Considering the opponent, the Cowboys' week 11 victory wasn't exactly the most encouraging one for the Dallas faithful. But, when you look at both the remaining schedule and the current NFC playoff picture, it was an incredibly meaningful win for the now 6-4 Cowboys.
Dallas was able to control Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions with an explosive passing game, doing just enough on defense to keep the Lions off their backs in the fourth quarter. Dallas held on for a 35-27 victory, and now sit a whole game atop the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East.
Let's get into my game notes from this week's win.
- I feel like a broken record at this point, but Dak Prescott was once again awesome on Sunday. Prescott threw for over 400 yards and 3 touchdowns, and elevated an offense which was getting next to nothing on the ground for much of the game. Cowboys Nation spent all of last week screaming for Dak to get more chances to throw the ball. Kellen Moore answered the complaints, and Prescott showed out. He is playing like a legit MVP candidate right now, and Dallas will need this level of play to keep up if the Cowboys are to make a postseason run.
- This entire offensive line needs a heck of a shoutout for their performance Sunday. Tyron Smith and La'el Collins were absolutely lights out in pass protection all game, and the interior offensive line was as good (if not better) as they've been all year as well. Prescott had all day to throw on most of his dropbacks, and he made the most of the time he was given.
- Rookie running back Tony Pollard finally got the increased opportunities fans had been asking for, and he balled out. Pollard caught four balls for 44 yards and a touchdown, and two of his receptions essentially came on jet sweep plays with Ezekiel Elliott lead blocking. Kellen Moore got creative with Pollard's usage, and the Cowboys offense benefited from it greatly. Let's hope this is a sign of things to come going forward.
- Chidobe Awuzie has been the subject of a ton of criticism this season. And while much of it has been deserved, Awuzie had himself a solid day against the Lions. As usual, Awuzie was in the right position on almost every target, but this week he even made a couple plays on the ball to breakup potential completions. On the other side of Awuzie, Byron Jones played like the lockdown corner he is at his best. This secondary's ceiling is scary when they are clicking correctly. Unfortunately, it's become rare that they are all playing to their potential.
- Despite the win, there are a lot of concerns going forward around this football team. Dallas' interior defensive line is just plain bad against the run, and their linebackers haven't been bailing them out either. Antwaun Woods is good for a splash play or two against the run every week, but he also gets washed down the line way too often for an interior “run stuffer.” Maliek Collins has shown promise as a pass rushing 3-technique, but he has been wildly out of position against the run at times. When facing better offenses, the Cowboys have got to be able to slow down opposing running games if they want to compete at a high level.
- These special teams units, man. Awful. At this point Dallas should fair catch every punt, and let every single kickoff fly into the back of the end zone. Returning these is only resulting in negative plays. Oh, and they can't cover kicks either. Not good!