Dallas Cowboys have all the right answers … for now
By Tyrone Starr
Despite a big road win Sunday night, the Dallas Cowboys have a long road ahead of them and must not rest on one good performance.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Dallas Cowboys to what offense looks like in the year 2018. Maybe it was a genuine fear of unemployment. It could have been the “must-win” vibe of a season on the brink.
Whatever the reason, for the first time all season, the Cowboys looked like a team that understands how to play football in this day and age. Now, I am aware they put up 40 a few weeks ago against Jacksonville, but I am not counting that one. All the coaching staff did was copy off Kansas City’s paperwork from the week prior.
Sunday night was original. It was a performance born out of necessity. It was a plan the vastly differed from anything seen in the prior eight games. Is it sustainable? That is going to be the biggest question with seven games left in this season. A win against the Philadelphia Eagles was crucial, but it does not matter if Dallas does not continue to move forward.
In the grand scheme of things, the win is not so much the story. How this team played and how these coaches, offensively, attacked an opposition is the key.
The Eagles played defense as if the other shoe was going to drop at any time, only it never did. They played with their focus on Ezekiel Elliott but could stop him because he finally got the help he needed.
That help came from his quarterback and the offensive coordinator. The Dallas Cowboys were in a first and ten situation 27 times Sunday night. They threw on 19 of these plays. This may not sound like a big deal, but for Scott Linehan, it is the equivalent of man discovering fire.
For the first time all year, Dallas won a game in which Prescott had more attempts than the team had rushes. Embracing the current wave of NFL football, Dallas used the passing game to set up the run, which in turn, allowed Elliott to dominate.
Finishing with one yard less than his 2018 best on six fewer carries, Zeke was able to control the game in an unusual way. The constant three yards and a cloud of dust became open field hurdle exhibitions and almost eight yards per carry.
Prescott was also allowed, possibly even encouraged to throw deep. Six attempts, a season-high as well, went beyond fifteen yards of the line of scrimmage. The results bore fruit. Prescott threw for his second-highest yardage total on his best completion percentage of 2018.
Will this revelation be the light that guides the Dallas Cowboys the rest of the way?
It had better be if people want to remain in this organization.
There is no question that a poor offensive performance Sunday night would have likely been the end of Linehan’s days calling plays for this team. One game is not going to change the palpable vibe of discomfort, nor should it.
Head coach Jason Garrett’s seat is as hot as it has ever been as well. Owner Jerry Jones has referred multiple times over the past few weeks about his disdain for where the team is currently sitting. Jones had much bigger goals in mind than scratching and clawing to stay around .500 heading into the holidays.
Prescott, while getting continual votes of confidence from Jones publicly, is undoubtedly being heavily evaluated as well. A wealthy extension looms for Prescott but there are clear improvements necessary in order for the actual number to make sense to this organization. You saw some of those issues early in the game, however, Prescott worked through them and played well for the most part.
These next seven games will define the paths of these three men. Dallas has home games against Washington, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and New Orleans. They must go no worse than 3-1 and win both divisional contests. They face Atlanta, Indianapolis and the Giants on the road. The Cowboys must win both NFC contests to have any shot at the postseason. Sweeping these three games would be ideal.
As you can already see, one game did not make the margin for error any easier. Next week at Atlanta is a de facto playoff game. Win and the Cowboys all of a sudden have a streak going as they prepare for the Redskins-Saints-Eagles gauntlet. Lose and you can forget any chance at a Wild Card.
One bad game from Linehan calling the plays or Prescott executing them and this ship goes down for good. The coaches won’t survive and all eyes will be on Prescott to see if he is worthy of carrying the Cowboys torch or burnt at the stake by it.
Sunday was encouraging but this is the NFL. We are on to Atlanta.