THE COWBOYS REPORT

Cowboys win 4 in a row; Eagles up next

The Cowboys have won four in a row. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys (7-5) won their fourth game in a row Thursday night when they defeated the New Orleans Saints (10-2) by the score of 13-10.  This is their third game in a row where they scored on their opening possession and never trailed the rest of the game.

Dallas held one of the best offenses in the league to only 10 points and now ESPN Stats & information give them an 80.2 % chance of reaching the playoffs.  They played great defense and held the Saints to nine possessions by controlling the ball. The Cowboys had the ball for 36 minutes and 53 seconds of game.

The Cowboys defense was swarming all game long.  They didn’t allow the Saints to pick up a first down until their third possession of the game.  Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith were the top two leading tacklers and combined for 19 total (both had 6 solo).  They kept constant pressure on Drew Brees and caused him to start a game 0-for-4 passing for the first time in his 18 year NFL career.  

With the Cowboys defense keeping the Saints from moving the ball, the offense was able to grind out first downs and keep the Saints offense off the field.  Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott touched the ball 29 times. He had 23 carries for 76 yards, 6 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Dak Prescott was very efficient and went 24 of 28 for 248 yards and one touchdown.  He also ran the ball five times for 22 yards. He connected with superstar receiver Amari Cooper 8 times for 75 yards and was also able to find rookie receiver Michael Gallup on a 40 yard pass.

The Cowboys play calling and execution on both sides of the ball was excellent all game long.  They had a great mix of run/pass plays and it seemed like they were running plays out of the Saints playbook.   If they keep this up they could have a chance to make a real run in the playoffs.

With the win, the Cowboys now have a 76.9 % chance of winning the NFC East according to ESPN Football Power Index.  Dallas can basically clinch the division with a win against the Eagles on Sunday.

Players to Watch

  1. Ezekiel Elliott (running back): After week 13 Zeke is the NFL’s second leading rusher.  He is 25 yards behind Todd Gurley.  He might have a hard time finding some running lanes as the Eagles are the 10th best rushing defense in the league.  The Cowboys night need to get creative and get him the ball on some screens and swing passes.  

  2. Michael Gallup (wide Receiver): Had his best game of the year last week and led the team with 76 receiving yards on 5 catches.  He looks to have good chemistry with Dak and had an opportunity to take advantage of Philadelphia’s 26th ranked pass defense.  

  3. Leighton Vander Esch (Linebacker): Dallas’ best defensive player is going to have to come up big and guard the middle of the field against Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz who torched them earlier this season for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys (7-5) will be hosting their division rival Philadelphia (6-6) in which the winner will almost be guaranteed to win the NFC East division.  Kickoff is set for 3:35 pm CST at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX (AKA: Jerry’s World). Both teams are coming off wins this past week and the Cowboys are going to have to be prepared because games against the Eagles are always a struggle but if they keep playing the way they have been playing they should be able to win a fifth game in a row.

If you have any fantasy players, the only must start players are:

Cowboys:  Ezekiel Elliott (RB), Amari Cooper (WR), Dak Prescott (QB)

Eagles:  Carson Wentz (QB), Zach Ertz (TE)

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are -3.5 and the over/under is 43.  With the Cowboys defense playing so well recently, I would lean Dallas on this one but only if you can get -3 or less.  

 

Saints 36, Bears 25

Saints vs Bears: Good, bad and ugly

New Orleans Saints official Twitter account

The Saints went into Soldier Field and took on the Bears minus several key players. Despite being shorthanded, they easily handled the Bears 36-25. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Michael Thomas did Michael Thomas things (nine catches for 131 yards). But it was Latavius Murray filling in for Alvin Kamara who did the heavy lifting. He ran for 113 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. He added five catches for another 31 yards. Murray looked like the 2015 Pro Bowl version of himself.

-The defense was awesome! The Bears went two full quarters between getting a 1st down (2nd to 4th). Not to mention a safety, two fumble recoveries, a blocked punt, two sacks, allowed 17 yards rushing and gave up only 10 points. I know Mitchell Trubisky just returned from a shoulder injury and the Bears offense hasn't gotten more than 300 yards of offense in any game this year, but this was impressive.

-Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk got some praise from the announcers for his play. Not only did he do a good job on Khalil Mack, but they wondered why he hasn't been to a Pro Bowl. Ramczyk has consistently handled himself well against some of the best pass rushers in the league and should see his first Pro Bowl this year.

The Bad

-Right after recovering a fumble and going up 9-0, the special teams gave up a 102-yard kickoff return. Momentum swings like this can deflate one team and ignite another. Far too often the Saints shoot themselves in the foot like this. When they're playing well, they don't give up easy scores after they've scored.

-Kicker Will Lutz had made 35 straight field goals on the road with his first attempt against the Bears. It set a new NFL record. Unfortunately, he missed his next two. One went wide right, the other fell short. It didn't cost the Saints the game, but here's to hoping Lutz gets his mojo back.

-Too many cheap yards given up when the game was already decided. I know when you're up by three or four touchdowns, attention seems to fade. They gave up a final score when Allen Robinson juked rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson out his shoes and caught a skinny post for a touchdown. Icing on the cupcake was the Bears' tight end Adam Shaheen caught the two-point conversion over Eli Apple.

The Ugly

-J.T. Gray and Patrick Robinson both left the game in the first quarter. With P.J. Williams serving a two-game suspension, the defense needs defensive backs to stay healthy. The defense has been playing very well over the last month or so. The next couple games could test that. More icing on the cupcake: Apple went down with what looked to be a pretty bad leg injury with under a minute left.

-34 seconds before halftime, the Saints force a punt. Deonte Harris returned it 67 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a holding penalty on Zach Line. I thought the league was going to go easy on ticky tack holding calls? Obviously not as this one took points off the board.

-With 4:33 left in the game and it's clearly over with the Saints up 36-10, Gardner-Johnson stopped Tarik Cohen for a six yard loss after catching a pass. He and Apple proceeded to make height-mocking gestures to Cohen. They weren't flagged, but it was pretty dumb. Two guys who haven't done a damn thing in this league making fun of a guy who made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team last season is beyond dumb and really pissed me off!

No Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook? And this team won on the road again? Time to stop doubting those who are non-believers. This is arguably the best team in football right now. Most of the credit goes to defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and the defense. They've collectively rallied and turned themselves into the best defensive unit over the last five plus games. Head coach Sean Payton has called plays masterfully. They made Teddy Bridgewater the highest paid backup in the league for a reason. Teddy Two-Gloves is now 5-0 as a starter this year. Brees is trying to come back next week against the Cardinals. I say let him chill until they play the Falcons after the bye week...unless he's healthy. This team will be a real problem once they're all fully healthy down the stretch. The rest of the league is on notice.

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