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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Offense Gets Back To Basics In Win Over 49ers

Sean Martin

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Welcome back to Sean’s Scout – and welcome back to the win column, 2017 Dallas Cowboys! Coming off of the bye with a decisive 40-10 win at the San Francisco 49ers, the Cowboys finally showed off 60 minutes of football that displayed who this team is.

As the reigning NFC East champions, the Cowboys improved to 3-3 behind a rushing attack that gashed the 49ers for a season high 265 yards and a defense that created two takeaways while sacking rookie QB C.J. Beathard five times in his first start.

Even with the victory coming against a win-less, outmatched 49ers team, there was plenty to love from the Cowboys’ performance. While I can’t wait to dive into the coaches film and evaluate just how this team responded the way they did, here are my initial thoughts on Dallas’ week seven performance in another Monday morning edition of Sean’s Scout.

Sean's Scout: Offense Gets Back To Basics In Win Over 49ers

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis

  • Leading up to this game, it appeared that Chaz Green was going to be the team’s starter at LG. I wrote up that news here, endorsing a healthy Green as the best option between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, and had an incredibly hard time finding anyone that felt the same way. After watching Jonathan Cooper once again start and perform well, it is easy to see why. The Cowboys understand that they must set the tone with their running game, and Cooper has helped them do that up front. Cooper’s game has played very well to the offensive line’s overall ability to dominate athletically, on the move, and with power. Not a truly overpowering player, Cooper was solid at the point of attack against the tough DeForest Buckner Sunday. When he was able to clear to the second level, Cooper did so with great pad level and an above average punch to move bodies in the running game. Add in his performances against the stout defensive fronts of the Rams and Packers, and the Cowboys have a starter to trust at left guard moving forward.

 

  • Speaking of the Cowboys’ running game, it was refreshing to see this team execute what they do best with all eleven guys on offense. Major adjustments were not needed for an offense that had scored at least 30 points in consecutive losses, and this 40 point outburst started with everyone recommitting to running this offense through Ezekiel Elliott. As Cooper tightened up Dallas’ offensive line play, it was the inspired blocking performances from Jason Witten and the WRs on the outside that helped Elliott grind for 5.65 yards a carry. Zeke Elliott also took a screen pass 72 yards to the house in the first half, with Noah Brown and Brice Butler doing work downfield to lead him across the goal line. From here, the rest of the Cowboys’ offense showed off their lethal simplicity, as Dak Prescott did not have to win this game with his arm. Instead, getting Prescott outside of the pocket and finding ways to stretch the 49ers defense while playing ahead of the chains let Scott Linehan dictate this game – in an offensive performance that resembled many from a year ago, 13 of which went for wins.

 

  • Getting a season high seven receptions from Dez Bryant was also a great sign that the Cowboys’ offense was firing on all cylinders this afternoon, and it was great to see Bryant consistently find ways to win with his size and strength. Too much has been made about Bryant’s game regressing to a point where Prescott struggled to utilize his skill set effectively, but this simply wasn’t the case against the 49ers’ man coverage. Bryant was able to work inside of his defenders with ease, once again serving as a massive target for Dak to hit in rhythm. It was the touch from Prescott on Bryant’s touchdown reception that made the difference, as his man was able to recover late in the down with not a ton of room to work with in the end zone. The pass hung in the air for the perfect amount of time, allowing Bryant to make a play “above the rim” on it for a circus catch and score.

 

  • On the defensive side of the ball, the difference that Sean Lee makes at linebacker was of course felt against a San Francisco offense that has struggled to get out of their own way for much of this season. The Cowboys’ defense with Sean Lee is conceding just 16.3 points a game, compared to an unmanageable 35 a game without their leader. What was fascinating about Lee’s performance was the way he moved around to all three linebacker positions and was effective despite visibly limping a bit through the second half. With hopes that Lee at WILL and Anthony Hitchens at MIKE would fix a lot of this defense’s problems, it was Lee lining up to start the game at SAM as his replacement from the past two weeks in Damien Wilson remained at WILL. I had been skeptical of Wilson’s performance at this spot, but with Lee taking on blockers and finding the football, Wilson was just fine in flying around and finishing at the point of attack as he does best. Lee also helped take Jaylon Smith off the field by shooting gaps as a MIKE linebacker numerous times. This was as inspired a performance as I’ve seen Lee play, and it helped Rod Marinelli’s unit put a lot of moving parts into place at all three levels on defense.

 

  • The level where the Dallas defense has faced the most uncertainty in is the secondary, with inexperience and injuries causing a major lack of continuity in the back end. Having a rotation of safeties was so important for a defense that thrived in 2016 with heavy doses of Nickel and Dime sets. The Cowboys’ pass rush is improving, but it is still not consistent enough to shut down opposing passing offenses, meaning the Cowboys must change up looks in coverage. Trusting Xavier Woods more and more has allowed them to do just that, as the rookie sixth round pick has flashed the ability to play comfortably at all levels of the defense. On the 49ers’ first drive of the game, CB Jourdan Lewis was matched up with Pierre Garcon as the lone receiver on the weak side. With Lewis trailing on the corner route, Beathard saw an opportunity to throw the ball over the smaller defender for a first down. With great anticipation and burst, Xavier Woods was able to break over the top and tighten the throwing window as the pass was thrown too far outside and incomplete. Woods’ steady play has been absolutely critical for the Cowboys, as it has helped both Byron Jones and Jeff Heath alongside him to constantly play to their best traits.

