenses. He went 21/38 for 243 yards and a touchdown pass to Lamb.
The defense also looked better at times than they have most of this year, especially given the competition. While they did give up 309 yards through the air, Dallas held Pittsburgh to just 46 rushing yards on 18 attempts.
The better team ultimately won this one but not by nearly the margin or with the ease expected. For the Cowboys, hopefully the fight they showed today and improved execution provides something they can build on in the still-winnable NFC East.
- Ezekiel Elliott played despite reports this week that a hamstring injury would likely keep him out. He only had 51 yards and 18 carries, but he did make a few in crucial moments to help extend drives. Tony Pollard’s speed and good health allowed him to be more effective, getting 57 yards on just nine carries.
- No sacks today for the Cowboys defense but Randy Gregory had some big plays disrupting the pocket and creating pressure. It was Gregory’s first opportunity to get considerable snaps since coming off suspension and he looked fired up, thought that may have gotten the better of him with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second half.
- Jaylon Smith was also a culprit on key penalties, negating a 3rd-down stop with one and killing a turnover on another. While he stills shows up at times with stops and blitzes, Smith’s bad plays have definitely outnumbered the good ones in 2020.
- Greg Zuerlein went 4-for-4 today as the Cowboys’ leading scorer. He’s now 13/16 for the season and has become far more reliable than early-season performance indicated.
- Playing left tackle today, Cam Erving had to leave the game with an eye injury. Dallas moved Terence Steelers to the left side and then slid Zack Martin to right tackle, allowing Connor McGovern to enter the game at guard. It’s interesting to watch the team continue to move parts around as they deal with offensive line injuries; Tyler Biadasz stayed on the bench with Joe Looney back in the lineup.
- Also leaving the game was Trevon Diggs with a 2nd-quarter foot injury. Saivion Smith came into the game and Dallas suffered for it, with Smith quickly giving up a big play that set up Pittsburgh’s first touchdown.
- Was Gilbert’s play enough to make Dallas think twice about putting Andy Dalton back into the lineup? Dalton is expected to return in Week 11 with his concussion and COVID-19 exposure behind him, but at least now there has to be a discussion.