- Dez Bryant
- Lance Dunbar
- Brice Butler
- Kellen Moore
- James Hanna
- Terrel McClain
- Ryan Russell
It does not look as if either Bulter or Hanna will be able to play this week, which is unfortunate as both could have played a big role against the Patriots. Butler's injury unfortunately means Devin Street will have to take significant snaps on the outside.
After his performance over the past few weeks I was ready to have Lucky Whitehead active over Street, who has provided absolutely nothing for the offense. This week I feel Matt Cassel will dress as the back up Quarterback to Brandon Weeden.
Cowboys Offense vs Patriots Defense
I will go slightly against the grain and say that while the Patriots have shown struggles against the run in the first quarter of the season, they have had two weeks to work on cleaning it up. They have also had two weeks to think of nothing else besides the Dallas Cowboys and their offensive tendencies with Brandon Weeden as their Quarterback.
It's also a foregone conclusion that they will again attempt to take away Jason Witten as they have during each matchup between these teams.
The key is to do something out of character, which leads me to believe the Cowboys may be their most dangerous in a four-minute offense. Brandon Weeden effectively marched the ball down the field against the Saints when pressed into the situation. He has been quoted as saying, "We practice that situation more than anyone in the NFL."
Lucky Whitehead has the same traits as Lance Dunbar; using him to run quick screens, Texas routes, and other underneath routes could keep the Patriots Defense off balance. If the Cowboys quickly rush to the line, it will also allow Witten to not have to deal with double teams and bracket coverage all game.
Rotating between 10 (One Running Back and Zero Tight Ends) and 0 (No backs or ends) personnel packages could confuse and wear out the Patriots. I feel this approach would work best with Darren McFadden, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, and Lucky Whitehead on the field. With Gavin Escobar rotating with Whitehead.
With the field spread out it gives Weeden the opportunity to see the field and immediately identify mismatches pre-snap.
The Cowboys would still be able to run the ball out of this package. This would be a wrinkle that the Patriots would not expect from the Cowboys and could give the unit a competitive advantage.
On paper, the Patriots Defense is far from overwhelming, but their offense is scoring nearly forty a game. Therefore, the Cowboys Offense will need to score points and not worry about keeping Tom Brady off the field. At this juncture, you have to go in assuming that upwards of thirty points will be needed in order to win.
Key Match Up: Scott Linehan vs Matt Patricia
Scott Linehan will have to call an amazing game, period. The entire Offensive Coaching Staff will have to make sure they have a scheme and game plan with the mindset of having to win in a shootout.
Even though Jason Garrett is not fond of trick plays, this would be the game for Scott Linehan to pull one out. It is something Patricia and Bill Belichick wouldn't have seen on film and could steal a touchdown of field position for the team.
Even the Flea Flicker that Dallas Cowboys Staff Writer Nick Eatman calls for would be a wrinkle that could catch the Patriots off guard. Linehan will have to take the handcuffs off Weeden, open the playbook up, and show no fear with aggressive play calls.
Slight Advantage Patriots
Cowboys Defense vs Patriots Offense
The Tom Brady led unit presents a stiff challenge for the Cowboys Defense, yet there are ways to slow them down. This would be a great game to have Randy Gregory, but with Rolando McClain, Greg Hardy, and a seemingly healthy Sean Lee, the Cowboys have a fighting chance.
The battle starts up front. I know Rod Marinelli has stressed getting pressure to Brady is the one way to limit his efficiency. If the Defensive Line is able to cause Brady to move from his initial spots, that should be considered a success on every play.
Well-timed blitzes are also important.
If Marinelli is able to disguise a blitz and the looks he gives Brady they may be able to break his rhythm. This is a game Tyrone Crawford really needs to show up, if he gets constant pressure up the middle Brady will have a difficult time in the pocket.
Mo Claiborne - who proved me wise last week to focus on him - should follow Julian Edelman all over the field. Mo was able to limit Brandin Cooks last week, and the same should be asked of him against Edelman. Press Coverage against Edelman will limit the underneath pass plays to him, taking away one of their top weapons.
Rob Gronkowski should draw Byron Jones all night. If Mo is able to handle Edelman without help, it gives Jones the opportunity to be physical with Gronk off the line and have help over the top. If Gronk lines up on the outside or in the slot, Brandon Carr has the size to match him if he is physical at the line and has help.
The key to limiting Gronk is to always identify where he is on the field and get a hand on him on every single play. Unlike many others, I feel Jones can keep Gronk in check enough to give the Defense a fighting chance.
He was a first round draft pick for moments like this and I have the belief he is ready to make a name for himself against a dynamic player.
