The Dallas Cowboys 2018 season is over, and in usual abrupt fashion the offseason is upon us. For the Cowboys, this means meticulously evaluating every part of the team - including a staff full of new coaches that quickly put early season struggles behind them to lead the Cowboys to the Divisional Round. To make matters even more complicated, further changes may be on the way for the Cowboys staff, yielding a season-high 273 rushing yards to the Rams.
The responsibility of this falls on defensive play caller Kris Richard, who the Cowboys should be elated to keep on their staff after he interviewed for three vacant head coach positions. The timing of these interviews, taking place early in the Cowboys' week of preparation for Los Angeles, is worth questioning when considering how unprepared the Dallas defense looked both mentally and physically.
The high-flying Rams' offense beating the Cowboys at their own game is the story of how this season ended, but the highlight is Scott Linehan's offense not challenging the Rams defense at crucial points in the game. Linehan hardly earns the same "trump card" that Richard can afford after this game, falling on the sword of predictability on offense while Richard revamped the entire Cowboys defense.
An aggressive Jason Garrett watched helplessly as his offensive coordinator invited the entire state of California, densely populated by Cowboys fans that packed the LA Coliseum, down into the box to run Ezekiel Elliott on fourth and a yard.
The turnover on downs from the Los Angeles 35-yard line squandered the Cowboys best chance at tying the game, with the Rams running it down their throats again to extend an eight point lead to 15 in the fourth quarter.
Linehan did not address the media after the game, nor did Jerry Jones - who ultimately will make the decisions on any Cowboys coaching changes. Assuring multiple times this season that Garrett will return, and answering an equal number of questions about Linehan's uncertain job status, a shake up at both coordinator positions may be looming.
Richard was expected to be promoted to defensive coordinator, but following the Cowboys loss their current DC Rod Marinelli - having watched his defensive line get absorbed for most of the night - aired no intentions of leaving his post.
Rod Marinelli intends to be back as defensive coordinator and he does NOT appreciate the question or reports otherwise.
In the exceedingly unlikely scenario where Garrett is flanked by Marinelli and Linehan once again in 2019, an evaluation of the Cowboys positional coaches brought in under both coordinators must follow. One such look at the team's performance on the offensive line happened mid-season, with assistant Marc Colombo replacing Paul Alexander and vastly improving the team's play up front.
Other first year coaches that found themselves improbably coaching in the Divisional Round include Kellen Moore at quarterback, Sanjay Lal at wide receiver, Doug Nussmeier at tight end, and Keith O'Quinn as special teams coordinator.
Nussmeier and Lal are both potential in-house candidates to take over as offensive coordinator for the Cowboys if they do move on from Linehan. Nussmeier has been an OC for five separate Division I teams, including Alabama where Nick Saban's influence still carries weight in Dallas.
Overall, the Cowboys should be pleased with the way their new-look staff came together in 2018. For a while, they looked poised to run Garrett out of town, now embracing working with Garrett again after some tweaks to the staff and roster. Sorting out what kept the Cowboys a score away from their first NFC Championship Game in 22 years is a great starting point for a Cowboys front office that's shown writing on the wall for Linehan all year, needing to prepare for the domino affect his termination would cause.
Such is day one of the offseason, where the shine remains on a young Cowboys team that responded from 3-5 to make the postseason. In the coming weeks and months, the lack of activity from the club will lead to desperation from anxious fans. Sweeping changes aren't likely to be the theme of this offseason though, with the Cowboys not holding a first round pick to look forward to in the Draft either.
Cowboys K Brett Maher’s 63-Yard Field Goal Sets New NFL Record
After hitting a 63-yard field goal last night in the Dallas Cowboys' win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Kicker Brett Maher now owns the NFL record for most field goal made at 60 yards or longer. It was the third 60-plus FG of his career and second so far this season.
Maher hit a 62-yarder last week in Dallas' loss to the New York Jets. That kick tied him with Sebastian Janikowski and Greg Zuerlein for having two career field goals of 60 or more.
Now Brett stands alone in that category. Last night's kick also was just one yard shy of Matt Prater's record for the NFL's longest field goal; Maher hit from 64 yards in 2013.
If Brett Maher ever gets a chance to kick in Denver, he may have a great shot at breaking Prater's record as well. According to NBC's data from last night, Maher's kick would have been good from 66 yards out.
It was a good night overall for the Cowboys kicker. Maher had two other makes from 26 and 29 yards.
Despite his heroics at times, Brett Maher has been one of the least accurate kickers in the NFL the last two years. Even after last night Brett is hitting just 71.4% of his field goals so far in 2019; that ties him for 25th in the league.
The most puzzling aspect of all with Maher is how much he struggles with shorter range kicks. You almost have more confidence in him kicking from 60 yards out than attempting an extra point.
