The Dallas Cowboys put a beatdown on the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon, and while the offense will get much of the praise, and deservedly so, let’s not forget about the defense. Specifically, the Cowboys much-maligned pass rush. For the first time in the 2016 season, the Cowboys pass rush made a real difference in a game.
Dallas ended up with four sacks and nine quarterback hits on the day. Terrell McClain was a wrecking ball, he’s credited with 1.5 sacks and three QB hits on the game. The guy he beat out for the starting spot at the 1-tech spot, Cedric Thornton, also added a sack. Benson Mayowa got a sack and Jack Crawford ended up with half a sack. Ryan Davis had a sack wiped away because of a penalty.
Then there was DeMarcus Lawrence. He was limited in his time on the field, but you could already see the damage he will do once fully back into the rotation. He didn’t get a sack but twice in one series he pushed Andy Dalton off his spot, and on another play he knifed through to disrupt a run. Once he’s a full go, the Cowboys will be a better defense.
Dallas continually forced Andy Dalton to escape the pocket and throw on the run or just tuck the ball and run. In fact, Dalton picked up a few first downs by tucking and running. Now, going into this game, the Bengals had allowed 13 sacks in their four games. So what they gave up against Dallas was just a little over their average. Still, when is the last time the Cowboys pass rush has been above average?
Dallas also benefited from a big lead most of the game, that allowed the pass rushers to pin their ears back and head for Dalton without worrying too much about the run. Again, though, the Cowboys actually looked capable of taking advantage of that, something they haven’t always been able to do.
And let’s not pretend that some of this pass rush was due to a fantastic job by the Cowboys secondary. Replay after replay showed Bengals receivers blanketed by the secondary. Andy Dalton had to hold the ball on many plays.
So there were some mitigating circumstances. The Cowboys pass rush is not going to be something opponents fear this season, but if they can do enough to disrupt defenses and occasionally notch a sack or two, this offense can take care of a lot of the rest.