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Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly for Cowboys Against Panthers

Brian Martin



The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly for Cowboys Against Panthers

It's always difficult to write about the Dallas Cowboys after a loss, even more so after they've played as sloppily as they did against the Carolina Panthers Sunday afternoon. But, I'm not going to let the 16-8 defeat keep me from doing my duty.

In all honesty, this game gave me flashbacks of the Dallas Cowboys matchup with the Denver Broncos last season. Just like against the Broncos, the Cowboys continuously found themselves behind the chains and unable to move the ball with much success. Ezekiel Elliott, the engine of the offense, couldn't even find much running room. Let's just hope that this isn't something that continues to happen.

Today, I want to bring back my weekly column The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. If you have forgotten or are perhaps a new reader, this is a column in which I like to try to identify some of the positives and negatives from the Cowboys previous matchup, in this case the game against the Panthers. It's not always easy to write, but I hope you enjoy it regardless.

The Good

Randy Gregory

Dallas Cowboys DE Randy Gregory

From the outside looking in, you wouldn't guess that there was very much good to write about from the Dallas Cowboys game against the Carolina Panthers, and you are probably right. I really had to dig deep to sift through all of the bad, but the silver lining I came up with is the way the defense was able to battle for an entire four quarters.

The way the Dallas Cowboys defense played Sunday afternoon was far from flawless. There was plenty of mental and physical mistakes to go around, but you have to applaud the way they continued to fight throughout the game. In fact, I was pretty impressed with the play of the defensive line and secondary.

The Cowboys front four not only continuously put pressure on Quarterback Cam Newton, but they also pretty much contained the running game as well. DeMarcus Lawrence and Company are off to a good start and should only continue to get better. As for the secondary, they made things pretty difficult for Newton and his receivers in the passing game. I'm really excited to see how they progress.

The Bad

Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan

Dallas Cowboys HC Jason Garrett and OC Scott Linehan

I don't know about you, but identifying the bad from the Cowboys game against the Panthers was pretty easy for me. Of course you may disagree, but I think we should look no further than what happened on the offensive side of the ball. I personally place the blame on both the players and the coaching staff.

The playcalling by Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan was once again questionable. It's really getting tiresome to talk about, but I was reallly expecting to see more creativity Sunday, especially with all of the new faces that were brought in this offseason. Unfortunately, it was much of the same and that is simply unacceptable.

Quarterback Dak Prescott continues to hold on the ball way too long while trying to find an open receiver. This has been a problem of his since entering the league and will continue to be so until something changes. As far as the running game goes, both Ezekiel Elliott and his offensive line struggled to get things going. Since this is the driving force of the entire offense, it needs to be fixed as quickly as possible.

The Ugly

Sean Lee

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

I was personally expecting some sloppiness in this game from the Dallas Cowboys, but that was mostly due to the fact the weather was supposed to be wet and rainy. I didn't really think they would come out and play the way they did, so there was quite a bit of ugly to sift through. What I decided to put in this section was the play of the Cowboys linebackers.

After being so highly touted for the majority of the offseason, the Dallas Cowboys linebackers certainly didn't live up to expectations. There were way too many times they were caught out of position or couldn't come up with the tackle. Sean Lee in particular might have just played his worst game since entering the league.

With several weeks to prepare for Cam Newton and the run/pass option (RPO) offense the Panthers utilize, Dallas' LBs looked really unprepared and failed to execute their assignments. Both Damien Wilson and Sean Lee gave up huge gains to Newton because of this. This definitely needs to be cleaned up before next week, because Shaquon Barkley is an entirely different animal to contain.

What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Panthers?

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

  • oneputter

    So many things to point out Brian.

    1 – play calling as you stated is bad. i think they tried to get to cute at times instead of running power football, line up and run down hill with some PA. i saw to many motions, counters, fake end arounds, fake screens….just jr league crap. line up and run the darn ball.

