In a time of the year filled with hope everywhere, the Dallas Cowboys receiving the early Christmas present of Ezekiel Elliott back into their offense was not enough to save a chance at the playoffs. Coming up short 21-12 at AT&T Stadium against the Seahawks, the Cowboys will now start off the new year with a meaningless week 17 game in Philadelphia before a long look in the mirror ahead of 2018.
There will of course be much more time later to dive into what this football team has to build on moving forward, and what needs to improve, but for now here are my initial thoughts on everything that happened in this ugly game against the Seahawks.
- Taco Charlton's third career sack looked exactly like a play he made with much more consistency a year ago at Michigan.
For the first time, we really saw Charlton prove that he could be the player he was on tape at Michigan - a lengthy defensive end with upside for the next level. Adjusting to this increase in competition has been a struggle at times for the rookie, but his recent play to end this season provides hope that he'll be a valuable part of this rotation in year two.
Charlton captured the edge with some nice initial quickness on his sack, continuing through the block of the right tackle with a strong base and active hands. Once he was even with Russell Wilson in the pocket, Charlton took advantage of his hand placement and was able to power right back into Wilson to finish the play.
- Jourdan Lewis covered Jimmy Graham about as well as you could have asked for in a goal line situation.
Graham's touchdown put Seattle on the board, and ended up being an easy play for him and Wilson. Lewis did very well to keep in contact with Graham through the play, also understanding that he could not lose ground in the end zone either. Lewis planted on the goal line and looked like he expected a cut to come from the big Seahawks TE, but the pass was already in the air.
The ball beat Lewis trying to fight through the bigger target, and all Graham had to do was secure it for six.
- Sean Lee had a few plays in this game that very few linebackers besides him regularly make, many of them set up by strong play on the defensive line.
We already talked about Taco Charlton, but last year's sack leader in Benson Mayowa was also able to show up and play with the consistent motor that earned him the starting RDE position through much of this season.
Mayowa was able to use his speed to flatten the corner and then chase down plays, and with Charlton and DeMarcus Lawrence finding success on the strong side, these edge rushers set the line of scrimmage defensively for Dallas.
This allowed Lee - who doesn't need any extra time to read a play - to react to everything happening in front of him and shoot gaps for TFLs.
Maliek Collins and Datone Jones also deserve credit for being tough to move at DT, but this was once again a game where David Irving was missed, especially every time Wilson extended a play with his feet.
- Byron Bell put in an admirable performance in emergency duty for Tyron Smith, but his issues against the speed of the Seahawks had Dak Prescott uncomfortable.
This was another abysmal performance from Dak Prescott in a big moment, and one of the factors that contributed to his frantic play was undoubtedly Byron Bell's play at LT. Bell was probably better than expected, having played a higher volume of snaps compared to previous appearances against the Falcons and Raiders.
With experience at both guard and tackle, Bell's biggest issue was dealing with speed on the edge. The only chance he had against the pressure Seattle sent his way was to get depth in his pass sets back towards Prescott, which he did to an extreme measure at times.
Bell's positioning paired with the lack of quick recovery skills to slide late in the down led to Dak Prescott rarely throwing from a clean pocket, forced to step up or escape entirely far too often.
- Ezekiel Elliott looked every bit the player I expected him to be after cutting weight before his return and staying focused.
In other words, I would have loved to see how this game could have gone differently if Dan Bailey's first missed field goal from 34 yards was instead a first and goal carry for Elliott from two yards out.
Elliott's ability to play even faster than he did a year ago while still being patient enough to find the right hole and hit it with power was impressive, as he effortlessly turned the limited carries he did receive into rushes that kept the Cowboys offense on schedule.
Not being able to control this game and ultimately win it through Elliott is going to look bad on these Dallas coaches for a long time, and may even lead to changes on the offensive side of the ball - where one thing is certain.
Ezekiel Elliott is the player to continue building this team around.
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For those of you that have been following along with Sean's Scout this season, or those that have now been introduced to these articles on Christmas morning, I'd like to thank all of Cowboys Nation for their consistent feedback in putting these together following every win or loss.
As the entirety of Inside The Star slowly begins turning our attention towards the looming offseason, I will of course be continuing to use this platform to discuss the 2018 NFL Draft and potential targets for the Dallas Cowboys.
For now, enjoy the rest of your holiday, and share your thoughts on this second-to-last regular season Sean's Scout with a comment below!
Brett Maher’s 62-yard FG Gives Cowboys 6-0 Halftime Lead over Eagles
Brett Maher drilled a 62-yard field goal, a new Dallas Cowboys record, to give his team a 6-0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles at halftime.
A holding penalty by Tyron Smith seemingly took the team out of field goal range, but Maher bailed him out with the monster kick.
The lead could be bigger it not for some Dallas mistakes. Dak Prescott threw an interception on an otherwise strong drive, and Maher ended another drive with a missed field goal.
However, the Eagles have also struggled. A strip sack by Tyrone Crawford ended their last drive of the half. Randy Gregory also got a sack on Carson Wentz earlier in the game.
