Over the last 5-7 years the Dallas Cowboys have made a conscious decision to build their football team in an “old school” way. By using first round draft picks on three offensive linemen, a running back, and another top 50 pick on a fourth offensive lineman, Dallas has been doubling down on this philosophy year in and year out.
Well, the first time the Cowboys played against Seattle this season, they were manhandled upfront. Frank Clark beat up on a somewhat injured Tyron Smith, Jarran Reed was all over the interior combination of Joe Looney and Connor Williams, the Cowboys looked to get out played at their own game in the week three loss.
Saturday night, however, the script completely flipped.
Two teams which want to “establish the run,” and physically dominate the line of scrimmage squared off, but only one accomplished that goal. Tyron Smith handled Frank Clark the whole game, and was back to his tossing-defenders-aside-like-children ways. Though he was far from perfect, Connor Williams was effective in the Cowboys zone blocking scheme, often getting to the second level to cut off All Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and open running lanes for Ezekiel Elliott.
La’el Collins and Joe Looney had solid nights as well, and Zack Martin was exactly what you’d expect him to be. This performance upfront helped Ezekiel Elliott run for 137 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, and gave Dak Prescott adequate time to make the necessary plays to win the game.
There’s no question who led the way on that offensive line, though. It is no coincidence that as Tyron Smith and Zack Martin looked healthier than they have in weeks, this line played as well as they have all season.
Looking forward, things will not get any easier for this Dallas Cowboys offensive line. In the Divisional Round Dallas will face the Los Angeles Rams, where Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh await. Donald is likely the Defensive Player of the Year, and might be flat out the best player in all of football. Suh is not the same player he was once in Detroit, but can be a menace nonetheless.
Dallas is built on the backs of their offensive line, and even with Travis Frederick missing and the rest of the members a bit banged up, they’ll need to rely on this running game and physical identity if they want to advance further in the postseason.
Just as it ultimately did on Saturday night.