Few kickers could survive that kind of performance and uncertainty, but few can do what Maher can with his long range ability. It's a risk/reward situation that the Cowboys are continuing to work with.
For today, at least, Maher and his team are basking in the glory of a great game. Let's hope both can keep up the positive momentum.
Cowboys Defense Dominates in Crucial Win vs Eagles
Coming into yesterday's battle for NFC East supremacy against the Philadelphia Eagles the Dallas Cowboys defense was looking to regain some swagger. The Green Bay Packers were led by Aaron Jones who had a career day with 182 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns two weeks ago in a 34-24 beatdown of the Cowboys. Last week at Metlife Stadium, the New York Jets got a career day themselves from their former third overall pick in Sam Darnold who threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns in his return from Mononucleosis that kept him out since Week one. The Cowboys were handed their third consecutive loss 24-22 and their season was headed down the drain.
It would be paramount for the Cowboys defensive unit to set a tone and they didn't waste any time doing so. The Eagle's first possession would only last five plays as Jaylon Smith forced a fumble by Tight End Dallas Goedert that was recovered by Maliek Collins. Just two plays into their second drive, Carson Wentz was strip-sacked by All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence inside the Eagles own 15 which was recovered by Antwaun Woods. Both turnovers led to scores for the Cowboys as they took an early 14-0 lead in the games first six minutes.
After the Eagles scored on a seven-play 87-yard drive with a little over four minutes to go in the first quarter they would only run 12 plays the rest of the first half, and the Cowboys went into the locker room with a commanding 27-7 lead.
The second half would be a continuation of the first 30 minutes of play. After an exchange of field goals in the third quarter, the Eagles were simply out of their misery early in the fourth. Wentz was intercepted by Safety Xavier Woods and he committed his second fumble of the game on the very next drive. In the end, the Cowboys whipped the Eagles from start to finish 37-10 and claimed outright first place in the NFC East.
There were several encouraging signs defensively for the Cowboys vs the Eagles. Maliek Collins matched his season total with five tackles and also recovered a fumble. Both starting defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn each had a sack showing exactly why the Cowboys put this combo together, to terrorize quarterbacks. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis had four tackles and a sack, a great follow up to his four tackle performance with an interception a week earlier, further making his case to be the top guy at nickel corner in this defense. The old veteran Sean Lee didn't go unnoticed either as his seven tackles were tied for of the team lead. He got more snaps due to Leighton Vander Esch's early exit with a neck injury.
You expect an offense like the Eagles to make plays and score points eventually, but the Cowboys defense wasn't having any of it in this contest. In addition to giving up under 300 yards of total offense, they only allowed the Eagles to convert three third downs, go 0 for 2 in the red zone and forced four turnovers. That's a recipe for victory any Sunday.
Now, the Cowboys go into the bye week sitting on top the NFC East throne. This is the perfect time to get guys fully healthy with a clash against the New York Giants on the road awaiting them in two weeks. The Cowboys defense played with their backs to the wall and pulled out a big-time performance when they needed it the most. Consistency is what has kept them from looking like the top seven unit they were in 2018. Was this game the turning point? We shall see, but nonetheless, this showing by them was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Cowboys Get Good News on Vander Esch, Quinn Injuries After Eagles Game
The Dallas Cowboys got a big win last night over the Philadelphia Eagles, but there was concern that they also suffered some big injuries. But good news; despite their leaving the game and not returning, both LB Leighton Vander Esch and DE Robert Quinn appear to have avoided any significant issues.
Vander Esch suffered a neck stinger in the second quarter and did not come back. It appears he was held out as a precautionary measure, and the Cowboys' 21-7 lead at that point may have contributed to the decision.
Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch just told me he's good. First neck stinger. Disputes "history" of neck issues reports. Told me he would have continued playing but "wasn't up to me
Quinn's rib injury also occurred before halftime and ended his night. The veteran picked up his obligatory sack before going out, and it sounds like he should be fine for Dallas' next game.
From @GMFB: The #Cowboys got a few injury scares, but LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and LB Robert Quinn (rib) are expected to be OK. https://t.co/ld1mncRkNw
These defensive standouts join a host of Cowboys starters who are going to benefit greatly from the team's bye week.
Dallas went into the game with injury concerns to WRs Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, OTs Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, and CBs Byron Jones and Anthony Brown. Of those, Brown was the only one who did not play last night.
Still, all of these players need a week to rest and be ready for the long haul of the regular season.
The Cowboys will get back to work in Week 9 with a road trip to New York, facing the Giants on Monday Night Football.
Thankfully, it looks like Leighton Vander Esch and Robert Quinn will both be ready to play in two weeks.
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