It is really hard to undervalue a Cowboys win at Lambeau Field. Coming into this game, the Cowboys in team history were 1-9 at Lambeau, including the playoffs, dating back to 1960. Their only win was in 2008, when Tony Romo and a dominant rushing attack beat the Packers 27-16. Marion Barber ran 28 times for 142 yards. Felix Jones ripped off a 60-yard touchdown run. And Tony Romo was 17 for 30, for 260 yards, 8.7 yards per attempt, with one TD and one interception, and a passer rating of 82.6.
Brett Favre thought the atmosphere at Lambeau would be too big for Dak Prescott. He left shaking his head.
"The kid's playing incredible."
Troy Aikman also thought Dallas should stick with Dak while he’s playing this well.
"I don't think you can disrupt the momentum this team has," Aikman said. "When you have it, you ride it. Odds are they are going to need Romo at some point this season whether they start him or not.
While at halftime, with the Cowboys up 17-6, Jimmy Johnson said:
"I think this first half has eliminated any debate about who's going to be the (Cowboys') starting quarterback."
Even though the quarterback debate is still not settled, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott just keep rolling along, chalking up very impressive performances and wins. This time, it was Dak who turned the ball over (not Zeke), fumbling twice (one lost) and throwing his first interception after he broke Tom Brady’s record of passes without a pick to start a career. Dak set the new record of 177.
Via the Elias Sports Bureau, the Cowboys are the first team to win 5 straight games within a season, starting the same rookie QB and RB in each game (Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott) since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970. In that span, 16 teams have started the same rookie QB and RB in 5 straight games.
What did Zeke do? How about 157 yards on 28 carries, or almost as many as Green Bay Packers had given up, in total, in their first four games!
Dallas was even more of an underdog this game, playing the Packers and Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau. But it drove for an opening touchdown, again, and never trailed en route to a 30-16 win. Dallas is now 5-1.
Dak’s stats from his first six weeks.
(Note: The key stats here are Adjusted Net Yards per attempt, which demonstrates how well a QB gets the ball down the field and into the end zone. Completion percentage tends to show accuracy. Attempts shows the run/pass balance, with fewer attempts for QBs often the goal. Turnovers, or the lack of them, are also critical.)
Dak’s completion percentage slipped a little in this game, but was still a solid 66.7%. The ANY/A was in the mid-eights, and is now 8.04 for the season. His passer rating of 117.4 pushed his seasonal number to 103.8. Once again, Dak won the passer rating differential for the Cowboys 117.4 to 90.8, which is a key variable in who wins football games, but this time it was over Aaron Rodgers, the best quarterback the Cowboys have faced, even if he has been sliding these last two seasons.
Dez Bryant was again out, but it didn’t seem to matter, again. In this game, Dak showed that he can throw the ball down the field. He hit Terrence Williams for 42 yards, Brice Butler for 20 yards and a touchdown on the next play, and Lucky Whitehead on a surprise play for 33 yards. Cole Beasley was again Dak’s favorite target with six catches on six targets for 58 yards and two touchdowns. He also drew a key pass interference penalty to keep one scoring drive alive. Jason Witten had four catches on eight targets for 42 yards. Zeke caught two balls on four targets for 17 yards, to round out the receiving. Butler also dropped a deep pass that was right in his hands in the third quarter. Dak was intercepted on the next play.
Dak led some very impressive drives.
- Eight plays for 75 yards and a TD to open the game 7-0.
- Twelve plays for 50 yards and a field goal to take a 10-6 lead.
- Five plays for 97 yards and a TD right before the half, to lead 17-6.
- Seven plays for 47 yards and a field goal to extend the lead to 20-6.
- Seven plays for 75 yards and a touchdown to get the biggest lead 27-9.
- Eight plays for 48 yards to kill the clock in the fourth quarter and ice the game 30-16.
The one that stands out is the 97 yard blitz that took 33 seconds when Dallas had no time outs before the half. Green Bay stopped the clock twice, and on third down, a Lucky Whitehead jet sweep gained 26 yards, giving Dallas the field position to strike. Two Dak passes later, the Cowboys were in the end zone on a perfect pass to Brice Butler.
How does Dak stand up against Tony Romo’s 2014 season? After this game, Dak extended his lead slightly. In 2014, this was the week Tony led Dallas into Seattle and emerged with a defining win. Dak just did the same in Green Bay. Impressive.
Here are Tony Romo’s 2014 stats after six games.
Dak’s made more mistakes in this game than in any other game, with an interception near his own goal line, and two fumbles (one lost). The Cowboys’ third down efficiency was their worst yet - three for eleven. But he overcame this by throwing three TD passes, and leading the quick-strike drive just before the end of the half that turned a tight contest into the beginnings of a rout. Amazing.
How did Zeke do in game six? He just keeps getting better. His yards per attempt were not stratospheric like last week, but 5.6 yards per carry, against what had been the defense hardest to run on in the NFL, is pretty impressive. Thom Brennaman called them a “quiet” 157 yards during the broadcast. Not sure that’s true, because Green Bay was impressed. As Jean Jacques Taylor noted after the game,
Ezekiel Elliott has his fourth straight game with at least 130 yards. No Cowboys runner has ever had three consecutive games with 130+. This franchise has had runners such as Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker, DeMarco Murray, Calvin Hill and Duane Thomas.
- Rushing: 28 carries, 157 yards, 5.6 YPC, 0 TD, long 29 yards, no fumbles
- Receiving: 2 receptions, 4 targets, 17 yards.
What do his totals look like after 6 games?
The physical play of Elliott has to be demoralizing for defenses. He added two more runs of 20+ yards against a defense that hadn’t surrendered any in its first four games.
Stop me if this is getting redundant: The Cowboys scored on their first possession. They then scored twice more in the first half, including what could be a season-defining drive before halftime on which they traveled 97 yards on five plays in a mere 33 seconds of shock and awe. They then scored three more times in the second half and ran the ball for 191 yards on their way to another 400-yard, 30-point day. They have a rookie QB and a rookie RB that not only are performing, but are arguably leading the team to weekly statements that the league is hearing. Third downs weren't great and a few takeaways need to be cleaned up, but that was awesome.
My grades this week?
- Dak. A. Positives: With a 97-yard blitz on essentially three plays right before the half, to turn a 10-6 lead into a 17-6 one, Dak showed something new and frightening to opponents. He had already shown the long TD drive to open games several times, and the poise to respond to opponent scores with Cowboys answering drives. Three touchdown passes, two to Cole Beasley, were excellent. His overall numbers continue to climb and continue to exceed Romo’s 2014 pace. At Lambeau Field, where the Cowboys had won once in 10 tries? That’s amazing. Brett Favre, among others, was impressed. Negatives? His first interception, and two more fumbles, one under duress (one lost) should have knocked down Dak’s grade. But the poise he showed to shrug these off in the setting he was in keep this a A performance.
- Zeke. A+. Positives: Didn’t have the back-breaking home run gallop this week, but his 157 yards on the ground set a new career high. If it weren’t for Dak Prescott, Zeke would be the story of this team and this season. Anyone still think any running back could be doing these things behind the Dallas line? Negatives? I didn’t see any.
What did you think of their performances?