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.
- 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.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Indianapolis
In a game we all hoped would clinch the NFC East division, the Dallas Cowboys instead got shut out by the Indianapolis Colts in one of their worst performances of the season. It was a deplorable performance in every aspect of the game and something we hope to never see again.
I knew sooner or later the Dallas Cowboys self-inflicted wounds would catch up to them, and that's exactly what happened against the Colts. They had far too many penalties and mental mistakes once again and it allowed Indianapolis to take over the game. The Cowboys beat themselves plain and simple.
Before I get on a rant about yesterday's game, I better stick to the topic at hand and share with you what I believe to be The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys. As always, please feel free to use the comment section located at the end of the article to share any of your thoughts and opinions on this topic.
In a game where just about everything went wrong for the Dallas Cowboys it sometimes a little difficult to find any kind of silver lining. That was the case this week after the Cowboys were shut out by the Indianapolis Colts. But, the good for me is that Dallas still holds their playoff fate in their hands, despite the embarrassing loss.
Any thoughts of sitting any of the starters for the Cowboys has now gone out the window. They absolutely have to play to win to close out the 2018 regular-season, because they failed to do what needed to be done against the Colts to secure the NFC East division title. Luckily though, it didn't close the door on their playoff aspirations.
With the Buccaneers and Giants left remaining on their schedule, the Cowboys will have to find some way to get back to their winning ways. Hopefully this was just the slap in the face they needed in order to put things in perspective. They simply can't afford another showing like they had against Indianapolis at any point moving forward.
I knew exactly what I was going to put in the section as soon as it happened during the game. The bad this week for the Dallas Cowboys against the Indianapolis Colts for me was without a doubt their banged up, patched together offensive line.
The Cowboys were forced to go with a patchwork offensive line for the majority of the game against the Colts yesterday afternoon after Xavier Su'a-flio left the game after an eye injury, forcing the Cowboys to go with their third string offensive guard Adam Redmond. Su'a-flio immediately had to leave the stadium to have his eye examined by an optometrist, suggesting that it was a pretty significant injury.
Unfortunately, another injury on the OL for the Cowboys leaves them severely thin depth wise at the most inopportune time. Hopefully a week of rest has done Zack Martin's injured knee some good and he will be able to return to the lineup as soon as possible. That would allow Connor Williams to move back to LG and hopefully solidify the offensive line once again.
Maybe I underestimated the Indianapolis Colts offense or maybe I just overrated the Dallas Cowboys defense, but something was clearly off yesterday afternoon on the defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys. After being so good nearly all season, they were just plain ugly against Indianapolis.
The Cowboys defense didn't have an answer for the Colts offense, especially in the running game. Marlon Mack, a solid runner although not spectacular, completely gashed the Cowboys usually stout run defense. He ran for 139 rushing yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns, something that's been unheard of against Dallas' run D.
I was honestly completely shocked he had so much success. There were far too many missed tackles and blown assignments to my liking and I believe the coaching staff will make sure to focus on clearing that up moving forward. This team can't afford to let opposing offenses control the clock with their rushing attack. That's the Cowboys MO.
What's your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against Indianapolis?
IND 23, DAL 0: Cowboys Get Shut Out, Embarrassed by Colts
The Dallas Cowboys must think they've already won the NFC East, because they looked like a team with nothing to play for today. The result was an embarrassing 23-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Cowboys were shut out for the first time since the 2003 season, which was Jason Witten's rookie year.
Dallas squandered a major time-of-possession advantage in the first half, finishing three drives with a blocked field goal, punt, and a failed 4th-and-1 play near the Colts' goal line. Indianapolis capitalized on their own drives and took a 10-0 lead into halftime.
The Colts got the ball back to start the third quarter and drove down for another touchdown. Down 17-0, Dallas responded with a weak drive and a punt. The game felt out of reach even then, with the Cowboys just looking flat from that point forward.
Ezekiel Elliott had 87 rushing yards 41 receiving for some empty production. Amari Cooper won't be winning any awards this week, held to just four catches for 32 yards.
Dak Prescott completed 62% of his passes for 206 yards. He was sacked three times and threw a late interception; an overthrown ball got tipped by the receiver and picked off on the team's final offensive series.
While the offense was especially bad today, the defense wasn't much better. Dallas surrendered 139 yards rushing yards and two touchdown to Colts RB Marlon Mack, who hadn't had a 100-yard game since October. Andrew Luck wasn't sacked and went virtually untouched the entire day.
The Cowboys could have taken the NFC East with a win, but they didn't come close. Hopefully this serves as a wake-up call with the postseason only a few weeks away.
- With the Redskins defeating the Jaguars today, Dallas will have to wait until next week to try to clinch the NFC East. The Cowboys needed losses by both Washington and Philadelphia if they didn't win themselves. The Eagles are visiting the Rams tonight.
- The Cowboys will get some softer competition to finish the year, hosting the Buccaneers next week and then going to play the Giants in Week 17.
- With the Bears defeating the Packers today and moving to 10-4, they will likely stay the #3 seed in the playoffs. That means Dallas, assuming they do win the NFC East, will almost certainly be hosting the 5th-seeded Seahawks in the first round.
- Jaylon Smith led the Cowboys with 11 tackles, but neither he or Leighton Vander Esch were making the big plays that we've grown accustomed to.
- Xavier Woods had the highlight play on defense, delivering a perfect hit to dislodge the ball from Colts TE Eric Ebron and stop a potential big gain.
- Blake Jarin and Dalton Schultz combined for seven catches for 68 yards; another week of increased TE production from what we've seen must of the year.
- Fullback Jamize Olawale doesn't get many opportunities on offense, and he may not get more after dropping an open touchdown on the team's second drive of the day.
Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Trailing Colts 10-0 at Halftime
The Cowboys have had no trouble moving the ball today, but they've failed to finish drives with points. Dallas is thus trailing the Indianapolis Colts 10-0 at halftime.
Dallas has had possession for over 19 minutes compared to just 10 for the Colts. But their three drives have ended with a blocked field goal, a failed 4th-and-1 play near the endzone, and a punt.
The offensive line continues to suffer from health issues. With Zack Martin already out and Connor Williams starting at right guard, Xavier Su'a-Filo left the game with an eye injury during the second quarter and will not return. Backup Adam Redmond is now playing.
The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win in any of their final three games. They could also clinch today if the Redskins and Eagles lose. Washington is trailing 10-3 in Jacksonville at halftime, and the Eagles are visiting the Rams tonight.
Hopefully, Dallas will start showing up on the scoreboard in the second half.
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