Overall, though, Philadelphia just isn't converting downs and being stifled by this exceptional Cowboys defense. They only have 70 total offensive yards at the half.
Ezekiel Elliott is putting together a big day, already with 72 rushing yards and another 20 yards receiving. Rod Smith also has 24 yards of offense, adding to the major production from the RB position.
Speaking of position production, the Cowboys tight ends have already accounted for six catches for 37 yards. Blake Jarwin has four of those receptions, which is a new career high.
The Eagles will get the ball to start the second half.
Cowboys Vs Eagles Leads NFL in Playoff Leverage for Week 14
The Dallas Cowboys are certainly playing like a playoff team as of late, but aren't in the clear yet when it comes to holding off Sunday's opponent -- nor the Washington Redskins -- in the NFC East. At 7-5, the Eagles and Redskins sit a game behind the Cowboys with identical 6-6 records.
The Cowboys going 5-0 from their first win at the Eagles in week 10 to their third divisional game of this stretch would go a very long way in cementing the Cowboys mid-season turnaround. As has always seemingly been the case in this division though, the same is said of the defending Super Bowl champs.
With a loss, the Cowboys stand just over a 50% chance at the postseason. A win would add 42 percentage points to this figure, setting up the Cowboys favorably through a December schedule that features the Colts, Buccaneers, and Giants.
NFL playoff leverage week 14
The only team with more at stake today is the visitors of AT&T Stadium. The Eagles gain 47 percentage points on their playoff hopes with a win, though even this marginally moves the needle over 50% for them. An Eagles loss all but ends their chances of repeating as NFC East winners.
Though the Redskins are reduced to their third quarterback in Mark Sanchez, their early kickoff at the 4-8 Giants provides hope that they'll remain in contention through the regular season. In a division that will be dictated by the moves made at the trade deadline, it sure feels like the Cowboys and Eagles are pulling away however - with Dallas in prime position to lap the competition starting Sunday.
If the Cowboys and the Giants win today, Dallas would have to lose out, and the Redskins or Eagles would have to win out in order for the Cowboys to lose the division. In other words, Dallas and NYG winning today would mean one more victory and the Cowboys clinch the NFC East.
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper has made a bigger difference than Dallas could have ever hoped for. With the Eagles secondary banged up again for their meeting with the Cowboys, a home team with sights set on playoff football could begin to fine tune their offense to match a defense that set the tone against Philadelphia last time out.
National pundits may be forecasting a "classic" late season collapse for the Cowboys, but fans know better than this. It was in fact early season losses that dug the hole the Cowboys are viciously fighting out of. Asking for this opportunity against the Eagles is as good as it gets for Jason Garrett's young team, once 3-5 after eight weeks that feel like ages ago.
So does any dominant stretch of football from the Eagles, though the Cowboys shouldn't be quick to find out just how much Philly wants to play spoiler.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dak Prescott Exploits Eagles’ Secondary
It's rivalry weekend for the Dallas Cowboys as they get ready to host the Philadelphia Eagles. It will undoubtedly be a special game since the Eagles are practically playing to save their season this time around. Tables have turned for these two teams with now the Cowboys as home favorites for this fun matchup.
As always, here's this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist. Enjoy!
Wish #1: Get Jourdan Lewis Playing Time
Cornerback Jourdan Lewis did a fantastic job versus the New Orleans Saints last week and I'm intrigued to see if the Cowboys will continue to find a job for him and get him on the field. Lewis had an interception and some other key plays in just eight snaps. Lewis has been an interesting narrative this year.
He's a good player and getting him more involved could result in good things for this team. We'll see if the Cowboys use him in this important divisional game.
Wish #2: Get The Early Big Lead, Rest Elliott
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has done an amazing job for the Cowboys over the past four weeks. Both in the passing and running game, Zeke has been able to consistently move the chains as he's received a huge workload to carry the offense and control the time of possession. He currently leads the league in touches per game.
If the Cowboys are able to get a big lead early, I wish we get to see a lot of backup RB Rod Smith. As much as we all love to watch Zeke be fed, this time Cowboys Nation should appreciate seeing him on the sideline a bit more than usual. For that to happen, though, an early considerable lead is required.
Wish #3: Improve on Red Zone
So far, the Dallas Cowboys have been able to efficiently move the ball and get first downs. What they have struggled with though, is the red zone. Many times, we've seen the offense settle for three instead of getting seven.
This Saturday I argued why, if the Cowboys are able to improve on red zone, this could be a playoff caliber unit. This team shouldn't struggle as much in this area. With Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, Amari Cooper lined up and a mobile QB, Scott Linehan's squad simply needs to do better.
Wish #4: Dak Prescott Gets 300 Yards
The Philadelphia Eagles have placed CB Jalen Mills on IR. With Ronald Darby out already, the Cowboys are about to face a very injured secondary. Philadelphia ranks 26th in passing defense. Dak Prescott's stats have greatly improved since week 7.
However, a big 300-yard performance has yet to occur. I wish he gets just that against the Eagles. For this, he'll certainly need help from his receivers, including Amari Cooper, who has been outstanding with a Star on his helmet.
What are your wishes for this week's matchup versus the Eagles?
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