Well, it was a tough weekend. The Dallas Cowboys lost to the Denver Broncos 42-17... It wasn't pretty at all. From beginning to end, this team was dominated by the Von Miller led defense and the Trevor Siemian led offense.
I was in shock. I'm a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan but even still, I objectively thought Dak Prescott and company would comfortably win their first road game of the season. But this is the NFL, and things happen.
Yes, the Cowboys lost last Sunday. But they say that losing is what teaches you the most. So today on Inside The Star, I present to you the second Takeaway Tuesday of the year. I invite you to share your thoughts and takeaways in the comments below. Even if they're not happy takeaways.
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CB Nolan Carroll Shouldn't Be Starting
After taking a hit from his own teammate, Jeff Heath, Nolan Carroll is in the concussion protocol. Now, I hate to go after a guy who has just been injured... but Carroll was being destroyed in just about every play out there.
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Carroll missed tackles, left receivers wide open and simply forgot how to play football. The Cowboys secondary is far from deep. The Cowboys need Carroll to be at least decent. And he hasn't been.
With such a young group of defensive backs, the former Eagle is supposed to bring experience to the table.
With Bene Benwikere waiting for his chance, maybe the Cowboys give him the opportunity to wear the uniform next Monday. The Cowboys could aso take a chance and start preparing Jourdan Lewis to play a lot more than expected in week 3.
And one name the Cowboys can't forget about is Marquez White. Unlikely? Perhaps, but possible.
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Worst Career Loss For QB Dak Prescott
When the Cowboys lost against the NY Giants for the second time last year... it sucked. But I truly believe this was way worse. This wasn't a three point loss. It was a 25 point loss. And frankly, when I hear the number 25, I wonder why it felt like a longer deficit.
The Cowboys weren't able to establish the run, and Dak Prescott struggled completing the passes since the first quarter. The receivers struggled to get open too, and some even dropped a few balls when they were.
After all of the "sophomore slump" talk there was during the offseason, it's only going to get louder now.
The truth is, Dak may be blamed for the loss against the Broncos and any other game the Cowboys lose in 2017. That's the price of being the Dallas Cowboys QB.
But last time Dak couldn't get it going, he rallied the week after. And led his Cowboys to victory. I expect him to do so again. The Arizona Cardinals game will be an easy one. Look out for a big win as the Cowboys try to make up for their horrible loss to the Broncos.
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The Dallas Cowboys Offense Is Stoppable
I won't lie. Nothing surprised me as much as the fact that Ezekiel Elliott ran for just eight yards. I considered the possibility of Dak Prescott having a bad day, but I expected Zeke to run the ball efficiently.
I'm certain that if we were discussing which is Dallas' biggest strength, we would be talking about this offense. It is supposed to be a machine. Dez on the outside, Beasley on the slot, Gold Jacket Witt at TE and Ezekiel Elliott at running back. All at the same time. How are you supposed to cover that?
It's simple, if you have the weapons necessary. The Denver Broncos have the personnel required to beat this football team. It's a good match-up. This isn't about the Broncos setting "the blueprint", as many have claimed.
The Broncos happened to have two elite CBs and arguably the best pass rusher in the league. They played better than the 'Boys. Period.
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DeMarcus Lawrence Continues To Play Great
One of the few positive things this week showed in one of the biggest question marks of the team. The pass rush. For the second consecutive week, Lawrence had two sacks. I know it seems irrelevant after such a loss, but think about it. Last year, Benson Mayowa led the team with six sacks.
Lawrence has four after just two weeks of football, and he is getting to the QB often. He is emerging as a face for this pass rush If this team can rely on him all season, the defense will have quite a weapon in Lawrence.
Remember, Damontre Moore and David Irving will come back soon which can only mean good things for Dallas. If Moore turns out to be a good player, the DL will look a lot better.
Unfortunately, this is a contract year for Lawrence. So we'll have to enjoy his time in Dallas while we can, for he may not be here in 2018.
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The Dallas Cowboys Have No Excuses
I had many takeaways after watching the Cowboys lose the way they did. And after seeing many angry reactions blaming a specific player or coach, I felt like this takeaway might be the most important of all.
The Cowboys have no excuses. They were out-coached. They were outplayed. They were out-everything. If we, as fans, are going to point fingers after this poor performance, we better point to the entire team.
This was a game in which Sean Lee missed tackles, Zeke had eight rushing yards, and Jason Witten dropped an easy TD pass... But we're going to blame Garrett only? Or just Dak? That's simply not fair.
The team simply didn't show up. It happens. They had a bad day. Now it's time to move on and get ready for the Arizona Cardinals. The Dallas Cowboys have a lot to work on, and the Cardinals may be the right team for these guys. Let's see a bounce back.
#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone
In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.
This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.
In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.
For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.
I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.
Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.
Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.
#INDvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
For once, the Cowboys are not playing what feels like a do-or-die game on Sunday, needing just 1 win over their final 3 to win the NFC East. This week the 8-5 Cowboys go on the road to face the 7-6 Colts, with each times vying for playoff spots in their respective conferences.
Both the Cowboys and Colts have turned around what looked like dead seasons, but there is no doubt the Colts need this one more than the Cowboys do to keep pace for the 6th seed in the AFC.
Cowboys +3, O/U 47 points.
The once 3-5 Cowboys are now head and shoulders above the rest of their division, after winning their fifth straight in thrilling fashion over the Eagles last Sunday. The team which seemed so disjointed and inconsistent through 8 games has found their identity, and is playing complete team football as of late.