✭✭✭✭✭

The Cowboys will have a much better time reviewing the film from this game at The Star compared to their previous two weeks before the bye. As mentioned, I’ll be doing the same throughout the week here at Inside The Star as Dallas prepares for a much more difficult test in the Washington Redskins on the road.

The Redskins will be in action on Monday Night Football tonight at the Philadelphia Eagles.

Until then, enjoy the fact that we made it back to Cowboys game day in emphatic fashion yesterday – and that this team is far from finished on the 2017 season.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: Offense Gets Back To Basics In Win Over 49ers” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we’re not how you think we are. Host of “Upon Further Review” on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Awuzie and Lewis Impress, Concerns Around Dez Bryant

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Awuzie and Lewis Impress, Concerns Around Dez Bryant

The Dallas Cowboys headed to New York a couple of days ago with a mission: survive a potential trap game versus a 2-10 New York Giants team. Despite not getting most of the help they needed from other teams around the league, at least Dallas was able to do the job they could control.

Through three quarters, the Cowboys struggled a lot. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when they decided to have a touchdown party, outscoring the Giants 20-0 in the final eight minutes of the game.

What did we learn from the Cowboys’ seventh win of the season? Here is this week’s edition of Takeaway Tuesday! 

Dak Prescott Bounced Back

Although the Cowboys are a team that’s barely breathing in the playoff race, the truth is there’re a lot of ways that Dak has improved as a QB. It’s easy to look at a team lose football games and blame the QB without hesitating. That’s been the case most of the season.

It’s fair to say that Prescott hadn’t had an awesome game in a long time, though. But this time, he did just that.

Film Room: How Dak Prescott Beat The Giants' Blitz

Dak Prescott needed a performance like this one. He threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday. He made some key throws and key reads during the game and managed to beat the Giants’ blitz with ease. Glad to see you hush the haters, 4.

Certainly a good thing to see when you need to go 3-0 in order to stay in the postseason conversation.

Concerns Around Dez Bryant Continue to Increase

Listen, I love Dez Bryant. He’s been one of my favorite players to ever watch. But at some point, you have to start admitting there is a problem. Yes, Dez Bryant has been struggling this season. Whether you want to blame Dak or Dez about it, it’s fair. I think they both are to blame.

The thing about Dez is that he can have quite a few bad plays and makes you forget about it when he  does something awesome. A perfect example of this is his 50-yard TD against the Giants last Sunday. It came at a perfect moment, but he had dropped some easy balls earlier in the game.

Dez – Streamable

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Dez is getting paid like an elite WR, and despite some great moments on the field, he’s been having a lot of bad ones lately. If you have a $70M contract, you can’t frequently drop passes like that.

It may be about chemistry with his new QB, it may be about age, or it may be just about a couple of bad years for the guy. Whatever it is, as much as we hate to say it, Dez isn’t anywhere close to the “top receivers” conversation this year.

Sean Lee Proved to be Invaluable Once Again

Less Is More For Sean Lee And Cowboys' LBs?I’m constantly amazed by the difference the Cowboys’ veteran linebacker makes when he’s on the field. In his heroic return against the Giants, he finished the day with 18 total tackles, 10 of which were solo. With Sean Lee on the field, this defense has been able to be a headache for opposing offenses.

Sean Lee could easily be this team’s MVP. For Cowboys Nation, it’s been a season of constantly missing football players in Dallas. Out of everyone, I think Sean Lee is the player we missed the most. Including Ezekiel Elliott.

This defense transforms into a very capable one with Lee around. The Cowboys need Zeke back if they want to have success in their hunt for the playoffs, but without Lee, they wouldn’t stand a chance.

Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis Are Still Killing It

Coming into this game, one of the biggest question marks was the cornerback position for Dallas. Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis were going to get the start, and there’s always uncertainty around rookies going up against a QB like Eli Manning.

lewis – Streamable

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Look at that coverage by Jourdan Lewis. Look at him turn his head around when the ball’s coming. The way this secondary will grow is exciting to think about. The Cowboys have something special in these two guys. They’ll make for an amazing CB duo for years to come, and I’m excited about what they bring to the table.

Chidobe Awuzie has played the last two games, and he’s been very impressive. Throughout the entire game, his converge was pretty impressive. Eli only targeted him 5 times in the ballgame and was able to complete just two passes against him.

Sean Lee ended up with the interception late in the fourth quarter, but it was perfectly set up by Chidobe Awuzie.

Awuzie – Streamable

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It was a very fun fourth quarter for the Dallas Cowboys, and even though it looks difficult… this football team’s playoff hopes are still alive. Jason Garrett must keep this team focused in the Oakland Raiders for now, though.

