As many expected, the Dallas Cowboys came back in a big way after losing by 25 points in the previous week, beating the Arizona Cardinals, 28-17. The beginning of the game looked like deja vu from the previous week. Arizona opened the game with an 82-yard touchdown drive that Carson Palmer made look effortless. What came after, unfortunately, was a lackluster offensive possession by Dallas and another strong Arizona drive. Fortunately, however, the drive didn’t lead to points. Dallas then rode the momentum of a missed Phil Dawson field goal on that same drive, all the way to a win.
Week Three Dallas Cowboys Takeaways
Deep Passes Open Up the Offense
Even as a franchise quarterback, you get critiqued all the time on your game. And that’s certainly no exception when it comes to second-year quarterback Dak Prescott. One of the reasons Prescott had such an efficient season last year was because he refrained from taking shots down the field. Part of Prescott’s initiative for this season was to take more risks throwing down the field more often in order to open up the offense.
As seen for a few seasons now, Dallas prefers to get the run game going with Ezekiel Elliott before anything else. This is understandable because oftentimes Elliott opens up the rest of the offense with big gashing runs. This, however, worked against Dallas in this game, but I’ll get to that in a bit. In the first quarter, Dallas was hurt heavily by third and long situations that were usually set up by trying to force feed Elliott against a stacked box. This led to quick three and outs on offense, but was later corrected as the game went on. What ended up working for the team was the reverse of the norm, taking shots downfield to open up the run.
In this game against Arizona, Prescott excelled at throwing the deep ball. He connected on all three passes over 20 yards for 112 yards and a touchdown. Prescott also showed great skill when escaping the pocket and throwing on the run. With a deep threat like Brice Butler, Prescott would be foolish not to take some deep shots this year. He certainly showed his throwing capability and trust in his receivers on those 50-50 balls in this game, something that you didn’t see last year.
Zeke and the Offensive Line Are Clicking
To begin the game, Arizona consistently stacked eight or nine people in the box in order to limit Elliott’s playmaking ability. What’s often infuriating as a fan is the stubbornness in trying to get the run going that Dallas has shown for years now. Against those eight or nine man fronts, the team shouldn’t be trying to force it to Elliott, not only on first down, but second as well. If you’re seeing the same exact formation, you probably shouldn’t run a very similar play! Fortunately, the line started clicking with Elliott and allowed him to break off some big runs later in the game.
Even with an offensive line as highly praised as the Dallas group has been, every player has a bad game once in awhile, and that rare bad game occurred against Denver. It’s easy to use the excuse of Denver’s dominant front, but the Dallas offensive line simply got outplayed. This game against Arizona was used to show that Denver was a fluke and that this group was still as great as they were a year ago, even after losing two starters. The line allowed Elliott to hit holes in the line even against one of the better defensive fronts in the NFL. However, the group needs to keep it consistent as they looked slow coming out of the gate early in the game.
Young Secondary Can Hold Their Own
Just like any other defense, it starts with the front and getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. It was very difficult to not have the NFL sack leader, Demarcus Lawrence, as a takeaway from this game. However, I used him last week, and at this point he’s proven he’s a force in this league and will cause problems for offensive lines with six and a half sacks through only three games this season.
With the pressure that the front got, it led to Palmer having to throw shorter routes and throwing it away quickly. Rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis had a much better performance than the one shown against Denver last week. He ended the game with six tackles, only behind linebacker Sean Lee for the most in the game. Lewis limited yards after catch on each play and showed a high I.Q. in one-on-one situations with the ball carrier.
In addition, rookie sixth-rounder Xavier Woods also had a good outing limiting any plays after the catch. Orlando Scandrick was thrown at a lot on Monday just a little over a week after having surgery to fix a fracture in his hand. It was good to have Scandrick back, as his presence was most certainly missed last week. And while he doesn’t make the most flashy of plays, his leadership is important for this young defensive group especially going forward this season.