If the Cowboys deploy this approach, I feel the onus lays with Carr and Tyler Patmon to not get beat as the Linebackers can handle the Patriots' running game and Dion Lewis out of the backfield.
If Lee is cleared to play, his playmaking ability will be huge for this defense.
Key Match Up: Cowboys Defensive Line vs Patriots Offensive Line
Plain and simple, the Cowboys can't just win up front, they need to dominate up front.
Make Brady uncomfortable and this offense can be held down enough to give the Cowboys Offense a chance to win.
Whenever Greg Hardy is on the field he needs to be a difference maker. Jeremy Mincey will also have to play inspired this week. David Irving will need to continue his solid play. They need to hit Brady whenever they can and make sure his pocket is never clean.
It's a tall order for the Defensive Line this week, but for the Cowboys to win they will have to answer the challenge and give Brady a miserable afternoon in Texas.
Strong Advantage Patriots
Special Teams Match Up
This is where the Cowboys have the advantage and can possibly change the tide of the game. The Patriots have only Punted five times through three games, and if the Cowboys can get another blocked punt or a huge return, the tide of the game can change.
While settling for Field Goals is a disaster in games like this, you would still give Dan Bailey the advantage over Stephen Gostkowski.
While the Cowboys can win, I just have the feeling they will enact a far too conservative Offensive strategy to complete the task. If they come out and simply attempt to establish the run as I expect, I feel that is playing into the Patriots hands and may not provide the best results.
The Defense will play far better than expected as McClain and Hardy are impact players that will help protect Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, and DeMarcus Lawrence. While the Cowboys may lose, Byron Jones will put up an amazing effort against Gronkowski proving that he will develop into a quality hybrid Secondary player for the Cowboys.
To get this victory, they'll need to capitalize on every opportunity they have for turnovers. They have allowed a number of Interceptions to slip through their fingers and that cannot happen against an offense like this.
This game will be closer than expected if the Defense plays anywhere near their potential.
The Way Of Smooth
While a victory against the defending champions will be difficult, I hope it comes to pass. Mainly because I don't want to imagine next week if the Patriots dominate this game and see the headlines about Hardy's comments.
If the Cowboys can fight their way to a win that will dampen that narrative a good deal and save the team from a week of answering unnecessary questions.
Bottom line? Less talk and let's execute on the field.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Atlanta
It may not have been very pretty, but the Dallas Cowboys were able to keep their playoff hopes alive by defeating the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday afternoon. It's a place that wasn't kind to them a season ago, but they were able to overcome their demons and secure a much-needed victory.
This is a game that ended up being a lot closer than it probably needed to be. Missed opportunities and mental mistakes once again plagued this Cowboys team, but they continued to scratch and claw their way in a hostile environment to put another "W" in the win column.
With the game still fresh in our minds, I thought it would be a good time to share with you what I believed was The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys yesterday against the Atlanta Falcons. As always, please feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions in the comment section located at the end of the article.
It should come to no surprise after the way he's played these last couple weeks, but I decided to go with Running Back Ezekiel Elliott for the good this week for the Dallas Cowboys. I could have easily gone with Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch because he was definitely deserving as well, but for me Zeke edged him out by a narrow margin.
Ezekiel Elliott put the team on his back Sunday afternoon and led them to a victory, just like he did a week ago against the Philadelphia Eagles. He pretty much was the Cowboys offense yesterday, accounting for more than 200 total yards by himself. He not only finished the game as the leading rusher with 122 yards on the ground and a touchdown, but the leading receiver as well with seven catches for 79 yards.
Zeke has been absolutely dominating here recently and hopefully he can keep it up with the division rival Washington Redskins coming to town on Thanksgiving. It's a game that will likely determine the outcome of the NFC East division.
He may have made the game-winning field goal, but Kicker Brett Maher's inconsistency here lately is the bad this week for the Dallas Cowboys in my opinion. His missed extra point attempt against the Falcons came very close to costing them the victory, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see a few kickers brought in Monday on a tryout basis.
Over the past several years we've kind of been spoiled by having Dan Bailey, one of the most accurate kickers to ever play the game. I believe the Cowboys made the right decision to move on from Bailey earlier this year, especially after seeing the way he's struggled with inconsistency himself in Minnesota. But, Maher's recent struggles is starting to become more and more of a concern.
We've seen too many instances this season where a missed or made field-goal impacts the outcome of the game one way or another. This week they were fortunate enough to come out on top, but just imagine how the NFC division race would look if Maher would've made the one in Washington instead of clanking it on the upright.
