The Dallas Cowboys will get a boost to their secondary this week as starting safety Barry Church returned to practice. He is expected to play on Thursday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Cowboys safety Barry Church returned to practice Sunday and expects to play Thursday. Church missed the past four games with a broken right forearm that required surgery.
“It’s good to get one of our playmakers back in the backend,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “He’s a guy that made a lot of plays for us the past few years. It’s going to be an added spark to us on the backend.”
Church will play with a temporary cast to protect the arm, which he injured against the Eagles on Oct. 30. He has 45 tackles, two interceptions, three defensed passes and a forced fumble.
It’s good timing since his replacement, J.J. Wilcox, missed part of the Washington game and Sunday’s practice with a thigh contusion. Now, if the Cowboys could just get back Morris Claiborne.
It’s not like Dak Prescott doesn’t play well throughout a football game, but there is something about his fourth-quarter performances that are gaining notice.
“I don’t know,” Beasley said when asked about Prescott’s late-game poise. “There is nothing I can tell you about why he is so good in the fourth. He is a baller man. He just makes plays. There is no trick to it. He is just a baller.”
Just a baller. Here are some numbers to back it up.
His passer rating for the season is 108.6, currently third in the league, and his rating in the fourth quarter is 109.1.
Even more astounding are his numbers over the past five weeks — a stretch that was supposed to bring the precocious rookie back to earth with games against the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins.
During that time, he is 36 of 48 in the fourth quarter and overtime for 404 yards, three touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 120.5.
For a rookie, this is just astounding. Even an experienced veteran would have trouble matching this kind of performance.
Last week, Dak did a little more running than he normally does, and his teammates and owner were talking about his stiff-arm on one run. But Dak makes it clear running is a last resort.
Prescott's 18-yard run Thursday was off of a read-option play. He faked a handoff to Elliott coming right and then bolted to the left side for the big gain. Prescott had a big smile across his face as he came back to the huddle.
"I'm a quarterback that can use my feet," Prescott said. "But my first objective is to pass and get the ball in other guys' hands. The defense, they get paid, too. They cover things. That's when I've got to use my feet and help this offense."
Prescott has been particularly effective in the red zone, giving the Cowboys another option when field shrinks inside the 20.
Prescott’s ability to run is a gift in the red zone, making defenses respect possible read-option plays and RPOs.
It’s time for another “tough test” article for the Cowboys offense, Dak Prescott and fellow rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott. This week, a tough Vikings defense will look to stop the run, specifically Elliott.
For Ezekiel Elliott, that means more time than last week to focus on the upcoming opponent: in this case, another difficult test for the NFL’s top-ranked running game.
The Vikings are among the league’s best against the run, allowing just over 100 yards per game. They’ve allowed only two 100-yard rushers this season and have been even better at home, giving up an average of 95.2 yards in five games; in six road trips they’ve yielded an average of 108.3 yards.
The Cowboys have proven they can run on any team, there is no reason to expect they won’t be able to do it again.
When backup tight end Geoff Swaim went down, the Cowboys turned to Gavin Escobar, for the most part. Escobar gets most of Swaim’s snaps, but when Dallas wants to run the ball, they’ve taken to given lineman Joe Looney some time as a “tight end” and in the process he’s earned a nickname.
Dallas has compensated the past two games by using Gavin Escobar more and inserting backup center Joe Looney as the second tight end in obvious run situations.
"He's done a nice job,'' head coach Jason Garrett said. "Joe's a professional. He's really embraced that role.''
It appears the 6-foot-3, 315-pound interior lineman has really embraced telling officials that No. 73 reports to the game as an eligible receiver.
"The third tight end role has gone to Jumbo Joe,'' Garrett said. "And he's really embracing it, great animation when he tells the official that he's in the game. It's really fun to watch.”
Looney is lobbying to catch a pass as a tight end, that would be fun to watch.
For all the good times this season has brought, there is still one area where the Cowboys could have trouble. Their defense is holding together, but will it be enough to carry them where they want to go?
For the Dallas Cowboys, who have passed just about every test they've faced on the way to the NFL's best record (10-1) this season, that soft spot could be the defense.
“We definitely want to bend,” Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr said Thursday night after the team's 31-26 victory against the Washington Redskins, “but not break.”
For a team trying to recapture Super Bowl glory for the first time in more than two decades, is that enough? The Cowboys rank 22nd in total defense, allowing 362.2 yards per week, yet have allowed the 10th-fewest points at 19.4, just 2.1 off the pace of the league-leading Seattle Seahawks.
So far, with the offensive fireworks provided by rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott and highly efficient quarterback Dak Prescott, not to mention the physically dominant offensive line, Dallas' defensive shortcomings have often been masked.
Against Washington, the Cowboys defense looked vulnerable. Only the offense’s ability to answer every challenge kept the home team on top. Perhaps the return of Barry Church will help.
The Cowboys were holding off the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC playoff race for the top seed. Seattle took a tumble on Sunday, and now the Giants are the team directly behind the Cowboys for best record in the conference.
1. Dallas Cowboys (10-1): Rinse and repeat. The Cowboys’ 10th straight win, coupled with Seattle’s flop in Tampa Bay, gave Dallas a 2.5-game lead in the race among division leaders for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. At this point, if the Cowboys stumble, it’s more important to watch the Giants, who are only two games back in the division and handed Dallas its only loss of the season in Week 1.
The Cowboys will get to see an old friend on Thursday. And for a guy who plays cornerback, we do mean old.
Of the top 10 selections from the 2003 draft, only [Terence] Newman, Carson Palmer (the first overall pick), and Terrell Suggs (No. 10 overall) are still playing in the NFL.
Newman was 25 years old at the start of his first season, making him an “older” rookie. Thirteen years later he’s the oldest starting cornerback in the NFL and has been keeping younger defensive backs from stealing his job for quite a few seasons now.
“Not many 37- or 38-year-old corners still playing,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “Often times those guys move to safety five years earlier in their careers. But he still goes out there and plays outside and plays inside, and he looks like the same guy to me. [He] makes a lot of plays. He’s a really good cover guy.”