THE COWBOYS REPORT

Cowboys get first road win; Falcons up next

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.


 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome