Zeke Elliot had a huge game. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
The Dallas Cowboys (4-5) got their first road win of the season Sunday night when they defeated their division rival Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) by the score of 27-20. The victory moves Dallas into second place (via tiebreaker over Philly) in the NFC East and two games back of the Washington Redskins.
The Cowboys looked like a completely different team from the one that took the field against the Titans last week. The Dallas defense was focused, energetic, and hit hard the entire game. They forced a three and out on Philly’s first possession and intercepted Carson Wentz on their second possession. Young linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch were all over the field. They combined for 17 total tackles (16 were solo tackles) and Vander Esch’s interception in Eagles territory helped give Dallas the early lead. He also made a key tackle in the game on a 4th and 7 that basically sealed the win.
The Dallas offense also looked different from the week before. They were clicking on all cylinders and got the ball to their play makers for a total of 410 yards. The most important stat was they committed ZERO turnovers. Quarterback Dak Prescott was 26 of 36 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, and NO INTs. He also ran in for a 1 yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak right before the end of the first half. He targeted his best receiver Amari Cooper early and often. They connected 6 times for 75 yards on 10 targets and Copper was tied for the team lead in receptions with Ezekiel Elliott.
Even with both sides of the ball playing well, Zeke Elliott was the most important part of the game. He ran 19 times for 151 yards, had 6 catches for 36 yards and scored 2 touchdowns (1 rushing, 1 receiving). I think head coach Jason Garrett remembered that Elliott is their main go-to guy and he got him the ball as much as he could. At one point in the game the Eagles had tied it up at 13, Dallas then went on a nine play drive where Zeke got the ball seven times and capped it off with a touchdown to reclaim the lead.
This was one of their best games of the year so far and they need to keep it going if they want to win their division. The few wrinkles they had was the offensive line allowed Prescott to get sacked four times and the defensive secondary gave up 360 yards through the air, most of which was to Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz who had 14 catches for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Players to watch
Ezekiel Elliott (running back): As we saw last week, the Cowboys win or lose depending on whether or not Zeke can make plays. Good news is they are facing the 27th ranked defense Atlanta Falcons this week. He should be able to feast against them.
Allen Hurns (wide receiver): The $12 million dollar free agent pick up made a clutch 23 yard third down catch Sunday night on the game-winning drive. It looks like the addition of Cooper has opened things up for him and could have more opportunities to make plays down the field.
Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods, and Jeff Heath (defensive secondary): These guys are going to have to play great. They are going against the fourth best passing offense in the league which includes the NFL’s leading receiver Julio Jones. Someone is going to need to step up so they don’t get torched through the air.
Sunday the Cowboys (4-5) will be on the road again taking on the Atlanta Falcons (4-5) in a must win game for both teams. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Dallas is looking to add another road win that will put them at .500 as the Falcons are trying to do the same but are going to be very upset due to the fact that they just got beat by the Cleveland Browns. The Cowboys are going to have to get the ball to Zeke and Cooper as much as they can if they want to keep pace with Atlanta’s pass heavy offense.
If you have any fantasy players, the only must start players are:
Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott (RB), Amari Cooper (WR), Dak Prescott (QB)
Falcons: Matt Ryan (QB), Julio Jones (WR), Tevin Coleman (RB)
For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are +3.5 and the over/under is 48. I am probably going to stay away from this game but if you must play it, take the Cowboys on anything over 3. If it’s less than 3, the smart play would be to take the Falcons at home.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.