THE COWBOYS REPORT

Cowboys win two in a row; Redskins up next

Zeke Elliot and the Cowboys face the Redskins Thursday. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys (5-5) won two games in a row for the first time all season on Sunday by defeating the Atlanta Falcons (4-6) 22 -19.  Now they are in prime position to take control of the NFC East division by winning their third game in a row on Thanksgiving Day against the Washington Redskins (6-4).  

The Cowboys played a great game, both offensively and defensively.  They took their opening possession and turned it into a 15-play 85 yard drive that resulted in a field goal.  Once again they had a good balance between run/pass plays and took quite a few shots deep to speedster Michael Gallup.  The defense played great and was responsible for the lone turnover of the game. No surprise, that linebacker Leighton Vander Esch came up with a clutch interception early in the 4th quarter that led to a Dallas touchdown.

Other than their first drive of the game, the Dallas offense wasn’t able to do much in the first half and they were down 6-3 at halftime.  The second half was a different story; they leaned on super star Ezekiel Elliott and rode him to victory. Elliott carried the ball 23 times for 122 yards, 1 touchdown and also led the team in receiving with 7 catches for 79 yards.  It’s no secret that if Zeke is going to get the ball 30 times a game, the Cowboys are going to win more than they lose.

Quarterback Dak Prescott was 22/32 for 208 yards and most importantly NO turnovers!  He was very efficient and should have had a passing touchdown on their opening drive but sure handed slot receiver Cole Beasley dropped a wide open touchdown pass early in the 1st quarter.  He was able to spread the ball around and used his legs to score a running touchdown that put the Cowboys up 12-9 and they never trailed again.

The Cowboys seem to be improving week after week and now a have a 51% chance to win their division, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.  Their defense played great and shutdown everyone on the Falcons offense except for Julio Jones, but in fairness nobody in the league can stop him.  The one wrinkle they had on offense was they didn’t get the ball to their best receiver Amari Cooper. He only got the ball 3 times for 36 yards on 5 targets.  That is not a smart thing to do if you want to win the NFC East.

Players to Watch

  1. Ezekiel Elliott (running back): Zeke is 2nd in the league in rushing and is going to have to keep carrying the team this week.  He will be going against the 1st place Washington Redskins and their 6th best rushing defense.  

  2. Michael Gallup (wide receiver): Gallup only had one catch last week but it was a clutch 3rd down conversion on the game winning drive.  The Cowboys tried to capitalize on his speed and threw him multiple deep balls against Atlanta.  Hopefully Dak can connect a few times this week against Washington’s 24th ranked passing defense.  

  3. Leighton Vander Esch (linebacker): Vander Esch has been the Cowboys defensive MVP so far and just keeps making more plays.  He has an interception in back to back games and is going to have to keep the defense stable this week.

Thanksgiving Day the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) will be hosting the Washington Redskins (6-4) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and kickoff is set for 3:30 pm CST. Dallas looks to have a slight edge on their side already as Washington will be without the starting Quarterback Alex Smith.  Instead, they will be going against veteran backup Colt McCoy and former pro-bowler Adrian Peterson. A win would put the Cowboys in first place via tiebreaker over the Redskins. A loss will essentially put them 2 games back as Washington would be 2-0 in the head to head tiebreaker.   With the Cowboys looking to make a run at the playoffs, this is another must win game because they will be hosting the offensive juggernaut New Orleans Saints the following week.

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

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

Washington:  Adrian Peterson (RB), Jordan Reed (TE)

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are -7.5 and the over/under is 41.  7.5 is a lot of points to give to any team, the only way I would play it is if the number is 7 or less.  

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans loss rests squarely on this decision

Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Getty Images.

There are times in which you gamble and it pays off. Then there are times in which you gamble and lose badly. Today was definitely the latter. The Texans fell to the Titans 42-36 in an overtime thriller. The loss rests squarely on the head of interim head coach Romeo Crennel and his ill-timed gambling at the end of the game.

It started with the gamble to go for it on 4th&1 on the Titans' 35-yard line with 4:37 left in the game. That move said two things: A) we're on the road at 1-4 against the 4-0 division leader up by one point so let's try to end this, or B) I don't trust our kicker to make a 53-yard field goal. They converted because David Johnson is good for slamming into the backs of the offensive line for at least a yard or three. The next gamble came eight plays later. It was 4th & Goal from the 1-yard line. The play call was a pass. Deshaun Watson found Randall Cobb after scrambling to extend the play and putting the ball in a tight window on the sideline where only Cobb could catch it. Here's where I started to have a problem with the gambling.

That touchdown made it 36-29 in favor of the Texans. Up by seven with less than two minutes left in the game, the "right" call would be to kick the extra point to potentially go up by eight. That forces the opposition to have to score a touchdown and convert a two point conversion in order to tie the game. Alas...Crennel gambled by trying to force things, went for two, and came up short. Kenny Rogers once said: You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.

The porous defense, however, gave up the game tying touchdown and extra point with four seconds left to send the game into overtime. From there, the Titans got the ball in overtime and drove down the field for the game winning score. A team that played a game on Tuesday evening bullied a team on Sunday at noon. Let that sink in. Sure, Derrick Henry is a linebacker playing running back, but the amount of yards you gave up to him was unacceptable.

Not kicking that extra point to go up by eight with less than two minutes left (1:50 to be exact) was the key coaching move that I feel cost them the game. There's no coming back from blunders like that when you're now 1-5 and would need to go at least 8-2 with tons of help down the stretch to have an outside shot at the newly created seventh spot in the playoffs. You had the division leader down and were in position to get a division win to go to 2-4. Instead, you're now in position to help the Dolphins continue to improve their franchise from the boneheaded decisions Bill O'Brien made before his exit. Crennel and staff coached a good game, until the end when it mattered most. With an extra playoff spot available, they still have an outside shot to make it, but it'll be difficult.

This city and fanbase deserve better. One day, they'll get it and get a winner. Until then unfortunately, they'll have to settle for purgatory, disappointment, and mediocrity. Hold tight. I see good things coming one day Houston football fans.

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