The Cleveland Browns, winless coming into this game, were not a formidable opponent for the Dallas Cowboys, who are now rolling along at 7-1. But you still have to play the game and take care of business. Dallas, led by Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott again, did just that. They were in control from their first possession, and coasted in the fourth quarter. Dallas won 35-10.
Dallas had only four possessions in the first half, but drove for touchdowns on three of them. In the second half, they drove for TDs on their first two possessions, punted (after a penalty pushed them out of field goal range), then used a 13-play drive for 37 yards to kill the last 7:48 of the game.
The ball control was ridiculous. Dallas split the first quarter with Cleveland, then won the second quarter 9:50 to 5:10, the third quarter 9:17 to 5:43, and the fourth quarter 13:07 to 1:53.
Dak took what Cleveland left open. They ignored Jason Witten repeatedly, so Dak hit him with eight catches for 134 yards and a touchdown, and the three longest plays of the game for Dallas, for 37, 27, and 26 yards. His TD passes to Cole Beasley and Gavin Escobar also took advantage of Cleveland’s decision to focus on other Cowboy receivers. (If there was a negative on the game, it was Dak’s inability to connect with Dez Bryant, who drew most of Cleveland’s attention. Three of Dak’s six incompletions were to Dez.)
Dak completed 77.77% of his passes, for a passer rating of 141.8. He threw three touchdown passes, to Jason Witten for 26 yards, Cole Beasley for six yards, and the invisible man Gavin Escobar for two yards. Dallas was eight of twelve on third down, and two for two on fourth down (one of these was with Mark Sanchez). Dak also ran four times for 20 yards. He was not sacked and was hit only once.
He set two all-time rookie Dallas QB records, with 12 TDs on the season, and two three-TDs games as a rookie.
Zeke also had an efficient performance, with 92 rushing yards on only 18 carries, and one reception for five more. He ran wide for two touchdowns inside the ten. His longest carry was 15 yards. He gave way to Alfred Morris at the end of the third quarter with the Cowboys up 35-10.
Dak’s stats from his first eight 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.)
This was Dak’s best game for completion percentage, ANY/A, and passer rating. He tied his top performance with three touchdown passes. He won the passer rating differential over Cody Kessler, 141.8 to 104.4, which is a key variable in who wins football games. He returned to the turnover-free games he started the season with.
He led five touchdown drives:
- 10 plays, 75 yards
- 9 plays, 69 yards
- 9 plays, 67 yards
- 7 plays, 75 yards
- 9 plays 64 yards
Overall, Dallas gained 423 yards, for its sixth game in a row over 400 yards. This is a franchise record. Imagine two rookies helping to set this record given the storied history of the Dallas Cowboys. That’s pretty amazing.
How does Dak stand up against Tony Romo’s 2014 season? With Dak’s top game, and Tony suffering an injury against Washington, Dak has pulled ahead again. His ANY/A number is almost a yard ahead of Romo’s, and higher than Romo finished the 2014 season. His season yardage is ahead of Romo by 22 yards, and while he’s thrown three fewer touchdowns, if you add in Prescott’s four rushing TDs, he’s ahead in this category too. Plus, Prescott still has only two interceptions to Romo’s six.
With his seventh consecutive win, Prescott has also tied Romo’s best streak, which Romo set in 2007, his first season as a starter. It’s a team game, but that’s still a record worth acknowledging. Indeed, it is only one short of the franchise record.
Here are Tony Romo’s 2014 stats after eight games. The eighth game was against Washington, where he hurt his back.
Last week, I wrote that
“It will be very hard for Dak to catch up in the stats department now that he’s slipped behind. If he can find ways to win like he did tonight, however, he could more than match Tony in leading the Cowboys to victories.”
Well, Dak has not only caught up in the stats department, but he’s finally ahead of Romo’s impressive victory pace of 2014. He’s matching Tony’s 13-3 pace of 2007.
How did Zeke do in game eight? He racked up another very solid game, with two touchdowns and more than five yards per carry. He also ran wide more often in this game.
- Rushing: 18 carries, 92 yards, 5.1 YPC, 2 TD, long 15 yards, one fumble, not lost.
- Receiving: 1 reception, 1 targets, 5 yards, long 5 yards.
What do his totals look like after eight games?
Some people were hoping Zeke would have his biggest game yet. But Dallas played it smarter. With the game well in hand, the Cowboys used Alfred Morris for 17 carries, including nine out of ten plays on the game-killing fourth quarter drive that consumed the last 7:48 of the clock.
Zeke is now at 891 yards over eight games. That projects out to 1,782 over 16 games, so he’s now slightly behind the Eric Dickerson rookie pace. But Dallas has bigger fish to fry than chasing individual records. At 7-1, tops in the NFC, Dallas is chasing a ninth Super Bowl appearance.
You can only play the team that is on your schedule, so deducting a grade on the Cowboys offense because they were playing a defense that appeared rather clueless would be unfair. The Cowboys whipped the Browns with the ball repeatedly all day long. Dak Prescott followed up his least impressive start since the opener with what might have been his most impressive. He never looked puzzled where to go with the football and on a day where Dez Bryant looked off, Jason Witten turned back the clock for a game that saw him open all day. Good work getting Ezekiel Elliott off with the game in hand, protecting your most important asset.
My grades this week?
- Dak. A+. Positives: Dak just took advantage of a sub-par Cleveland defense with his most efficient performance. Highest ANY/A, highest passer rating, three TDs with no picks or fumbles, ran for 20 yards, suffered no sacks and only one hit (he completed the pass). Negatives: Couldn’t quite connect with Dez, who was the primary focus of Cleveland’s defense.
- Zeke. A. Just another solid, if not spectacular, game. Two touchdown runs, including a beauty where he stretched for it, and more than five yards per carry. Dallas didn’t need to use him too much, and they didn’t, which was smart. Negatives? None really.
What did you think of their performances?