Hope dies last, Cowboys Nation. Keep your head up.

Tell me what you think about “Takeaway Tuesday: Awuzie and Lewis Impress, Concerns Around Dez Bryant” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Game Notes

Forget Elliott For Now, Cowboys Must Focus On Raiders

Kevin Brady

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Despite looking dead to rights just two weeks ago, back to back wins have put the Dallas Cowboys into the playoff hunt with just three games remaining.

In order to even have a chance at sneaking in as the sixth seed, Dallas will need to win each of its remaining games to finish 10-6. In some ways, the playoffs started two weeks ago when Dallas took on the Washington Redskins. But even though this Sunday’s contest is another must-win, elimination game for the Cowboys, it’s also a classic “trap” or “look ahead” game as well.

Before the season started, most expected the Oakland Raiders to be competing for AFC supremacy. Like the Cowboys, Oakland bursted onto the scene in 2016 with a young quarterback, a dynamic offense, and an exciting roster. But, like the Cowboys, they have faltered a bit this season due to underperforming stars, injuries, and a somewhat undermanned defensive unit.

The Raiders are now 6-7, and while still alive in the AFC West race, saw their best shot at overtaking the division go up in a smoke last Sunday as they were demolished by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Simply put, the Raiders are not a very good football team right now. And though this will be a road game for the Cowboys, it is one they should win if they are truly a playoff team. In fact, it’s one they have to win if they want to keep their slim playoff chances alive.

The reason why this could potentially be a “trap” game of sorts is who the Cowboys are scheduled to play after traveling to Oakland. A team who has been a perennial playoff contender in the NFC, and a team directly in front of the Cowboys in the current NFC standings – the Seattle Seahawks.

Not only will that Seattle game be massively important to the Cowboys if they can sneak out of Oakland with a victory, it will also feature the return of star running back Ezekiel Elliott from his six game suspension.

December 24th will be a huge day in Dallas if the Cowboys can get to 8-6 this week, but they can ill-afford to look ahead to that potentially important showdown with the Seahawks. Because if they do and the Raiders upset them at the home in primetime, the Cowboys season will end before Elliott even gets the chance to come back.

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Game Notes

Film Room: How Dak Prescott Beat The Giants’ Blitz

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: How Dak Prescott Beat The Giants' Blitz

While much of Sunday’s victory over the New York Giants featured some ugly football from the Dallas Cowboys, the team continued to fight until completing a 20 point route of their division rivals.

Of course, stars emerged on both the offense and the defense throughout the game. Rod Smith had a breakout day, Dez Bryant made a couple of “vintage” plays, and Sean Lee returned to health and led the defense to a fantastic performance.

But as we all know, quarterbacks make the world go ’round. And no matter how great the other pieces play, it’s hard to win football games unless you can maintain high level quarterback play.

Dak Prescott returned to that high level against the Giants on Sunday.

Even if Prescott is missing throws or having accuracy issues, he had never lost his composure or made the wrong reads until that Atlanta Falcons debacle. I really believe that Dak lost faith in his protection, began abandoning clean pockets, and ended up having a few bad games in a row.

All seems right with Prescott now, as he threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns during the Cowboys’ big win. The area he was most impressive, was with those reads – specifically against the blitz.

dalvsnyg dak to dez td – Streamable

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On his first touchdown pass of the game, Dak Prescott beats the blitz perfectly. Just before snapping the ball, Prescott notices the safety roll down into the box. You can see him subtly move his arm to point out the safety, while calling it out to his linemen as well.

As soon as he gets the snap, Dak knows exactly where to go. The Giants tried to beat him with a delayed safety blitz, but once that safety comes, Prescott knows he has Dez Bryant in man coverage on the perimeter.

His eyes immediately snap that way, and his throw replaces the blitzer quickly. This allows Bryant to do the rest, and the Cowboys to tie the game.

dalvsnyg 17 cole beasley – Streamable

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Later in the game we see more of the same from Dak Prescott. With the game tied at 10 the Cowboys faced a critical third down backed up in their own territory. The Giants once again show blitz, bring the  blitz, and Dak burns them for it.

The Giants show man coverage across the board pre-snap, with safety Landon Collins on the near hash. Cole Beasley is in the near-slot, and while he technically has a man over him directly, the Giants show 2-over-1 in the slot pre-snap. This usually tips off a blitz, as the Giants plan to bring their slot defender off the edge, and allow Landon Collins to cover Beasley one on one.

Prescott notices this pre-snap once again, and makes the defense pay. He quickly replaces the blitzer with his throw, allowing Beasley to make the easy catch underneath and then do the rest after the catch.

This may not seem all the difficult to do to those analyzing the game the next morning, but these reads indicate high level quarterback-ing from the Cowboys’ franchise leader, Dak Prescott.

Last season against the Giants, their defense was able to bring more than the Cowboys could block on key third downs a few times. Too often, Prescott and the passing offense could not beat those blitzes.

That was not the case this week at all.

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