I could've easily went with the penalties or mental mistakes in this section this week for the Dallas Cowboys, but I ultimately decided the ugly against the Falcons was Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie being victimized once again. Opposing quarterbacks continue to throw his direction and unfortunately they're finding quite a bit of success.
I hear a lot of fans around Cowboys Nation wanting to see Jourdan Lewis get a shot at starting on the outside over Awuzie, but I don't think that's the right move at this time. I still think Awuzie is playing at a high level, but unfortunately he's just been the victim of some really good catches by receivers he's covering at the time.
Both this week against the Falcons and last week against the Eagles we saw Awuzie with tight coverage on Julio Jones and Alshon Jeffrey, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to prevent the completion from happening. That's just been the way things have gone for him this season. If he can learn to get his head around and locate the ball, he would find much more success and not be targeted as much.
What is your Good, Bad, and Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Falcons?
Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons
The Dallas Cowboys are returning home for Thanksgiving with a 5-5 record, needing to earn road wins at Philadelphia and Atlanta in the last two weeks to do so. Sunday's revenge win at the Falcons did not come easy, as the Cowboys conceded their first touchdown in the final two minutes of regulation to tie the game.
Missed opportunities in the red zone and penalties all had a say in the Cowboys needing a walk off Brett Maher field goal to win. Running Back Ezekiel Elliott once again sparked the offense in the second half, as the Cowboys defense assured this game wouldn't be a shootout in the first 30 minutes.
Here are my observations on the Cowboys latest thrilling win, greatly increasing their chances at reclaiming the top spot in the NFC East considering the Redskins home loss to the Texans.
- A great down-the-line play from rookie Dorance Armstrong on the Falcons' opening possession to set up DeMarcus Lawrence's first sack.
The Cowboys came into this game thin across the defensive line. Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins and Defensive End Dorance Armstrong really took advantage of the opportunity, pushing the pocket against Matt Ryan and freeing up the Cowboys linebackers to be themselves.
Lawrence's sack was the play that got the Cowboys off the field on third down, but Armstrong meeting Ito Smith in the hole for no gain was as big of a play on second down. The Falcons were smart to test the interior of the Cowboys defense and use the power run to set up their vertical passing game, but Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard simply had their guys ready to play.
If Collins and Armstrong can sustain their high-energy level of play with Antwaun Woods and Daniel Ross working their way back into the Cowboys rotation at DT, this defense can reach a new level of play given their speed in the back seven and ability to give opposing offensive lines fits with just four up front.
- Cole Beasley did more than enough to make up for it, but his drop in the end zone on the Cowboys first scoring drive is one he'll want back for a while.
The Cowboys play calling on their first goal-to-go situation left a lot to be desired, but Beasley was still able to make a scoring play with the ball in his hands at the pylon. Beasley bobbled the ball going to the ground and couldn't come up with it.
On the next play, the Cowboys finally targeted Amari Cooper, although without Ezekiel Elliott on the field. It was the combination of Cooper on the outside and Elliott in the backfield that provided a boost to the Cowboys offense last week at the Eagles, and for whatever reason they went away from it consistently against the Falcons.
Beasley's 19 yard catch and run on the Cowboys final drive set them up to run Elliott and kick the game winning field goal, giving Prescott an easy target on a crossing route. These are the types of inconsistencies the Cowboys will have to happily live with as they review this win and prepare on a short week for the Redskins.
- Head Coach Jason Garrett should be questioned about how his offense handled the last drive of the first half.
Trailing by three in a game still looking for its first touchdown, the Cowboys came out firing with 29 seconds left in the first half before shutting the drive down themselves. After Elliott advanced the ball to the Cowboys 35 and prompted a timeout, his catch and run for eight yards was the final play of the half.
I have no problem with the Cowboys getting the ball safely into the hands of Elliott, but after gaining positive yards on two receptions it's inexcusable to sit on a timeout without attempting a pass to the end zone.
- The Cowboys play calling improved in the second half, evident on Dak Prescott's rushing touchdown to give the Cowboys a 12-9 lead.
Again, taking the good with the bad, the Cowboys did go to this zone read look one too many times in the second half. From four yards out against a defense playing without one of their most talented players in Linebacker Deion Jones, Prescott faking to Elliott and keeping himself is as smart and safe a play as Linehan could have called.
Prescott's score was followed by Leighton Vander Esch's second interception in as many weeks, allowing the Cowboys to go right back to hammering the football. It took just two carries for Elliott to cover 31 yards and put the Cowboys ahead 19-9 off the turnover.