Dak Prescott is coming off a career-best game in terms of yardage, and despite some poor turnovers is still playing some of the best football of his career. This is due in large part to two stars in Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott, who have shouldered the production load of this offense the last 5 weeks.
And, of course, there is the defense which continues to make life a living hell for opposing offenses. Randy Gregory is coming into his own as a pass rusher, getting another sack last week and getting flagged for what should have been his second sack of the day.
Dallas is playing the brand of football they told us they would before the season, and are beginning to make their front office and decision makers look very smart in the process.
At 7-6 and fighting for the final AFC playoff spot, the Colts need this one more than the Cowboys do. Getting shut out by the lowly Jaguars two weeks ago may ultimately keep the Colts out of the playoffs, but a win this Sunday and a little help elsewhere could set them up nicely down the stretch.
Indy has quietly one of the best passing offenses in all of the NFL, with star quarterback Andrew Luck playing his best football in quite some time. Luck is healthy and looks like himself again, and the selection of Quenton Nelson to sure-up the offensive line has gone a long way to improving this offense as well.
Defensively the Colts have been even more impressive lately. Though they have a roster comprised of no-names nationally, the Colts defense is 11th in DVOA. Darius Leonard has been a revelation for the Colts at linebacker, and their young defense seems to be improving by the week.
The Colts are coming off of a big road victory over the Houston Texans a week ago, and will look to defeat the Texans' in-state rivals on Sunday to improve to 8-6.
- The Cowboys are 5-0 against the spread their last 5 games, and have won all 5 straight up.
- The score total has hit the over 4 of the Cowboys' last 6 games.
- But the score total has gone under 4 of the Colts' last 5 games.
- The Colts are 4-1 straight up their last 5 home games.
- Dallas is 6-3 their last 9 games against the Colts.
The Cowboys' winning streak has to end at some point, right?
Well, unlike Vegas, I don't expect that ending to happen on Sunday. The Cowboys have been playing desperate football over the last 5 games and they are well aware what a win over Indianapolis would mean.
A victory would clinch them a division title for the third time in five years, and just as they did in 2014, I expect the Cowboys to get that clinching victory over the Colts. Give me the Cowboys and the points this week.
Takeaway Tuesday: Randy Gregory is a Big Time Player
It was a dramatic win for the Dallas Cowboys but a win nonetheless. The Philadelphia Eagles gave the Cowboys one hell of a fight at AT&T Stadium in a great rivalry game. It was undoubtedly one of the most exciting games this season has seen as it ended with a walk-off touchdown that gave the home team the victory.
Here is this week's Takeaway Tuesday on what we learned from such a thrilling match!
Amari Cooper Trade Shouldn't Even Be a Discussion
Once a complicated debate, the Amari Cooper trade has a clear winner. It's simple, really. If it wasn't for Amari Cooper, the Cowboys would not be 8-5 en route to the NFC East title. Cooper has literally saved the 2018 season for the once 3-5 Cowboys team.
Since becoming a part of the Cowboys, the former Oakland Raider has accounted for 40 catches, 642 yards and six touchdowns. Last Sunday alone, he was responsible for 217 yards and three scores. Not to mention the amount of times he's moved the chains for this offense. The 24-year old can seriously play football. Despite struggles, this offense is very promising with that caliber of a WR1 and an elite RB such as Ezekiel Elliott.
What was it again? A first rounder? Should've asked for more, Raiders.
Randy Gregory is a Big Time Player
Gregory's journey to be back on a football field was a difficult one. But it was worth it. Versus the Eagles, his presence was constantly felt by Carson Wentz. He was able to get in five pressures, one of which resulted in a sack.
The last couple of games, Gregory has drawn a few costly flags, but his play is still amazing. He's one of the fastest defensive ends in the league and he continues to improve in bending around the corner. He has five sacks in the last eight games. If you weren't convinced #94 should be our starting right defensive end, you should be by now.
Tight Ends Rise
The lack of a tight end did not stand out this past Sunday. But Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin did. With Geoff Swaim out with an injury, this couple of young rotational players had their best games of their careers. Both were targeted in key moments of the game. Blake Jarwin had 56 yards in seven catches and a big third down conversion and Dalton Schultz finished the night with 37 yards.
A promising sign for the Cowboys moving forward. The offense is clicking at wide receiver with Amari Cooper, having a tight end (or a couple) stand up will only make this unit better.
Garrett Deserves a Round of Applause
Whether or not you think Jason Garrett is a good head coach, the guy deserves an applause. I get why you might not like him. In fact, I still question if he should be in Dallas in 2019 if the Cowboys fail to have success in the playoffs. But the way this team has come back from such a terrible start can't be ignored.
The players on this team fight for this guy. The Dallas Cowboys went from a team everyone had written off from playoff contention to legit Super Bowl contenders since they fired Paul Alexander and got Amari Cooper.
Dak Prescott is One of the Best Facing Adversity
Dak Prescott's career continues to cause a great debate among Cowboys' fans. You see, in the NFL, things are not white or black. When judging a player, there are a lot of gray areas. Take last night's performance from Dak Prescott. He threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball once and pretty much played bad football for three quarters. But his night ended with 455 yards and three touchdowns and a 78% completion percentage in 54 attempts.
In the NFL, not any quarterback comes back from turning the ball three times. With the help of his tremendous defense, Dak did. In the fourth quarter, he completed 17 out of 20 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. His performance was clutch.
This isn't a one thing either. Since 2016, Dak is tied for the most game-winning drives in the NFL. Prescott might be inconsistent and can have some pretty bad plays. But he's one resilient quarterback. As T.O. would've said: "that's my quarterback."
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