On offense, we break down the team into three groups: the every-down players, the second-tier guys (who play from 40% to 75% of the snaps), and everyone else. Who did what this week against the Packers, a game at Lambeau Field, where the Cowboys had won only once in 10 tries coming in, but pulled off a dominant 30-16 win?
The Every-Down Players
There were 65 snaps on offense this week (versus 57 against Cincinnati, 76 against the Niners, 65 against the Bears, and and 68 against Washington).
- The offensive line of Tyron Smith, Ron Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free played every down again. Leary’s entrance over the injured La’el Collins corresponded with Ezekiel Elliott rushing for more yards, and having starter Tyron Smith is certainly an upgrade over the game Chaz Green. This is the engine that makes the offense run.
- Dak Prescott and Jason Witten were the other two every-down players.
Dak Prescott had another big game that has been reported on elsewhere. After passing Tom Brady’s record for passes without an interception to start a career, he threw an errant pass towards Jason Witten that was picked off. It led to a Green Bay field goal. He also fumbled twice (lost one), which also cost Dallas points, but did not really threaten the outcome, given how well the defense played. As he said afterward, time to start a new streak of games without turnovers.
Jason Witten was targeted with eight passes, catching four, for 42 yards. It was his 203rd start for the Cowboys, tying Ed “Too Tall” Jones for most in Dallas history. He’ll tie Lee Roy Jordan for most consecutive starts after the bye at home against Philadelphia. Truly an ironman.
The Second Tier
This week, this group includes:
- Ezekiel Elliott, 59 snaps
- Brice Butler, 51
- Terrance Williams, 43
- Cole Beasley, 31
- Geoff Swaim, 30
No Dez Bryant again, and no problem again, for the third game in a row. Didn’t many people blame bad quarterbacking and Terrance Williams last year on Bryant being out? With Dak Prescott, that’s no longer an issue.
Cole Beasley had six catches on six targets for 58 yards and two touchdowns. He totally faked out the Green Bay defender on this one.
Terrance Williams led the receivers this week in yardage with four catches on five targets for 75 yards, including the key 42-yarder in the middle of a three-play blitz that took Dallas from it’s 12-yard line to the end zone. Brice Butler finished off that drive with this beauty.
Unfortunately, this was Butler’s only catch. He dropped a perfect Prescott pass from the Dallas seven-yard line to the 50, and Prescott was picked off on the next play. Butler also had a bad block-in-the-back penalty that blunted what could have been a TD drive, forcing Dallas to settle for a field goal.
Dallas may not be able to afford re-signing Terrance Williams next year, but Brice Butler isn’t consistent enough yet. It will be a challenge this coming offseason.
Elliott topped his last game, and has now improved every game out. 28 carries, 157 yards, 5.6 yards per carry, and two catches for 17 yards. They even tried lining up Zeke in the slot and using him as a receiver, but it didn’t work yet.
Geoff Swaim was not targeted, but he was obviously part of the run blocking.
The other players receiving offensive snaps were:
- Lucky Whitehead, 15 snaps
- Keith Smith, 14
- Gavin Escobar, 8
- Alfred Morris, 5
Lucky Whitehead is one of those players who plays enough without getting the ball that teams can fall asleep on his explosiveness. That was definitely true in this game, as he had two key plays. The first was a jet sweep that was the first in a three-play blitz taking the ball from the Dallas 12 to the 38. Prescott then hit Williams for 42 and Butler for 20, touchdown! That changed a tight 10-6 game where Green Bay was receiving the second half kickoff to one in which Dallas was never less than 11 points ahead. The second was a 35-yard catch and run which sparked Dallas’ last touchdown drive and a 27-9 lead.
Keith Smith was used to block more in this game than any other. Morris was used less, with three carries for only two yards. The invisible man, Gavin Escobar, set a season high with eight snaps, but still has not been targeted for a pass.
Dallas again lost the time of possession stat, but it didn’t matter. The opening drive was a touchdown, again. And despite some stumbles, the lead was never lost. The defense helped a lot by forcing four turnovers. The key drive was the 97-yarder using 33 seconds with no timeouts just before the half. That just stunned Green Bay. Bob Sturm gave them an A rating.