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Game Notes

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

Brian Martin

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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.

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13 Comments
  • 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

          agreed

      • 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 Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Coming into their week two match up against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys knew they could control the game with -- for the first time in years against Eli Manning -- their pass rush and strong secondary. Exposing a weak Giants offensive line went well beyond the Cowboys front four in this win though.

The Cowboys put Manning on the turf six times, with Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard relentlessly dialing up pressure. With the depth at linebacker to match up with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, along with Byron Jones' efforts on Odell Beckham Jr., it's no secret how the Cowboys defense forced Manning to dump the ball to his running back for 14 receptions.

Barkley's longest catch going for ten yards, this was a nearly flawless game for Rod Marinelli's defense to even the Cowboys record at 1-1. Expecting much of the same from their front seven against a poor Seahawks OL, now is a good time to look back at some of the pressure packages the Cowboys used in week two.

With a core of versatile linebackers they can trust, the Cowboys deployed Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, Damien Wilson, and Leighton Vander Esch all over the field to present the Giants with different looks. What made the Cowboys defensive play calling so successful was their LBs ability to cover ground quickly and create depth in coverage.

By doing so, the Giants could not take any chances down the field, their longest passing play going for 37 yards.

Blitz1

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On this play, even with the Giants looking to get the ball out quickly, the pressure from Smith and Wilson disrupt the timing. Sean Lee, the only Cowboys linebacker not sent after Manning on the play, ends up rallying from his starting WILL position to get in on the tackle. The Giants did not have the numbers up front to block Damien Wilson attacking from SAM, although more impressively, Smith was able to rip through a partial block from the right guard and get ahead of Wilson on their rush.

Blitz2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This next blitz shows off the Cowboys strong coverage downfield against the Giants. Cornerback Anthony Brown had his fingerprints all over this game in the back end for Dallas, but on this play comes out of the slot after Manning. Sensing the pressure at his feet, Manning steps up and actually puts himself in position to deliver a good ball, but is forced into yet another check down.

While linebacker blitzes are part of the "Richard effect" on the Cowboys defense, a well-timed slot blitz is a staple of Rod Marinelli's scheme. Using Brown a number of times in this role off the strong side, the Giants had no answers for the different pressures Dallas sent their way against Ereck Flowers at right tackle.

Blitz3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Even when Smith was picked up, as he was in the above play, the Cowboys capitalized on missed blocking assignments to get home with their front four. Taco Charlton the benefactor at RDE here, watch as Barkley rushes to keep Lee from having a straight run at his QB - allowing Charlton to do the same off the edge. Running untouched on the play, Charlton does a nice job taking a sharp angle to Manning and chasing him to the ground.

Blitz4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

As much as the Cowboys cornerbacks were a huge part of the team's confidence in sending pressure, their safeties also performed well in coverage. I wrote about the above play on Monday morning in my Sean's Scout that immediately follows every Cowboys game:

"That's a fantastic play by Jeff Heath to run across the field and tackle Evan Engram short of the line to gain on third down.

The Giants drive would continue with a fourth down conversion, but the Cowboys defense did eventually force a punt.

The Cowboys safeties were primarily called upon to play in run support in this game, a role Heath has struggled in previously. Showing off his strengths as an athletic and rangy defensive back on this play, Heath didn't get pushed up the field by Engram on his release, hunting him down after the catch in front of a fired up Dallas bench."

Heath picking up Engram is just one example of a Cowboys defender exceeding expectations in coverage. Smith was able to run with Beckham Jr., as was Charlton on separate plays later in the game.

Blitz6

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The only fitting way to conclude this film study is with a DeMarcus Lawrence sack. The Cowboys best individual defender, Lawrence had his way with Flowers as we all expected. Playing to another one of Tank's strengths here though, Lawrence rushes to the inside off a well-executed T/E stunt with Tyrone Crawford.