    2 – yes lb’s were garbage, sean lee doesn’t practice or play in the preseason because we are afraid of him getting hurt, well that is the result of no practicing. 54 was trying way too hard and over running just about every play, 57 started good but suddenly fell asleep. where was joe thomas?

    3 – OL was bad, and don’t give me 72 being out as the reason, everyone has injuries, you sak up and over come. 77 was bad, 71 was bad, 52 was pushed around like a HS kid (he might be good later, right now too weak to handle these NFLers)

    4 – HC geez, JG you had 6 months to get ready for this game and this is what you give us? i have wanted this HC to succeed but i think i am done with him. he simply is un-motivating to this team. at some point you have to get in their butts during a game, he never does or will.

    5 – can we please stop with all the earl thomas talk, how about trading for a veteran WR?

    6 – dak, this guy has gone from being on the top to being an absolute joke at right now. drop back and throw the ball son! this is the NFL, your windows are small. there were open WR’s all over on sunday, turn it loose. he’s gun shy and worried about INTs / STATS. can you read a blitz at the LOS? this a QB driven league, if you don’t have a QB you don’t have jack.

    • Brian Martin

      Nicely said. I agree with everything you stated here.

    • Hector Espindola

      7.- Dak needs a new QB coach, he is just regressing game after game…

      • Russ_Te

        That is an interesting view. We know Moore is a rookie at it. And of course Garrett and Linehan factor in. This is a crossroads time for Dak as an NFL QB. I have confidence in his mental and physical abilities, yet many promising QB’s have gone off the rails. They have to coach him well as this team finds it’s offensive gears this year. Fortunately a rising defense could buy them the time needed by keeping the Cowboys in games.

        • Hector Espindola

          The inexperienced Moore can´t give Dak any advice on game time, so or QB is going nowhere and even his mechanics are regressing. Add to that the OL problems, the time needed to find his wingman at the WRs corps and a playbook that does not ease his work (with a “loaded box” as an example) and then you have the first man down, who happens to be your most important player at offense. Right now Dak is afraid to throw deep balls or in traffic.

  • Russ_Te

    While everyone except Beasley was bad on offense, let’s zero in on this WR unit for a minute. What seemed to emerge after all the off season moves is a glaring lack of speed and firepower. That looks right now like it’s going to be a liability all year.

    I give Gallup a grace period of course, but feel like defenses are going to choke up coverages, and then either nobody can get behind that or Linehan won’t test it.

    Brice Butler is on his couch right now. 15 catches that averaged 21 yards per, with 3 TD’s last year. Go get him.

    Likewise, I’m not leaving Gathers inactive when I need a mismatch in the patterns this badly. Yes he’s still learning block assignments, but isn’t worse than the product we got Sunday. Tired of inertia and business as usual from this staff.

    • oneputter

      i just don’t put much blame into the wr unit for sunday, the QB needs to get the ball out and give the guys a chance, we didn’t see that with him….. holding onto the ball way too long. swaim was open, gallup was open, thompson was open, go watch again. do we need someone to stretch the field, yes maybe. i like what carrington was doing in preseason, how about KD Cannon, he’s a speed guy, can we not coach him up? the guy was amazing in college.

      ditto on gathers, he needs to be used like the raiders use cook. if he can’t block then get him out in the slot on a mismatch.

      • Brian Martin

        I think the Cowboys have the pieces in the passing game, the playcalling just needs to improve by a wide stretch. They have speed guys to stretch the field, we know Prescott rarely takes the shots.

        • oneputter


      • Russ_Te

        What I put on Dak Sunday is missed throws and being indecisive about when to tuck under. Holding the ball = WR’s not open.

        As I said the unit feels weak and defensible. Hope to be wrong on that. And if they know C and LG are iffy, then they know Elliott will not dominate as before on the ground. So you can’t take him out on long downs. If it’s 15 runs then it should be 10-12 targets and about 8 catches. He is their best player of any WR or RB or TE.

        • oneputter

          he did hold on to the ball way too long but i feel and from what i could see it had to do with indecisiveness, as stated i saw wr’s open. there are tons of vids out there now that show wr’s running wide open, he just missed them.

          many times instead of stepping up in the pocket he flushed out and threw bad passes.

          i hope it gets better, i don’t want to go through a whole season seeing this mess.

