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Game Notes

Reel Talk: Cowboys Offense Got Back to Basics, Improved on 3rd Down in Week 15

Sean Martin



Ezekiel Elliott, Buccaneers

If you're having a bad day, just remember that a bunch of people who get paid to evaluate college football players agreed that Carson Wentz was much better than Dak Prescott.

Now through week 15 in the NFL, Wentz's Eagles are eliminated from playoff contention, but Prescott's Cowboys are back on track at 12-2 following his 32 of 36 passing performance against the Bucs.

Facing persistent pressure from every angle following his second career loss to the Giants, Prescott's precision and poise against Tampa Bay was nothing short of incredible. Specifically, the Cowboys improved on third downs in this win, which we'll break down with some Reel Talk:

3rd & 4 - Using Motion with Cole Beasley

Cole Beasley is a match up nightmare for any defensive back in this league, and his ability to make plays is improved when he is in motion before the snap. When he goes over to the single side here, Prescott already knows he'll have the slant route to Beasley open, and with the Bucs safety biting on Elliott swinging out of the backfield this becomes a simple throw to move the chains.


3rd & 6 - Jason Witten and Lance Dunbar Creativity

Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, who called a great game on Sunday Night Football, has used all kinds of stack sets like this to free up targets for Prescott underneath this season. Despite plenty of criticism coming into this game, Lance Dunbar can still be effective in these roles, as he lines up behind Witten out wide here.

It is Prescott's mobility to buy an extra second and touch on this throw that gives Dunbar a chance to move the chains, but Witten also did a great job of clearing out his defender.

3rd & 1 - A Short-Yardage Rushing First Down?

Yes, the Dallas Cowboys, with the best offensive line in the universe, have struggled to convert on short-yardage situations in the past. While the theme for third downs in this game was that all of them were manageable in distance, this specific play design with Darren McFadden carrying the ball is worth noting.

McFadden, in his first action of 2016, saw 3 carries and gained 10 yards - making the most out of his chances while replacing Alfred Morris at RB2. With Ezekiel Elliott behind him, Tampa Bay had to be ready for Zeke to get the ball to the edge - as they were.

Instead, McFadden took the carry right behind Zack Martin, who as always made the block to give him a first down leading to a Cowboys touchdown.

3rd & 6 - Dak Making Things Happen

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Quick, what was the result of this play?

I was simply amazed when I watched this play unfold on film, with the end result being a Dak Prescott 15 yard scramble past midfield for a third-down conversion. It looked like Noah Spence had set up this twist against Ron Leary and Tyron Smith pretty well, but Leary recovered beautifully to stop the defensive tackle in his tracks.

Spence actually ended up getting the better penetration, but Smith's power allowed him to steer the rookie edge rusher away from his rookie quarterback just before he escaped the pocket and turned the corner.

3rd & 5 - Why not Witten?

Jason Witten had a field day working against Tampa Bay's smaller and less-physical linebackers in this game, converting this third down as one of his 10 catches.

This time using Terrance Williams' deeper in-breaking route to free himself underneath, Witten just presents a clear target for Prescott to find him in the middle of the field.

Simple. Clean. Easy. Jason Witten will be in Canton someday soon (if he ever stops catching balls like these), but for now he's here to help Prescott and the Cowboys offense get on track before the playoffs.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

It wasn't just these third down plays, but really the entirety of Prescott's work that was efficient on Sunday. Playing great complimentary football, Dallas stayed balance, didn't put too much pressure on either rookie in the backfield, and helped their surging defense with long scoring drives.

With offense like this, the Cowboys are going to be the toughest team to beat in the playoffs this season.

Tell us what you think about "Reel Talk: Cowboys Offense Got Back to Basics, Improved on 3rd Down in Week 15" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

Game Notes

NFC East Showdown: Cowboys Offense Primed to Dominate Redskins

Brian Martin



Will Dallas' Recent Offensive Success Continue Against Washington?

The Dallas Cowboys are probably as confident as they have been all season as an offense after completely manhandling the Jacksonville Jaguars defense last week. They were able to put up 40 points on the Jaguar's top-ranked defense and now have to do the same against their division rival, the Washington Redskins.

I don't think there would be any argument if I were to say the Washington Redskins defense isn't nearly as talented as the Cowboys faced last week with the Jaguars. In fact, the Redskins are ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every defensive category, which should have Dallas' offensive players primed for this matchup.

As things stand right now, the Washington Redskins are giving up 21.2 points per game which ranks 24th in the NFL. They are also giving up 344 total yards (25th in the NFL) and 227.2 passing yards a game (24th). The lone bright spot of their defense is stopping the run, where they are currently ranked 12th in the NFL and are only allowing 116.8 rushing yards to opposing running backs.

Luckily, the Dallas Cowboys and Quarterback Dak Prescott looked to have found a groove with their passing game last week against the Jaguars top-ranked passing defense. With the Redskins ranked near the bottom of the league in passing defense, I think the Cowboys should and probably will build upon the success they had last week.

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

Now, I fully expect the Cowboys passing game to find success once again against the Redskins, but I also believe Running Back Ezekiel Elliott to dominate on the ground like he has in the past against Washington.

Zeke only played in one game against the Redskins last season, but absolutely dominated in that contest. He rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns a year ago and I wouldn't be surprised if he is close to that milestone this week as well, even if it is against the strength of Washington's defense.

I'm really hoping I'm not a being a little overconfident here, but I guess I'm just buying into the success the Cowboys had on the offensive side of the ball last week. The offense finally started to do the things that have made them successful in the past and I'm expecting that to carry over into this week.

I believe we will see Prescott using his mobility once again, although I don't know if he will rush for 83 yards. I'm also expecting to see Wide Receiver Cole Beasley heavily involved in the passing game again because Washington doesn't have a defensive back who can cover him. Of course, let's not forget Ezekiel Elliott. I'm expecting him have a big game as well.