Also sending Brown at Manning again, the Giants pass pro leaves Lawrence unabated to the quarterback. Unlikely to escape the grasp of Lawrence on such a free rush, Manning does try to abort the pocket, but had Brown crashing down on him to collapse things.

Lawrence might not earn many easier sacks this season. None of the Cowboys starters on defense are more capable of using their own ability to get to the QB than Lawrence still, who is getting all the help he needs from Richard as his play caller.

Through just two games, the Cowboys commitment to forcing the issue on defense has potential to keep this team atop the NFC East as the offense comes into its own.

Depending on the development of their own passing game, this may have to be a defense that can win Dallas games. The only way to do so is with sacks and turnovers.

The latter is something Marinelli's defenses have always excelled at when at full strength (the Cowboys are expecting Randy Gregory back as early as this week and DT David Irving comes off suspension in week five). The former is something the Cowboys are creating with a deeply talented front seven, orchestrated by one of the best in the business.

The Cowboys will look to build on their nine sacks this season against the Seahawks on Sunday, a team that's allowed the most in the league at 12. Their timing to go after Russell Wilson will be tested more than it was against the Giants, with Richard also better positioned to aid the Cowboys against his former team.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys’ Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys' Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

In every game, whether it's a sporting event or a board game there is a path -- and sometimes more than one -- to victory. For the Dallas Cowboys, it's no different. As they get set to face a Seattle Seahawks team that is 0-2 for the first time since 2015, they'll have to win in several areas to bring home the W.

After starting out 0-2 in 2015, the Seahawks finished the season with a 10-6 record and won their wild card game over the Minnesota Vikings before falling in the divisional round to the Carolina Panthers.

The Seahawks are one of those teams that you can get down, but can never count out. If the Dallas Cowboys want to come out on top in their trip to the Pacific Northwest, they are going to have to come ready to play.

In particular, these are the things that the Dallas Cowboys have to achieve to be the victors on Sunday.

Limit Big Plays

The Seattle Seahawks are a very interesting offensive case study. They have one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but have invested very little in trying to protect their most important asset.

They rely on Russell Wilson's improvisational ability and penchant for big plays.

In 2017, Wilson had a quarterback rating of 100.9 on attempts greater than 20 yards down the field, per Pro Football Focus. He threw the ball "deep" 91 times, completing 31 passes for 1,134 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had the most deep attempts in the league last season and tied with Alex Smith with the most touchdowns on deep attempts. Wilson's yardage was nearly 200 yards more than the next best in the NFL on deep passing.

Wilson's going to take some deep shots. If you watched the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears, you noticed that even though Wilson was getting battered, it didn't deter him from taking shots deep down the field. Sometimes into unfavorable coverages.

The secondary has an advantage over the Seattle Seahawks group of wide receivers, but they'll have to stay disciplined and not allow the big pass plays to beat them.

In a game where they were being dominated for more than three quarters, the Seahawks were able to hang around and had a chance at the end because of their penchant for big plays.

Don't get beat deep.

Wrangling Russell Wilson

The Seattle Seahawks have allowed the most sacks in the league through two weeks. They've allowed six in each of their first two games this season. The Dallas Cowboys are going to have opportunities to sack Russell Wilson this week.

They have to take advantage.

Like Cam Newton in week one, Russell Wilson is a very elusive quarterback. Not only is he really good at making plays with his legs, he can be difficult to bring down. The Dallas Cowboys will have to work to keep Wilson in the pocket and finish when they get an opportunity to bring him down. He's not a physical presence like Newton is, but he's slippery and has some of that Tony Romo elusiveness to him.

If the potential tackler doesn't get Wilson down on first contact, it could lead to big plays both through the air and on the ground. Wilson averages 33.6 yards per game on the ground in his career and 5.7 yards per attempt. In order to get off the field on third down, they're going to have to prevent Wilson from using his legs to pick up third downs.

Establishing the Pass to Set Up the Run

At this point in the Dallas Cowboys offensive approach, everyone in the world knows what the Dallas Cowboys want to do on offense. They want to run the ball.