    • Brian Martin

      I’m actually giving the WRs a pass. The playcalling was extremely questionable last week. Way too many 2 TE sets to start the game. The offense finally started to move the ball when they spread things out. That’s what they need to continue to do IMO.

      • oneputter

        12 personnel was out there way too much, i’d like to see more 3 x 1, 2 x 2 with one of the 3 / 2 being Rico or swaim

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons

Sean Martin



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.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Game Notes

DAL 22, ATL 19: Elliott, Maher Carry Cowboys to Season-Saving Win

Jess Haynie



Ezekiel Elliott

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.

Game Notes

  • 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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Game Notes

Cowboys Wishlist: Snap Julio Jones’ Hot Streak

Mauricio Rodriguez



Cowboys Wishlist: Snap Julio Jones' Hot Streak

The Dallas Cowboys will try to get their second road win of the season against another inconsistent Atlanta Falcons team. As both try to get back to .500, this game will be filled with interesting matchups and implications. After upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles 27-20 last Sunday, the Cowboys need to get another upset win to keep being relevant in the league this year.

Here's this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist! I hope you enjoy and I encourage you to let me know what your wishes are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!

Wish #1: Stop Julio Jones' 100-Yard Game Streak

With the Atlanta Falcons sitting at 4-5, many have overlooked Wide Receiver Julio Jones' hot streak. In each of his last four games, Jones has accounted for more than 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Totaling 476 yards in his last four games, Jones is ready to face Cowboys' Cornerback Byron Jones.

Byron has certainly been a pleasant surprise in 2018, playing at a great level right now. He has faced Odell Beckham and DeAndre Hopkins this year and made a good job of defending these "Tier 1" pass-catchers. It's worth noting the Cowboys are not making him "travel" with these players but rather keep him on a specific side of the field. That shouldn't change against the Falcons.

Wish #2: Contain WR Calvin Ridley

Back in April, Cowboys Nation eyed Calvin Ridley as a prospect who could end up wearing the Star on Sundays. However, Dallas passed on him and the Alabama product fell right unto the Falcons' lap. He's had a pretty good season and despite sharing the field with Julio Jones, he's done a great job as a rookie averaging 14 yards per reception.

The Cowboys need to contain him. While Dallas should feel comfortable with Byron doing his job, the truth is Chidobe Awuzie has struggled at times. Not that he's suddenly a bad player, but he needs to step up his game. Lining up against Ridley today will be a great test and one I wouldn't expect him to pass easily.

Takeaway Tuesday: CB Awuzie Hasn't Met Expectations in 2018

Wish #3: Score 28+ Points

The Cowboys have the huge advantage of going against a defense that ranks 29th in scoring defense. They did a nice job on Philadelphia last week and should continue to build on that success to do something they haven't done much this year: score a lot of points.

Scott Linehan's unit needs to do a better, more consistent, job. They've shown us they're capable of scoring, but they've also shown us their remarkable ability to seemingly forget how to do so. Blame it on play-calling, QB play, poor offensive line or whatever you prefer, it's a flawed unit.

They need to capitalize versus a poor defense like the Falcons' to find a steady rhythm.

Wish #4: Dak Makes This Falcons' Game a Turning Point

Last year, when Dak Prescott was sacked six times in Atlanta (five times by Adrian Clayborn) something changed for the Cowboys' young quarterback. Missing RB Ezekiel Elliott and LT Tyron Smith that day, Prescott had one of the worse days in his career. It was a turning point for him as a QB and the public eye.

Now he has a chance at redemption. A shot at putting the Cowboys at .500 and reviving playoff hopes, as unlikely as it sounds.

I wish that's the case for the Cowboys young passer in Atlanta. As flawed as he is, I'm a fan of his. The kid leaves it all on the field.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Wishlist: Snap Julio Jones’ Hot Streak" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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