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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Secondary Play, Improved OL Stand Out in Cowboys Win Vs. Giants

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Secondary Play, Improved OL Play Stand Out in Cowboys Win Vs. Giants
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Not many things about the Dallas Cowboys performance through two weeks has been pretty, but when they look up on Monday morning they'll be leading the NFC East at 1-1. Evening their record with a win on Sunday Night Football against the New York Giants, the Cowboys did enough in front of their home crowd to hold off a late Eli Manning comeback.

Tavon Austin's long opening touchdown would set the tone for the Cowboys on their first possession. Points would be at a premium for both teams the rest of the way, leaving the Cowboys with plenty to like about their defense and reason to be encouraged on offense.

Here are my full takeaways from the Cowboys first win of 2018.

  • There aren't enough good things to say about the play call from Scott Linehan to get the ball over the top to Tavon Austin for the Cowboys first touchdown. 

The Cowboys were able to take advantage of Giants Safety Landon Collins playing down in the box, something he's had success doing against Dallas before. I thought that trend could continue when Collins called out the Cowboys offense leading up to this game, but it was Dak Prescott getting the last laugh.

Prescott knew exactly where the ball needed to be placed once Austin beat Janoris Jenkins cleanly, giving Tavon room to run under it and find the end zone for the first time as a Cowboy.

  • It was another tough match up for rookie Left Guard Connor Williams, but this time he was up for the challenge of playing on the second level and getting out in space.

The Cowboys should be happy with Williams' steady progress at LG, as he took another step forward on Sunday night. A converted tackle from college, Williams looked much better playing on the move, which is when the entire Cowboys OL is at its best.

Not only was Williams comfortable handling more wrinkles in the play book, but he was able to play with improved power and leverage to get to the second level often. With Center Joe Looney holding his own against Damon Harrison, the Cowboys went back to their roots in grinding out this NFC East win.

  • That's a fantastic play by Jeff Heath to run across the field and tackle Evan Engram short of the line to gain on third down.

The Giants drive would continue with a fourth down conversion, but the Cowboys defense did eventually force a punt.

The Cowboys safeties were primarily called upon to play in run support in this game, a role Heath has struggled in previously. Showing off his strengths as an athletic and rangy defensive back on this play, Heath didn't get pushed up the field by Engram on his release, hunting him down after the catch in front of a fired up Dallas bench.

  • Speaking of the Cowboys safety usage in this game, it was a standout performance against Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants receivers by Cornerbacks Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie. 

Both Awuzie and Jones were asked to play on an island for much of this game, and handled this as well as Kris Richard could ask for. Beckham's longest reception was for 17 yards. The Cowboys kept the Giants best play maker in front of them all night, giving them a fighting chance to slow down RB Saquon Barkley.

Barkley was able to punish the Cowboys front seven a number of times with broken tackles, but never escaped the Cowboys grasp enough for the Giants to sustain a drive until the fourth quarter.

I'm not sure if the Cowboys strong cornerback duo of Awuzie and Jones were expected to play this well as early into the season as we are, but their man coverage ability has really allowed Dallas to mix things up on defense.

  • Kris Richard's impact on the Cowboys defense went beyond the secondary play against the Giants, as the team remained aggressive in blitzing the Giants offensive line.

It sure felt good to see the Cowboys exploit the Giants weakness up front, not content with letting their front four create the only advantage on defense. Knowing what Eli Manning is capable of when sitting in the pocket, the Cowboys disrupted the Giants passer all night by relentlessly sending stunts and blitzes at him.

Damien Wilson had a bounce back game at linebacker by using his speed to pressure Manning. Getting home for a game-changing sack, Wilson knocked the ball out of Manning's hand and created a turnover for his defense.

Defensive End Taco Charlton, who had a sack from the RDE position, recovered the fumble for Dallas. It was the right side of the offensive line for the Giants that let them down, but with so much attention being given to DeMarcus Lawrence at left end, Charlton simply had a free run at Manning for his sack.

  • That's a bad miss by Dak Prescott of Rico Gathers in the end zone off the Cowboys only turnover.