The Dallas Cowboys did a great job using this knowledge to their advantage on the first series of the game against the New York Giants.

On the first play of the game, they used a Run-Pass Option, with a clear out to the flat by Tight End Geoff Swaim, and found Allen Hurns on a slant to set up a second and short. Then after picking up that second and short with a run by Ezekiel Elliott, they used a straight play action out of a two running back, one tight end set, and hit Tavon Austin for the 64 yard touchdown.

Dak's willingness to throw the ball deep on a couple other occasions helped open up the run. The deep ball has to be a threat in order to back defenses off the line of scrimmage and do what you do best: Run the Ball. If they aren't going to back off, then you have to keep throwing it until you hit the deep ball enough that it forces them to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys were able to run the ball pretty effectively for the rest of the game, even if they didn't hit a lot of big plays. With the New York Giants interior defensive line, it was going to be tough sledding anyway. Getting things going through the air, helped out immensely.

The Seattle Seahawks are going to try to do what everyone does; put the ball in Dak Prescott's hands. If they're going to win on Sunday, it's going to be because Prescott had another efficient game throwing the ball.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

This game sets up really well for the Dallas Cowboys to improve their record to 2-1 and keep pace with the upper tier teams in the NFC. Every win matters, but these NFC games matter even a bit more. No game in the NFL is a cakewalk and this game is no different. If the Dallas Cowboys aren't able to do the above, it could be a long day for America's Team. 



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Game Notes

#SEAvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Wishlist Christmas Edition: Seahawks @ Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys found a way to get their first win last Sunday, defeating the New York Giants from start to finish, 20-13.

Now at 1-1 and locked in a three way tie for 1st place in the NFC East, Dallas is looking to string together a few victories and create some early separation. Seattle is now sitting at 0-2, and while that's typically a hole teams cannot climb out of in the NFL, the Seahawks will be desperately fighting to avoid an 0-3 start.

The Seahawks opened up as 3 point home favorites against the Cowboys, with the over/under set at 44.5 points.

Dallas Cowboys

After an abysmal season opener against Carolina, the Cowboys came out firing against the Giants on Sunday night. Dallas led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, and ended up holding on as the Giants made a late garbage-time run.

Dak Prescott looked as comfortable in the pocket as he as in weeks, finding Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass on the opening drive. Ezekiel Elliott scored another rushing touchdown, and the Cowboys defense was straight up dominant.

Now, the Cowboys defensive line has another chance to increase their sack total against the Seahawks' weak offensive line. And you know DeMarcus Lawrence is salivating.

Dallas improved to 1-1 straight up and against the spread, covering the 3 point spread set by Vegas a week ago. Both Cowboys games have gone under thus far as well.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks fell to 0-2 on Monday night with a tough road loss to the Chicago Bears. Khalil Mack dominated the Seahawks offensive line, dictating protections and keeping Russell Wilson uncomfortable all night long.

The Seahawks haven't been able to get much of a run game going this season, despite their insistence upon doing so. Russell Wilson is their offense, and if the Cowboys can pressure him and force him into hero-ball throws, they should have success on Sunday. After all, this was the Bears recipe for success on Monday night.

Seattle is 0-2 straight up and 0-1-1 against the spread this season.

Trends

  • The score total has gone under 5 straight Cowboys' games.
  • Dallas is 2-4 against the spread their last six times playing at Seattle.
  • Seattle is 1-5 against the spread their last six games at home.
  • The under has hit 4 of the last 5 Cowboys/Seahawks games.

Prediction

While I've thought hard about picking the under for the third straight week (I'm 2-0 doing so), I'll pick the actual game for you guys this time. I think the Cowboys will get this road win and improve to 2-1 behind dominant defensive line play and a strong running game.

This match up favors Dallas in multiple ways and I expect them to take advantage of Seattle's weak spots.

I like the Cowboys +3 a lot this Sunday.



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