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.
Brett Maher’s 62-yard FG Gives Cowboys 6-0 Halftime Lead over Eagles
Brett Maher drilled a 62-yard field goal, a new Dallas Cowboys record, to give his team a 6-0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles at halftime.
A holding penalty by Tyron Smith seemingly took the team out of field goal range, but Maher bailed him out with the monster kick.
The lead could be bigger it not for some Dallas mistakes. Dak Prescott threw an interception on an otherwise strong drive, and Maher ended another drive with a missed field goal.
However, the Eagles have also struggled. A strip sack by Tyrone Crawford ended their last drive of the half. Randy Gregory also got a sack on Carson Wentz earlier in the game.
Overall, though, Philadelphia just isn't converting downs and being stifled by this exceptional Cowboys defense. They only have 70 total offensive yards at the half.
Ezekiel Elliott is putting together a big day, already with 72 rushing yards and another 20 yards receiving. Rod Smith also has 24 yards of offense, adding to the major production from the RB position.
Speaking of position production, the Cowboys tight ends have already accounted for six catches for 37 yards. Blake Jarwin has four of those receptions, which is a new career high.
The Eagles will get the ball to start the second half.
Cowboys Vs Eagles Leads NFL in Playoff Leverage for Week 14
The Dallas Cowboys are certainly playing like a playoff team as of late, but aren't in the clear yet when it comes to holding off Sunday's opponent -- nor the Washington Redskins -- in the NFC East. At 7-5, the Eagles and Redskins sit a game behind the Cowboys with identical 6-6 records.
The Cowboys going 5-0 from their first win at the Eagles in week 10 to their third divisional game of this stretch would go a very long way in cementing the Cowboys mid-season turnaround. As has always seemingly been the case in this division though, the same is said of the defending Super Bowl champs.
With a loss, the Cowboys stand just over a 50% chance at the postseason. A win would add 42 percentage points to this figure, setting up the Cowboys favorably through a December schedule that features the Colts, Buccaneers, and Giants.
NFL playoff leverage week 14
The only team with more at stake today is the visitors of AT&T Stadium. The Eagles gain 47 percentage points on their playoff hopes with a win, though even this marginally moves the needle over 50% for them. An Eagles loss all but ends their chances of repeating as NFC East winners.
Though the Redskins are reduced to their third quarterback in Mark Sanchez, their early kickoff at the 4-8 Giants provides hope that they'll remain in contention through the regular season. In a division that will be dictated by the moves made at the trade deadline, it sure feels like the Cowboys and Eagles are pulling away however - with Dallas in prime position to lap the competition starting Sunday.
If the Cowboys and the Giants win today, Dallas would have to lose out, and the Redskins or Eagles would have to win out in order for the Cowboys to lose the division. In other words, Dallas and NYG winning today would mean one more victory and the Cowboys clinch the NFC East.
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper has made a bigger difference than Dallas could have ever hoped for. With the Eagles secondary banged up again for their meeting with the Cowboys, a home team with sights set on playoff football could begin to fine tune their offense to match a defense that set the tone against Philadelphia last time out.
National pundits may be forecasting a "classic" late season collapse for the Cowboys, but fans know better than this. It was in fact early season losses that dug the hole the Cowboys are viciously fighting out of. Asking for this opportunity against the Eagles is as good as it gets for Jason Garrett's young team, once 3-5 after eight weeks that feel like ages ago.
So does any dominant stretch of football from the Eagles, though the Cowboys shouldn't be quick to find out just how much Philly wants to play spoiler.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dak Prescott Exploits Eagles’ Secondary
It's rivalry weekend for the Dallas Cowboys as they get ready to host the Philadelphia Eagles. It will undoubtedly be a special game since the Eagles are practically playing to save their season this time around. Tables have turned for these two teams with now the Cowboys as home favorites for this fun matchup.
As always, here's this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist. Enjoy!
Wish #1: Get Jourdan Lewis Playing Time
Cornerback Jourdan Lewis did a fantastic job versus the New Orleans Saints last week and I'm intrigued to see if the Cowboys will continue to find a job for him and get him on the field. Lewis had an interception and some other key plays in just eight snaps. Lewis has been an interesting narrative this year.
He's a good player and getting him more involved could result in good things for this team. We'll see if the Cowboys use him in this important divisional game.
Wish #2: Get The Early Big Lead, Rest Elliott
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has done an amazing job for the Cowboys over the past four weeks. Both in the passing and running game, Zeke has been able to consistently move the chains as he's received a huge workload to carry the offense and control the time of possession. He currently leads the league in touches per game.
If the Cowboys are able to get a big lead early, I wish we get to see a lot of backup RB Rod Smith. As much as we all love to watch Zeke be fed, this time Cowboys Nation should appreciate seeing him on the sideline a bit more than usual. For that to happen, though, an early considerable lead is required.
Wish #3: Improve on Red Zone
So far, the Dallas Cowboys have been able to efficiently move the ball and get first downs. What they have struggled with though, is the red zone. Many times, we've seen the offense settle for three instead of getting seven.
This Saturday I argued why, if the Cowboys are able to improve on red zone, this could be a playoff caliber unit. This team shouldn't struggle as much in this area. With Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, Amari Cooper lined up and a mobile QB, Scott Linehan's squad simply needs to do better.
Wish #4: Dak Prescott Gets 300 Yards
The Philadelphia Eagles have placed CB Jalen Mills on IR. With Ronald Darby out already, the Cowboys are about to face a very injured secondary. Philadelphia ranks 26th in passing defense. Dak Prescott's stats have greatly improved since week 7.
However, a big 300-yard performance has yet to occur. I wish he gets just that against the Eagles. For this, he'll certainly need help from his receivers, including Amari Cooper, who has been outstanding with a Star on his helmet.
What are your wishes for this week's matchup versus the Eagles?
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