Looking to put the game away after their fumble recovery, the Cowboys called the perfect play for Tight End Rico Gathers - who was active in a regular season game for the first time. The play became an example of just how far criticism of Scott Linehan should stretch, as Prescott simply didn't execute.

Gathers sold his route up the field perfectly, breaking for the back corner of the end zone and running to open space before finding the ball sail over his head. Had Prescott thrown a better ball, Gathers turns around and easily secures a touchdown.

Who knows what the internet would be like this morning if he did. Nonetheless, the Cowboys settled for a Brett Maher field goal and took a 13-0 advantage before the Giants began their climb back into the game.

The Cowboys shouldn't be discouraged from using Gathers more in the passing game, but whether or not they will depends on the numbers they need on the active roster each game day.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The only NFC East team to earn a win in week two, the Cowboys have a long way to go to prove they're contenders in the division. With the Seahawks coming to town this week, the Cowboys will be reminded of how quickly things can go wrong, as Seattle's win in AT&T Stadium a year ago ended their hopes of making the playoffs.

On Sunday night, it was the Cowboys hindering the Giants chance to do just that by forcing an 0-2 start in New York. The Cowboys were impressive in their control of the game, executing a great game plan on defense while the offense started fast and finished with a physical drive in the fourth quarter.

Getting back to work after a win is always best, and such is the week ahead for the Dallas Cowboys.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Secondary Play, Improved OL Stand Out in Cowboys Win Vs. Giants" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, 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 wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

Game Notes

L.P. Ladouceur Insists “Nothing Different” on FG Attempt

John Williams

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Cowboys Blog - Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur Is Greatest 91 In Dallas Cowboys History

There were other plays that certainly had as much of an impact on the outcome of the Dallas Cowboys loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday. However, sequence of events surrounding L.P. Ladouceur and the game-tying field goal attempt are front and center.

Prior to Brett Maher's game-tying 52 yard field goal attempt clanged off of the left upright as time expired, backlash on social media had already begun to spread about the so-called "snap infraction" that moved the Dallas Cowboys from what would have been a 47 yard field goal attempt to the 52 yarder that Maher pulled.

Five yards closer and Maher gets that kick through the uprights and the Dallas Cowboys go to overtime with a chance to take the division lead. It didn't and the Cowboys fell to 3-4, now a game and a half behind the Washington Redskins as the Cowboys head into the bye.

After the game, many of us were watching the snap and trying to figure out what exactly he did wrong to warrant the penalty. According to L.P. Ladouceur, he did nothing wrong and was adamant about that in the rare post game interview.

“I just adjusted down so I could put my hands on the bottom of it so I could snap it in the right direction. Exact same thing I’ve been doing for 14 years … I’m not even trying to get him offside. I know the situation. Just too bad.” 

L.P.Ladouceur - via Todd Archer, ESPN.com

It was a rare "miscue" for the 14 year veteran deep snapper. Seriously, I can't remember a time when this call was made on a deep snapper or when Ladouceur had a bad snap. He's been excellent. If deep snappers could get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, L.P. would be a first ballot Hall of Famer. He's been that good.

As Cowboys Nation attempted to make sense of the call, the NFL Officials Twitter account had an explanation of the penalty call after the game, which may give you more understanding, or more frustration.

NFL Officiating on Twitter

The illegal ball movement by the center in #DALvsWAS causes the defense to come across the neutral zone and contact a lineman." -AL https://t.co/Cv8Ugwb99p

Their argument was that Ladouceur moved the ball in his snap and that is an "illegal ball movement." It was that movement which caused the defender to come into the neutral zone and make contact with the offensive lineman.

I'll have to admit, watching deep snapper All-22 film is not something I'm going to find myself doing and so, we'll lean on Mike Garafolo here.

Mike Garafolo on Twitter

Just watched a few of L.P. Ladouceur's snaps in recent weeks. He moves the ball a lot at times. Nothing out of the ordinary here. The difference could be that nobody jumped on previous snaps. https://t.co/kc10gtMJ11

If what Garafolo says is true, that L.P. Ladouceur does move the ball a lot on his snaps, then how come he hasn't been called for it before. Mike could be right in that he hasn't been called for this before because no one has ever jumped offsides when he moved before. Regardless, the call has me wondering one of two things as to why they called it all of a sudden. 1) Either the officials don't usually see the ball movement or 2) they don't care. And both leave me a bit frustrated.