Overall, I really don't see the Washington Redskins defense giving the Dallas Cowboys any problems on the offensive side of the ball as long as they execute the way they did last week. I know when these two teams square off against one another it's usually a slobber knocker, but I think the Cowboys are the better team and is the one that comes away with the victory.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys offense will dominate the Redskins defense?

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Game Notes

Can Dak Prescott Continue His Washington Domination On Sunday?

Kevin Brady



Dak Prescott, Redskins

There has been a lot of change within the Dallas Cowboys since 2016.

Veteran playmakers like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are no longer around, Tony Romo lost his starting quarterback job, and Dallas has jumped from league best to worst to average seemingly every week.

One thing hasn't changed these past two years, however, and that is the Cowboys beating the Washington Redskins. In fact, since Dak Prescott took over as the starting quarterback in Dallas the Cowboys are 4-0 against Washington. Even as the sky was falling in Dallas a year ago, and the Cowboys offense looked like the worst in football, they still found a way to dominate Washington 38-14 and snap their then-three game losing streak.

In his four career games against Washington, Dak Prescott has quarterback ratings of 103.7, 108.9, 82.2, and 93.4. To put this into context, Prescott's average quarterback rating this season is 85.5 and that is really driven by his outlier positive rating of 118.6 against the Detroit Lions. To be fair, however, his 54.5 rating against Seattle was also a heavy outlier.

Prescott isn't the only Cowboy who has exercised this dominance over Washington, though. As Staff Writer John Williams has pointed out, Jason Garrett is 11-4 against the Redskins since becoming the Cowboys head coach, and Dallas has won six of their last eight against Washington since 2014.

So heading into Sunday's rematch with their division foe, history says the Cowboys should be feeling rather confident, right?

Well there's another streak occurring the Cowboys will actually be looking to break on Sunday. That, of course, is their winless start on the road this season.

Ironically the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys have actually been a good road team until now, going a combined 12-4 the past two seasons. And, since the new stadium opened in 2009, the Cowboys have been historically better on the road than at home, making this year's 3-3 start even more bizarre.

To put it simply, "somethings gotta give" on Sunday. Either Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will continue to beat up on the Redskins and get a leg up in the NFC East, or this horrendous road start will continue for another week.

Either way, I'm sure the takes will be hot on Monday morning.

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Game Notes

Cowboys Defense Getting Players Back at the Right Time

John Williams



Could Any of These 3 Cowboys Disappoint Cowboys Nation in 2017?

The Dallas Cowboys have played really well on defense this season allowing the seventh fewest rushing yards per game, the third lowest yards per carry, and the eighth fewest passing yards per game this season. They've done it for most of the 2018 season without Defensive Tackles Maliek Collins and David Irving, and Linebacker Sean Lee, who's missed the last three games with a strained hamstring.

This week the Cowboys play the NFC East leading Washington Redskins, making this a very important matchup for the Cowboys playoff chances. The Dallas Cowboys are 2-2 in the NFC in 2018, so a win against the Washington Redskins on Sunday carries much more importance. If the Cowboys have hopes of making the playoffs, they're going to have to improve their record against the NFC and they can on Sunday with their defense getting back to (nearly) full health.

Still awaiting word on Chidobe Awuzie's availability for this week.

Antwaun Woods, Tyrone Crawford, and David Ross have held up really well on the Cowboys defensive interior without Irving and Collins, which makes their return even more important. Better depth along the defensive interior is only going to help those guys have more productive snaps. Both Collins and Irving are explosive penetrating defensive tackles that give interior offensive lineman fits with their combination of strength and quickness. They play the run and pass with equal effectiveness and make life a lot easier for the linebackers and the defensive ends.

In their first game back in week six, Irving and Collins combined for two quarterback pressures, a quarterback hit (Irving) and a sack (Collins). Irving also drew a holding call on a punt.

Getting them back takes so much pressure off the defensive ends to generate pressure in passing situations. With better pressure from the interior of the defense, DeMarcus Lawrence and the other defensive ends will have better opportunities for sacks because opposing quarterbacks won't be able to step up in the pocket with as much ease as they have through the first five games of the season.

The linebacker duo of Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch have been one of the best position groups for the Cowboys this season. As good as they've been, Sean Lee is still one of the better linebackers in the NFL. Though he's leading the Cowboys in solo tackles with 43, Leighton Vander Esch probably sees a decrease in his snaps with Lee returning. They'll all play, however, and the Cowboys will look for ways to have them all on the field together.

Getting Lee, Irving, and Collins on the field at the same time with the defensive parts that the Cowboys already boast in Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Byron Jones is going to make playing offense nearly impossible.

How do you attack these guys?

The Washington Redskins rank in the bottom third in passing yards, yards per attempt, and are 18th in the NFL in passer rating. Washington ranks in the top half of the league in rushing yards per game, but rank 23rd in yards per attempt.

If there's an area where the Dallas Cowboys defense has been susceptible this season it's against the pass and having all of their best defensive players available for this week seven NFC East matchup is going to make all the difference. They'll be able to generate pressure with fewer blitzes because of the ability of Irving and Collins to generate pressure from the interior.

Though the Redskins have had some success on the ground in 2018, it's going to be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson and the Redskins run game. Lee, Vander Esch, and Smith all play the run extremely well and with the improved talent at defensive tackle, Peterson is going to find very few open lanes against the Dallas Cowboys defense.

The elite defense that we imagined this team could be may be right around the corner. Having everyone healthy and on the field together as the Dallas Cowboys get ready for the stretch run of the NFL season is huge.

Get ready NFL. Points are going to be really hard to come by.

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