The Dallas Cowboys have now scored at least 30 points in four consecutive games, rolling over the Redskins on the road Sunday to move to 4-3 on the season. Still chasing down the now 7-1 Eagles, the Cowboys needed this game badly, and were able to gut out a divisional win behind another strong offensive output that was supported by a defense taking advantage of Washington's banged up front.
With the Redskins missing three starters on the offensive line, the Cowboys built up their lead with three field goals in the third quarter and never looked back - sacking Kirk Cousins four times, recovering two fumbles, and scoring defensively with Byron Jones to seal the game with an interception.
As always, here are a few post game thoughts from my scout's perspective as we begin breaking down an emotional win for the Cowboys while preparing for the Kansas City Chiefs back in Dallas on Sunday.
Sean's Scout: Cowboys 33 Redskins 19
- Ezekiel Elliott's second career game in Washington started out just like his first, which was a forgettable performance. Losing two fumbles as a rookie in his second game last year, Elliott turned the ball over on Dallas' first play of the afternoon. This time though, Zeke responded brilliantly with 150 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 33 carries. Elliott's first touchdown was a perfect display of the extra gear that he had lacked in the open field earlier in the season. The Cowboys stayed ahead of the chains that entire drive, keeping the Redskins on their heels as Dak Prescott was once again deadly outside of the pocket. As the Dallas offensive line cleared things out for Zeke to score from 13 yards out, Elliott effortlessly got up to the safeties and did not have to even think about changing directions on his way to a big touchdown. That freakish speed paired with his power to fall forward for tough yards is what makes Elliott such a difference maker.
- This was one of the most sound games I've ever seen CB Orlando Scandrick play, and to no surprise it led to good things in the Cowboys' secondary against a Redskins team that ended up having to pass the ball from behind. Scandrick's highlight on the day was returning a blocked field goal that Tyrone Crawford got his hands on to set up a first and goal, but it was his toughness in coverage and skill to play both inside and out that made a huge difference. The Redskins throw a lot at opposing CBs with combination routes and plenty of speed on the outside, but Scandrick dealt with all of this by playing physical at the stem and trusting his coverage over the top when needed.
- Speaking of Tyrone Crawford, there aren't enough positive things to say about his ability to show up every week and make an impact on the defensive line. You just can't find many 3T defensive tackles in this game that would even be willing to kick out to LDE one year and RDE the next, but that has been the case for Crawford. It is no secret that the Cowboys needed to improve their rushing defense, and playing Crawford anywhere as one of your four down linemen does this. Washington ran for just 49 yards on the afternoon, and a big part of this was Tyrone Crawford's ability to keep blockers away from him with his strong base and low center of gravity to make plays down the line. Crawford has also shown the ability to surprise LTs with an outside rush to capture the corner with good burst and flatten the edge on passing downs. Add in the play of the season thus far for the 2017 Dallas Cowboys, Crawford's blocked field goal where he was lined up next to David Irving, and you have a veteran player that is finding a ton of ways to help this team compete right now.
- When the Cowboys turned over their secondary by letting some long-term starters walk in free agency, they were very public about their confidence in finding upgrades at the draft. A big part of these plans at cornerback also included Anthony Brown, a sixth round pick in 2016 that made an immediate impact last year with his easy speed and smooth coverage ability. Now, there is no hiding that Brown is struggling in his second season, and yesterday showed some flaws in his game that were strengths for him as a rookie. Brown is struggling in his movement ability and overall fluidity, which were traits that jumped off of his tape back at Purdue. Anthony Brown ran step for step with some of the fastest receivers in the league a year ago, putting him in position to win at the catch point with his length and anticipation. Failing to put himself in similar positions this year, Brown is also getting caught much more often with his eyes in the backfield - a recurring problem for him. As Jamison Crowder freed himself down the seam for a 41 yard gain to set up Washington's first touchdown, he put Brown in a position to be beat either inside or out off the snap. Separating from Brown and getting him off balanced, Crowder exploded downfield and tracked down a perfect pass from Kirk Cousins before Jeff Heath - who stood no chance - could recover as the safety over the top.