If they don't typically see the ball movement, then that means they didn't see the movement on Sunday and relied on the movement of the interior defensive lineman jumping offsides to make the call. To me, that is a problem. The officials need to be the ones making the call in these situations, especially a game-tying field goal attempt where five yards can make a huge difference. A defender is always going to act like he got drawn offsides. It's the officials job to make that call. Not the defense's.

If they don't typically care what long snappers are doing with the football prior to the snap, then why did they call it this time? A long snapper, like a kicker and punter, has a routine they go through prior to the snap to get their mind and body right. There's zero chance after 14 years in a game-tying situation that L.P. Ladouceur changed his approach to snapping on this particular field goal try.

The NFL Officiating body of the NFL says what he did is a penalty. Ladouceur says that's how he's always snapped.

So it begs the question, "why now?"

If that's always been a penalty and he's always snapped it like that, why did they pick that time in that situation to make that call. It may have been the right call, but it was a ticky-tack call and it inserted the officials into the outcome of the football game. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys killed themselves with a lot of penalties in really bad situations on Sunday. Like the Connor Williams hold to negate the Cole Beasley first down reception prior to the Ryan Kerrigan strip of Dak Prescott that led to a touchdown. However, you never want a penalty to decide a game.

On Sunday, the officiating crew asserted themselves to call a penalty on a play they either didn't see or didn't care about in L.P. Ladouceur's 14 year career to date. And while, Maher still could have -- and should have -- made that kick, there's no denying that the penalty had an impact on the game.

You never want to point to officiating as the reason your team loses a game, because there are always calls that go against either team that you could argue were bad calls. Unfortunately, this bad call pushed Brett Maher's field goal attempt back five yards, which had a direct impact on the game.

It may have been a penalty, it was a weak call at a really bad time for the Dallas Cowboys. With only nine games remaining in the 2018 NFL season, that call certainly hurt their chances of making the playoffs.

It's just another in a long line of officiating decisions that has hurt the Dallas Cowboys and that act is getting old.



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Game Notes

3 Stars from Cowboys Loss to the Redskins

John Williams

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Cowboys Roster: Dallas Made Right Decisions on Unproven Skill Players

Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. That's where we stand after seven games with the Dallas Cowboys alternating home wins and road losses and through nearly half the schedule en route to their 3-4 record.

It was a disappointing loss after a defensive effort that held the Washington Redskins to 13 points on the day. The offense had some good moments, but the road inconsistency and penalties killed throughout the NFC East matchup. The Dallas Cowboys playoff chances took a substantial hit with the loss. With only nine games left in the season, the Cowboys are probably going to have to go 7-2 to make the playoffs.

It's not impossible they could get on a run, but it certainly looks bleak.

Before we move forward, let's look back and highlight this week's 3 Stars of the game.

First Star

Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins

There were several players that gave the Dallas Cowboys offensive line fits on Sunday, but Ryan Kerrigan's strip-sack of Dak Prescott in the fourth quarter was the difference in the football game.

The Cowboys were trailing by three and after being backed up because of a holding penalty on Cowboys' Left Guard Connor Williams. Dallas was facing a 3rd and 14 at their own 10 yard line. Dak Prescott had good initial protection, but held the ball too long allowing Kerrigan to get to him, strip the ball, and Preston Smith recovered in the end zone to put the Redskins up by 10 with less than five minutes to play.

Kerrigan finished the game with five tackles (4 solo), two sacks, one tackle for loss, a pass deflection, the forced fumble, and two quarterback hits. It was a strong day for one of the longtime Redskins greats.

Second Star

Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins didn't really have a lot of offensive weapons at their disposal aside from Tight End Jordan Reed and Running Back Adrian Peterson. Adrian Peterson had a good game against a stout Dallas Cowboys run defense, which kept the Cowboys defense off-balance most of the afternoon.

