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 at home against the Eagles, where the visitors had won five out of the last six games? It looked like they would make it six out of seven, but a late game touchdown drive by Dallas tied the score, and the Cowboys wouldn’t let the Eagles touch the ball in overtime, pulling off a gutsy 29-23 win?
The Every-Down Players
Because of overtime, there were 78 snaps on offense this week (versus 65 against Green Bay, 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. They did a bang up job again, despite lots of Philly blitzes, helping Prescott succeed on a fourth down sneak in overtime that lead to the win, and Zeke have another solid day with 96 yards on 22 carries.
- Dak Prescott and Jason Witten were the other two every-down players.
Dak Prescott had his shakiest game since the opener that has been reported on elsewhere. Despite connecting on his deepest pass of the season to Dez Bryant, a 53-yard beauty he dropped right in Bryant’s hands, many of his passes were well off target, he threw a costly pick in the Philly end zone, and he was only 5 for 13 at the half. But the defense and some gutsy calls — for example, a fake punt — kept the Cowboys in it, and with about six-and-a-half minutes left, Dak led the Cowboys on a game tying 90-yard touchdown drive. He followed it a few minutes later with a game-winning 75-yard touchdown drive in overtime.
Jason Witten was targeted three times, and caught two, for 16 yards, including the game winner in overtime, after which he was mobbed by the team. It was his 204th start for the Cowboys, passing Ed “Too Tall” Jones for most in Dallas history. He also tied Lee Roy Jordan for most consecutive starts.
The Second Tier
This week, this group includes:
- Dez Bryant, 69 snaps
- Ezekiel Elliott, 65
- Terrance Williams, 60
- Cole Beasley, 52
- Brice Butler, 21
- Geoff Swaim, 19
Dez Bryant returned, and made a significant difference with four catches for 113 yards and the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Yet he was also targeted 14 times, leading some to speculate whether he contributed to Dak’s off night. It’s a flawed idea, as Dak also only completed two of seven targets to Terrance Williams for 25 yards, one of which required Williams to leap much higher than he should have had to to catch the ball. No, Dak was just off target, at least until the game was on the line. Then he returned to his excellent self.
Cole Beasley didn’t have a catch until late in the game, but finished with four catches on seven targets for 53 yards, including a key third down catch to start Dallas’s game-tying fourth quarter drive. Zeke also had four catches - on four targets - for 52 yards, and looks like he could be another threat in the passing game.
Brice Butler’s snaps dropped by 30 with Dez back. He had one catch for 19 yards, but it was on the game-tying fourth quarter drive. Geoff Swaim caught one ball for eight yards, and Keith Smith caught one for one yard.
The running game racked up 187 yards, and leads the NFL with 164.9 yards per game. This is 17 yards a game higher than 2014, when Dallas finished second to Seattle. It was helped last night by 38 rushing yards from Dak Prescott, 17 from Lucky Whitehead, and 30 from punter Chris Jones! Who knew he was this fast!
Elliott gained 96 yards on 22 carries, and could have had more, but the play-callers went away from him for stretches when the offense was sputtering. He is still on track to best Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record.
The other players receiving offensive snaps were:
- Lucky Whitehead, 10 snaps
- Alfred Morris, 7
- Keith Smith, 6
- Robert Smith, 2
- Gavin Escobar, 1
Lucky Whitehead had his patented jet sweep for 17 yards. It helped set up what should have been a Dallas score before half time, except that Dak threw an interception in the Philly end zone.
Alfred Morris had six yards on his three carries, with only one of them gaining positive yards. Dallas used a fullback less in this game than the last. And one wonders why Gavin Escobar is still on the team. Is he the 53rd man?
Dallas sputtered on offense, yet still somehow racked up 460 yards. After getting only one first down and punting to start the game, the offense scored 10 points on two drives, and set themselves up for another score before half time, but Dak’s turnover killed that. After two ineffective series in the third quarter, and down by 10, Jason Garrett dialed up a fake punt, and Chris Jones scampered 30 yards to set up a field goal. A forced fumble put Dallas in position to kick another field goal and keep it to a one score game.
With about six-and-a-half minutes to go, though, Dak found his game and drove the Cowboys to a regulation tie and overtime win. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win, and it opened up a two game cushion over the rest of the NFC East.