The Dallas Cowboys have their first win streak of the 2017 season! While it is not quite yet the 11 game run they went on last season to finish 13-3, the 4-3 Cowboys made a statement at the Redskins yesterday that they are (hopefully) done beating themselves and back to being one of the hardest teams to get to in the NFL.
With an offense that can't be stopped, doing what they were expected to do on the season, and a defense that knows they must simply limit big plays and get after the passer, the Cowboys are playing complimentary football ahead of another tough part of their schedule.
With the Chiefs and Falcons in their way before the Cowboys get a shot at the league-leading Eagles, the Cowboys will have a decent amount to clean up after this win prior to next Sunday. Stay posted right here to Inside The Star as we address much more from this game, and get you ready for Dallas' return to AT&T Stadium!
Cowboys Wishlist: Connor Williams Turns It Around
The Dallas Cowboys are on the road again as they travel to Indianapolis to face a hot 7-6 Colts team that's trying to sneak into the AFC Playoffs. It will be a tough challenge for a team that's struggled when playing out of AT&T Stadium but the Cowboys have changed a lot since they were a 3-5 unit. This time, they're one of the hottest teams in the NFL and are one win away from clinching the NFC East.
We surely are in for a great game. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy this week's edition of "Cowboys Wishlist."
Wish #1: Leighton Vander Esch Outplays Darius Leonard
As impressive as Leighton Vander Esch has been for the Dallas Cowboys, he's not alone in the Defensive Rookie of the Year race. On today's game, he'll meet his match in Colts LB Darius Leonard. A second rounder himself, Leonard leads the league in tackles with 135. He also is responsible for 11 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception.
Vander Esch, otherwise known as "Wolf Hunter" doesn't have such incredible stats, but playing time is a big reason why. His play has been pretty impressive, though. Ranked as the top rookie linebacker by PFF, hell be out there to prove who's the better player. I really wish he outplays Leonard en rout to the DROY award.
Wish #2: No Turnovers From Dak
455 yards, three touchdowns and another game-winning drive were more than impressive from Dak Prescott. I really have faith in him as the Cowboys' QB. But we can't ignore the three turnovers he was responsible for in such a close game versus the Philadelphia Eagles.
This game will be different. The Colts are a legit threat in the NFL right now and the Cowboys won't be the home team. Without Martin on the field, Prescott is likely to be pressured. If that's the case, he needs to watch out and avoid fumbles in the pocket.
It's really important the team takes care of the ball if they want the win versus Andrew Luck and company. I specifically wish Dak Prescott has a good game and does something he's done fairly well throughout his career: take care of the ball.
Wish #3: Connor Williams Turns It Around
Expectations were sky-high for second round pick Connor Williams. A starter in week 1, injury and poor play sidelined him in favor of Xavier Su'a-Filo. With Zack Martin out for the game, Williams has another opportunity to shine. This time he'll be lining up as the team's right guard between C Joe Looney and RT La'el Collins.
It's very important to remember Williams is only a rookie. Just because we're used to offensive line rookies to have immediate success for Dallas doesn't mean every one the team brings in will be as great starting off. A rough start is not the end of the world for Williams. Also worth noting, the majority of his playing time came under now-fired OL coach Paul Alexander. I'm convinced he'll turn things around and will become an important player for the Cowboys soon.
For now, I wish he takes advantage of the opportunity to play and does a great job to be considered again for the LG spot once Martin returns.
Wish #4: Amari Cooper Keeps It Up
The impact Amari Cooper has had on this team is quite frankly unbelievable. He should really be seen as this season's savior for the Cowboys. While the defense is winning games, without Cooper the offense would still be terrible and results wouldn't be the same. He has more than justified the first round pick the Jones traded away to get him.
In a big, road game like this one, I hope he keeps it up and has another huge performance. Whether it is multiple scores or a 100-yard game, I simply want to see him shine again.
Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report
The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.
We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.
- TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
- G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
- DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
- WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
- OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
- DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.
Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving. Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.
Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.
Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.
While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.
- G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
- LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
- S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
- WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
- TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
- S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable
The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.
Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.
Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.
Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.
Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.
The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.
Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.
Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.
While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.
Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.
The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.
Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.
The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.
Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.
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