For the first time this season the Cowboys completed a wire-to-wire win on Sunday, defeating the two-win Bengals, 30-7.
Despite holding similar records, this game never felt competitive, with the Cowboys having a clear talent advantage in some key areas. The story of the game were the three first half takeaways, however, as the Cowboys’ positive turnover regression hit harder than Donovan Wilson over the middle.
Three fumbles on their first three possessions led to a quick 17-0 lead for the Cowboys, but did their defense actually show signs of life in this win?
DeMarcus Lawrence certainly did.
The Bengals offensive line had no answer for Tank Lawrence, who finished with a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in the win. He was nearly unblockable in the first half, causing havoc for Brandon Allen and the Bengals offense.
I can even let the Cowboys secondary off the hook for their performance. Though it felt like Tee Higgins and AJ Green could get anything they wanted through the air, Dallas’ extremely banged up secondary held up okay for much of the game. And considering they were missing each of their top three cornerbacks, it’s hard to be too demanding of the group.
The interior of this defensive line, though, continues to be putrid.
At times a Neville Gallimore or an Antwaun Woods may flash, but those flashes are few and far between. These defensive tackles cannot get off blocks, failing to create penetration against the run and pressure against the pass. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have caught a lot of deserved criticism this season for their poor run fits and inability to defeat blocks, but these defensive tackles do them no favors.
As a fan, this was a nice for the Cowboys.
For the first time this year they came out and beat up on an inferior team. But do not let Jerry and Stephen Jones lie to you this week. This defense did not turn a corner on Sunday. In fact, they allowed way too much yardage and gave too much bend against an awful Bengals offense.
This remains a front-running unit that, when things are good, can pile on opponents. But when things go the other way…
Well, the rest of the 2020 season happens.