His 23-yard touchdown was sprung by Right Guard Zack Martin, who deserves a ton of credit for not only dealing with an injury sustained last week but seemingly finding an even higher level of play since then to motivate his teammates.
Joe Looney filled in well for Travis Frederick once again, and Xavier Su'a-Filo replaced a now-healthy Connor Williams for the second straight game, making Martin's elite level of play much more important.
Martin's lone mistake in this game came at a costly moment though, as a false start penalty backed the Cowboys up before punting it back to the Falcons for the tying score. Although the penalty created a third and 13 that Dallas used to keep the clock running on a dump off to Elliott, their second down play call to go with another zone read was costly as well.
Prescott lost two yards on a play that didn't fool the Falcons in the slightest, creating the original third and eight situation.
- Chidobe Awuzie was actually in good position on Julio Jones' fourth quarter TD, but as has been the case all season he reacted late and was beat with the ball.
Awuzie ran stride for stride with Jones, doing his best to force the Falcons best receiver towards the sideline. To Jones' credit, he was able to stay true to his route and run under a perfect pass from Matt Ryan.
Awuzie's fate was sealed on the play when he failed to react in time to jump with Jones, who simply elevated over the Cowboys struggling cornerback to give the Falcons new life in this game. Awuzie has been given every opportunity to be the Cowboys starter across from Byron Jones, trusted by Kris Richard to be a valuable part of this defense.
Quarterbacks in need of a completion have been able to pick on Awuzie far too much this season. The Cowboys don't appear to be in any rush to change this, as Cornerback Jourdan Lewis is designated to handling jet sweeps for the Cowboys offense while Anthony Brown remains the starter in the slot.
It was Brown that struggled through all of 2017 before finding his form again this year, perhaps giving Awuzie some hope that he can respond sooner rather than later.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The early slate of games proved to be a massive one for NFC East implications. The Cowboys escaped Atlanta with a win, and minutes later the Texans put the finishing touches on a win at the Redskins. Much earlier in the afternoon, unbeknownst to the Cowboys fighting for their life at the time, the Redskins also lost Quarterback Alex Smith.
Smith broke his tibia on a hit from J.J. Watt, and will need season ending surgery according to his Head Coach Jay Gruden.
This division has been waiting for a team to seize control of it all season. Realizing this, the Cowboys didn't sulk through their poor start and made the right moves to play into contention - playing as the desperate team that often achieves a lot in this game through their last eight quarters.
DAL 22, ATL 19: Elliott, Maher Carry Cowboys to Season-Saving Win
A last-minute field goal by Brett Maher lifted the Dallas Cowboys to a 22-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. On the strength of 201 yards of total offense out of Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas improved to 5-5 and arguably saved their 2018 season.
Elliott had 122 yards rushing and 79 receiving today, plus scored one touchdown, to make up well over half of the team's offensive production. Dak Prescott was also solid, throwing for over 200 yards and committing no turnovers.
Dallas and Atlanta traded field goals in the first half, and the Falcons took a 6-3 lead into the locker room. But the Cowboys answered with a tying field goal on their first second-half possession, then scored a touchdown on their next drive.
Maher was 3/3 on his field goals today, which included a 50-yarder. A missed extra point created concern, but the Cowboys kicker delivered in the biggest moments.
Once again, Dallas' defense was impressive and played a major part in the win. The Falcons never got into the endzone until their last possession.
- Leighton Vander Esch had another interception, securing a tipped ball that lucked its way into his grasp. He also made some big tackles and continued last week's exceptional play.
- DeMarcus Lawrence was credited with 1.5 sacks, getting him back among the league leaders with 8.0 on the year.
- Elliott was Dallas' leading receiving today. Next up was Cole Beasley with five catches for 51 yards, and Cole's day could've been better if not for a dropped touchdown pass.
- Jeff Heath nearly had his second interception of the year, but Falcons WR Julio Jones made an impressive play to hit Heath and break up the catch.
- Tyron Smith left the game on the final drive with an injury, but Cam Fleming came in and the team didn't suffer for it. We'll have to see what the short Thanksgiving week means for Smith's status against the Redskins.
- Speaking of Washington, the NFC East leaders fell to 6-4 today at home against the Houston Texans. Even worse for them, QB Alex Smith suffered a nasty ankle injury is almost assuredly out for weeks to come. Colt McCoy will be their starting QB on Thursday against Dallas.
- If Dallas wins next week, they will pull even with Washington in overall record, division record, and split the head-to-head series. With the Eagles facing a tough road game today in New Orleans, and with Alex Smith going down for Washington, the NFC East may have just become the Cowboys' to control.
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