It’s Thanksgiving. The food and family are great, but the real highlight of the day is, of course, the annual Cowboys game versus a division rival. Coming off of a two-game winning streak, everyone knew this was going to be a pivotal game in the Cowboys’ season, and it certainly lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys’ Offense exploded in that game, with Amari Cooper totaling 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns, Dak throwing for 289 yards, and Zeke rushing for 121 yards. The defense also held strong, picking off Colt McCoy three times and repetitively stalling the Redskins’ drives. The Cowboys proceeded to win the game and continued to upset the Saints the next week, extending their winning streak to four.
The one constant in all of the past four games for the Cowboys was, of course, their defense. Every game they showed up, they wreaked havoc on the opposing team’s run and pass game. Their pass rush led by Demarcus “Tank” Lawrence constantly puts pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and their insanely good linebacker corp of Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith always is quick to tackle the running back. When Sean Lee comes back, the Cowboys will without a doubt have the best linebacker rotation in football, and with an exemplary D-Line as well as a scrappy secondary lead by Byron Jones, the Cowboys might just have the best defense around the whole league.
This defense, despite a sometimes disappointing offense, can always keep the Cowboys in the game even against high-powered offenses, like the Saints. This will prove crucial to any success the Cowboys could have in the post-season, as against high-powered teams the offense will need help from the defense to get points on the board.
Good Dak, Bad Dak
Over these past four games, Dak has played alright and made some big plays, but he’s also made some poor decisions as well. Against the Redskins with Amari playing as well as he was, Dak’s job was pretty easy – get the ball to Amari. He also made some good plays with his feet, like his touchdown run to put the game away in the fourth quarter. Plays like that show the potential he has as a mobile quarterback, and his size definitely helps because tackling him is like tackling a running back.
However, with his recent tendency to drop the ball when scrambling and a sometimes nonexistent pocket presence, it’s obvious that he has a lot to work on. However, these flashes of brilliance, like his 3rd and 10 scramble against the Saints, show that he could truly be something special if his talents are utilized correctly.
A Different Kind of QB
Prescott isn’t Troy Aikman or Roger Staubach, but that’s just it; he’s not the same type of player as them. Dak isn’t a pocket-passer with great accuracy or a gunslinger that can chuck it 70 yards downfield, demonstrated by his missed throw to Michael Gallup on Thursday, but he has the potential to be good in his own right by playing to his strengths like running the ball, rather than to his weaknesses.
The problems stem from when plays are called that require numerous reads and audibles at the line, and this is something that Dak simply can’t do. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something that Scott Linehan needs to keep in mind. When they try to force plays, the offense stalls like in the second half of the Saints game, and really hurts their chances in any game. The defense is good, but it’s not really fair to expect them to have that type of performance weekly.
Receiving by Committee
At the beginning of the season, the whole receiver by committee idea didn’t work well for the Cowboys with their supposed “ace” in Allen Hurns not meeting expectations, and as a result, leading to stagnation among the receivers unable to get open. However, Amari Cooper is quickly proving that he can be that dynamic number one receiver drawing in the extra coverage, leading to other receivers getting open.
This is shown as receivers like Michael Gallup or even Hurns are able to get one on one coverage with no safety, leading to them being open much more often. With Cooper at the top of the Cowboys’ receiver rankings, this allows for other receivers to shine with decreased coverage, allowing for more easy routes.
Even though the Cowboys started the season off slowly, it looks like (knock on wood) that they’ll probably be in the playoffs this year. They’re leading the division right now, but the Eagles aren’t too far back from the Cowboys and could easily catch them if Wentz returns to his last season form. Even if the Cowboys don’t clinch the division though, chances are they could probably get one of the wildcard spots, as the NFC this year isn’t really that great.
However, the goal of a season isn’t just to get to the playoffs but to win in the playoffs. Looking at the NFC, there are definitely a few tough teams like the Rams, Saints, and Bears that would be a difficult matchup for the Cowboys. There are also teams like the Seahawks, Panthers, and Vikings that while even though they aren’t playing great right now, they could easily get hot at the end of the year and succeed in the playoffs, as we see nearly every year. It won’t be easy for the Cowboys to win against really any of their matchups in the playoffs, but with a defense that strong and a slowly improving offense, they just might.
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