The Cowboys received their third loss of the season playing on Sunday Night Football in Houston. It’s a loss that comes with very painful after thoughts as we take a look at the following opponents and realize that the schedule is only getting tougher. But let’s talk about what we learned last Sunday from the Dallas Cowboys.
Here’s this week’s Takeaway Tuesday! I hope you enjoy.
Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch Continue to Impress
Out of the few positive notes we can write regarding the Cowboys’ loss to the Texans is the performance of the linebackers. Filling for the injured veteran Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have played insanely well as the team’s starters.
Vander Esch led the team with 14 tackles, 11 of which were solo. His play as a rookie has been really amazing and has silenced many critics of the Cowboys 19th overall pick, myself included. The Boise State product has nowhere to go but up as he continues to develop as an NFL linebacker and gets more snaps under his name.
Jaylon Smith finished the night with 12 tackles and boy, oh boy, was he impressive on goal line defense. Where the Cowboys’ defense shined the most was when the Texans came so close to scoring but Dallas held their ground, in big part thanks to Smith.
Jaylon Smith is starting look like his old self. He reached 19.9 mph on this TD-saving tackle. #Cowboys For perspective, Alvin Kamara’s fastest run this year is 19.64 mph per Next Gen Stats https://t.co/o6k4qqHGrJ
That right there is the guy the Cowboys were thinking of when they took the risk of drafting him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Pass Rush Failed to Exploit Texan’s Weak OL
The Cowboys defensive line had the advantage coming into this game, facing the most hit QB prior to week 5. As a front seven that had been racking up sacks every game, we expected a big game for DeMarcus Lawrence and company.
But in that, the defense failed. The got pressure in a few plays, including the one that resulted in an interception by Xavier Woods. But it wasn’t consistent, which was one of the main keys to win this football game. Deshaun Watson was sacked only once all night long, and enjoyed a fair amount of time to throw each pass. That’s especially dangerous when DeAndre Hopkins is playing at WR. The Cowboys learned that the hard way.
Once Again, Passing Game Was Terrible
Blame the quarterback, the wide receivers, the tight ends and coaching staff for the Cowboys’ poor performance on offense. The truth is all of them are at fault. Dak Prescott’s stat line will tell the story of him throwing two interceptions, but it won’t tell you about the two passes that could have been picked off for touchdowns.
It also won’t tell you that Tavon Austin should’ve caught the pass that resulted in a turnover. The throw was not good enough, but as an NFL wide receiver, that’s a catch Austin had to make.
Out 208, 119 yards came in three plays. Three receptions accounted for more than half of Dak Prescott’s passing yards. There are a lot of problems on this offense, and more than one change needs to happen before this is fixed.
A Game Ultimately Lost by Coaching
Now, we can’t be done with this week’s Takeaway Tuesday without mentioning the play that ultimately cost the Cowboys the game. Punting the ball on fourth and one has been the worst decision in coaching through five weeks of the 2018 NFL season.
Let’s lay out some facts:
- The team has invested first round picks in Ezekiel Elliott, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith. A second round pick in Connor Williams. The team is built to run the ball.
- Since Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott entered the NFL, the Cowboys are 18/19 on fourth and one when going for it.
- Despite a strong performance, the defense had been letting the Texans enter field goal range, which is all Houston needed to win the game.
- On the opponent’s 42, head coach Jason Garrett was scared to run the football with one of the top running backs in the NFL.
The Cowboys were destined to lose as soon as they punted the ball away. Looking back on this game, as bad as execution was, as bad as play calling was… this is the play where the Cowboys could’ve gotten a perfect chance to win it in overtime. Brett Maher had a great day kicking the ball and he would’ve successfully kicked the game winning field goal.
If there has been a moment in which we truly felt like change is coming soon, this might be it. What’s going to change between now and next year? It’s very hard to have faith in Jason Garrett right now.