His 22 carries for 99 yards may not be the best game ever, but his ability to hit some big runs early and run with consistency early in the game put the Redskins ahead of the chains. On a day when the Redskins were down three of the top four receiving targets, Peterson needed to be effective for Washington to have a chance. He was a big reason the Redskins put up the 13 points on offense that they did.

Peterson ran hard "All Day" and made life difficult for the Dallas Cowboys defense.

Third Star

Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

After last week's performance, I wrote a piece predicting that a breakout game was imminent for rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup.

He delivered the best game of his career Sunday afternoon against the Washington Redskins hauling in three receptions on five targets for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Gallup's touchdown reception was a beautiful double move that left the Redskins corner in the dust on his way to his first career touchdown. It was a huge play at the end of the first half that put the Dallas Cowboys on the board. They hadn't really gotten much going prior to that drive. It was a nice step forward for Gallup who has been making strides since some early season struggles.

The Dallas Cowboys have needed someone to step up on the outside to take some of the pressure off of Cole Beasley in the slot and Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. With another solid performance under his belt, Gallup is proving that he is a starter for the Dallas Cowboys now and in the future.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Who were your 3 Stars of the game in the Cowboys disappointing loss Sunday?



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Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins 5

Well, here we are again. The Dallas Cowboys lose another close game, but this time it might hurt a little bit more since it was to the division rival the Washington Redskins. This was definitely a game that could've gone either way since neither team played well, but in the end things just happened to go the Redskins way this time.

One or two things going just a little differently for the Cowboys likely would've been enough to secure the victory Sunday afternoon and I'm not even talking about Brett Maher's missed field goal. For instance, what if Quarterback Dak Prescott would've taken the safety instead of fumbling and letting the Redskins defense score a TD. That mistake it definitely hurt!

I could sit here and play the "what if" game with you all day, but we have nearly two weeks to do just that since the Cowboys are now on their bye week. Today, I want to share with you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from the first of two meetings between these two teams. Enjoy!

The Good

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

In yet another sloppy performance on the road, there was very little good to take away from the first meeting of the 2018 season between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. I think the one thing I will remember the most, in a positive way, from this matchup is Wide Receiver Michael Gallup's long touchdown pass from Quarterback Dak Prescott.

Michael Gallup continues to make plays when given the opportunity. In another offense with a better play caller and maybe even a better QB, Gallup would likely be in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but has failed to make much of an impact with the Cowboys so far. Hopefully that will change after the bye week though.

If I'm the Cowboys coaching staff, I'm going to find ways to get Michael Gallup more involved in the passing game coming out off the bye week. Other than Cole Beasley, he is the only one who is having much of an impact and definitely needs to see more targets. I would make that a top priority moving forward.

The Bad

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

There is so much that I could put in this section, but I think the worst thing that happened Sunday afternoon when the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Redskins was the fact that we will have nearly 2 weeks of having to listen and talk about it. For me, that is the bad!

Yes, you read that right. Now that the Cowboys are heading into their bye week, we have two entire weeks to dissect and analyze everything that has gone right or wrong this year, especially what happened against the Redskins since it's the freshest in our minds.

This was definitely a tough loss, and one that could come back and hurt the Cowboys when it comes to playoff seeding at the end of the season. Too many mental mistakes and penalties definitely assisted in the letdown, but in the end they just weren't good enough to win on the road. That's absolutely something that needs to change since they haven't won a road game all season.

The Ugly

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

I'm going to have to go with both the offense and defense for the Dallas Cowboys as the ugly against the Redskins Sunday afternoon. Neither unit really played all that well, even though they both probably played well enough to win the game if just a few things would've gone just a little bit differently.

On the offensive side of the ball the Cowboys couldn't get anything going for nearly the entire game. The Redskins did an excellent job of bottling up Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott couldn't get anything going in the passing game until the fourth quarter. They did have a few big plays called back due to holding penalties, but overall it was a pretty sloppy performance.

Defensively things weren't much better. The Cowboys have been pretty good at stopping the run this season, but for some reason couldn't find an answer of how to stop Adrian Peterson. The defense probably played better than the Cowboys offense, stopping the Redskins in the red zone on several occasions and only giving up one TD, but in the end it just wasn't enough.

What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Redskins?



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