If you are a fan who is pleading for the Cowboys to give you a measly win so that you can have a week reprieve from other fans ridiculing your team, then it was a disappointing day for you. If you are a fan who doesn't want a victory to mess up next April's draft position, yet you would still like them to sneak in some good football, then you're in luck. Because that's just what the Cowboys delivered on Sunday.
1. Another good start
For the third straight game the Cowboys offense has marched down the field on their opening drive of the game. And for the third straight game, they were just teasing us as there would be no touchdown. They would get half their total points of the game in the games first drive as Pro Bowl kicker Dan Bailey would give the Cowboys an early lead.
2. The offense was moving the ball
The Cowboys offense would cross midfield in seven of their eight drives. Their only possession where they did absolutely nothing was a three and out they had in their first drive of the second half. Every other drive in the game the Cowboys moved the ball. If you were hoping for a loss, but still wanted to see the offense make some plays, then this was the game for you. It was one of the more respectable six point efforts I have seen. The Cowboys still shot themselves in the foot with some red-zone-killing miscues like - an interception, a series of penalties that moved them backwards, and a rare missed FG by Dan Bailey. It's a bad result, but there were some good things happening on the journey.
3. Offense converting on third down
The shotgun pitch to Darren McFadden on third and six was my second favorite play of the game. He gained 13 yards on the play and it was well executed with great blocks by Travis Frederick and Jason Witten. Most impressive was that was the fact that it wasn't your typical play call and it caught the Bills off guard.
But my very favorite play was the 22-yard completion to Terrance Williams on 3rd and 19. It was great protection, great patience in the pocket by Moore, and a nice catch and run by Williams. It just doesn't seem like too long ago where a down and distance like that had absolutely zero chance of being converted.
4. A Pro Bowl performance by Sean Lee
Watching Sean Lee sniff out a running play is a thing of beauty. So many times he looks out of position, but then explodes and takes a direct path to the ball carrier and ends up in the backfield. The difference between a good run stop and bad one for the Cowboys seems to rest solely on whether or not Lee was able to be shielded from the play. Lee finished the game with 15 tackles and will finish the year as the team leader.
The same was not true for his partner in crime, Rolando McClain, as he looked terrible at times. He whiffed on two big missed tackles early in the game, a 26-yard run by Karlos Williams where McClain had gotten in the backfield and a 15-yard screen pass by Mike Gillislee that took the Bills down inside the one-yard line.
5. A not-so Pro Bowl performance by Dan Bailey
It's not a big deal when a kicker misses a field goal, but it is a little surprising when that kicker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history. There was a little bit of astonishment when Bailey came up short on a 50-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter. He had the accuracy down, but didn't have the leg. I thought maybe wind played a role, but on their very next possession, the Cowboys would have a chance for Bailey to attempt another long FG after the teams had switched sides of the field. I was a little surprised to see Jason Garrett send on the punting unit with as much confidence he has in Bailey. If the wind was going against him on his miss, it would have helped him when they changed directions.
6. Tyrod Taylor carried the Bills
I did not realize just how much Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor impacted the game. He was by far the biggest playmaker of the game. The Bills biggest passing play came when he was able to elude the rush and hit Sammy Watkins for a 37-yard reception. But it was his 14 rushing attempts that hurt the Cowboys the most. The third down and six run by Tyrod Taylor late in the fourth quarter was an impressive play by the Bills QB. He managed to escape a tackle from all four of the Cowboys NASCAR package pass rushers. First Randy Gregory, then Greg Hardy, then DeMarcus Lawrence, and finally Tyrone Crawford.
7. Another new corner making a good impression
I was impressed with Deji Olatoye. The pick in the end zone was a nice play and his eyes were locked in on the Bills quarterback right out of the gate. But let's put this in perspective, covering Chris Hogan is nothing to get real excited about. Plus, there were a couple times where Hogan got the space he needed to make the reception. I was more impressed with Olatoye's toughness in the running game. He did a good job attacking the runner and bringing him down. Olatoye finished the game with six tackles. The second year player did a good job with the snaps he was given.
8. Mixed reviews for Kellen Moore
It was hard to feel for what Kellen Moore gave you. Completing 13 of 31 passes for 186 yards with no touchdowns and one interception tells you that he's not very good. The pick was a pass thrown behind the receiver and killed a scoring opportunity. He would definitely have his share of misfires, including missing a wide open Brice Butler for a touchdown on the game's opening drive.
But then there was the times he would make great throws and put the ball right where it needed to be. Three Cowboys receivers had a catch of 20 yards or more and his ability to stretch the field is much needed for this offense.
9. The Cowboy got a fumble recovery!
The Cowboys came into this game with only three fumble takeaways (ranked last) on the season. It seems like every chance they get, a knee will be ruled down before the ball comes out. Barry Church was able to jar the ball loose just a smidge before Karlos Williams' knee touched the ground and this one wouldn't get overturned.
10. Darren McFadden continues to do his job
McFadden did not reach 1,000 yards for the season and he came up one yard short of 100 for the game. But despite all that, he's been doing a great job running the ball for this team. He keeps putting his head down, hitting the holes, and grinding out the five yard gains this team needs on first down. Watching him run more and more, he doesn't look much different from that other guy that left for Philadelphia. I'm not saying they're the same, I'm just saying they are a lot more similar than some might think.
Just think of what kind of yardage totals McFadden would have if he would have been the starter at the beginning of the season instead of week 8. Furthermore, just think of the extra yardage he'd have if Tony Romo was around to take some of the defensive pressure off of him. We might get a glimpse of what that would look like in 2016.