The eleven-game winning streak is now history, as the Cowboys dropped a defensive struggle 10-7 at the Giants. If last week against Minnesota was winning ugly, this game epitomized losing ugly. The Dallas Cowboys were 1-15 on third down, which more than any stat demonstrates how ineffective the offense was tonight. And, unlike the Minnesota game where penalties put the Cowboys in big holes and erased big plays, that wasn’t the issue this week. They just couldn’t get anything going.
Dak Prescott’s game last week was not good, but somehow produced a 108.3 passer rating. This week, it was terrible across the board, yielding a passer rating of 45.4. Dak also doubled his interceptions on the season, with two picks. One was not fully Dak’s fault, as Dez Bryant fell down as Dak was releasing the ball. The other was a desperate deep shot that never had a chance.
Dak’s only highlight was a 31-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams off a perfect play-fake toss sweep to Zeke. No Giant was within sight and Dak made an easy pitch and catch for a 7-0 Cowboys lead. The only other time Dallas drove within scoring range was at the end of the first half, when Dan Bailey attempted a 55-yard field goal that was dead center, but bounced off the front of the goal post. Dak was quite good on that drive, completing four of four passes for 42 yards, but it came up a yard short for Bailey.
Ezekiel Elliott, on the other hand, was the Dallas offense, at least in the first half, gaining 86 of his 107 yards by halftime on only 15 carries, for 5.7 yards per carry. In the second half, it was nine carries for 21 yards, or 2.33 yards per carry, which is just under what the Giants held Zeke to in their first game.
Indeed, the first half was Dallas’s best. They gained 174 of their 260 yards, 10 of their 13 first downs, and their only points. New York had only 84 yards and no points at the half. But thanks to a 61-yard catch and run by Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants got just enough in the second half to win.
Dak’s stats from his first thirteen 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.)
Dak’s overall stats were by far the worst of the season in this game. He had a few more passing yards than in the Minnesota game — 165 to 139 — but it was on more than twice as many attempts. This makes three games in a row where Dak has been held under 200 yards. His ANY/A was just horrible — 2.05. It dragged his season total from a stellar 8.64 down to 7.79. That’s still very good, but it’s a number that’s trending in the wrong direction. Third down conversions were abysmal - one for 15 is what you might expect out of the Rams’ offense. He also threw two interceptions. And, though the Dallas defense generated an interception and two fumble recoveries, Dak and the Cowboys didn’t get any points off those Giant mistakes.
Dak’s biggest problem was hooking up with Dez Bryant. They went one for nine together, and the one catch Bryant made yielded a Bryant fumble before he could get to the ground. Terrance Williams was the most productive, with five catches on six targets for 76 yards and a touchdown. Cole Beasley caught four balls out of seven targets for 41 yards. Witten caught four balls on seven targets for only 26 yards, all but once coming up short of first down yardage. Lance Dunbar caught three passes on five targets for 12 yards, Zeke was zero for two, and Brice Butler dropped what could have been a touchdown pass on his only target.
Dak was sacked three times for 13 yards, and gained only one yard on his only “rush” - a read-option play that wouldn’t have worked if he handed it to Zeke.
Dak was out-passed by 28 yards, and lost the passer rating differential 78.4 to 45.4, which is a key variable in who wins football games.
How did Zeke do? He was half of the offense in the first half, with 86 yards (of 174 for the Cowboys) on only 15 carries.
- Rushing: 24 carries, 107 yards, 4.5 YPC, 0 TD, long 15 yards.
- Receiving: 0 receptions, 2 targets, 0 yards, 0 TD.
What do his totals look like after thirteen games?
Zeke is now at 1,392 yards rushing after thirteen games. That projects out to 1,713 over 16 games, exactly the same as last week, so he is still 97 yards behind the Eric Dickerson rookie pace.
For the second consecutive game, the Cowboys certainly lacked any sort of passing game rhythm or confidence to move the ball down the field. A busted coverage gave them their only touchdown, which was on a brilliant first-quarter drive where they showed aggression and invention. But, for the final three quarters, they possessed the ball 13 different times and totaled nine first downs and zero points. This despite having a running game that was pretty effective all night. They finally paid for their third-down issues of the last two weeks and turned the ball over three times.
Sturm’s headline was for people to “r-e-l-a-x”, chalking it up to a road loss against a desperate team.
But it’s not going to be so easy to turn off what is almost certainly going to be a heavy topic unless Dallas can right the ship next Sunday night against a hot Buccaneers team — should Dallas insert Tony Romo to see if he can jump start an offense that has lost it’s trademark efficiency these last two weeks?
The answer to that question is still clearly no for this week. But if the Cowboys lose again, and do so with anything comparable to what we’ve seen the last two weeks, the #1 seed could be on the line for the Monday night game against Detroit in two weeks. At that point, there will be no avoiding a full-scale revival of the Dak/Tony debate.
My grades this week?
- Dak D-. With a QB rating of 45.4, an ANY/A of 2.05, two interceptions, three sacks, no scrambles, and converting only one of 15 first downs, Dak deserves his worst grade of the season. He looked like a rookie this week. Is it the Giants? He has to hope so, and find a way to put this game behind him with a huge matchup against another team currently in the playoff field next Sunday night.
- Zeke. B+. Zeke had a great first half, running with authority against a team that had held him down the first time. But his second half was not good, and he was unable to help the flailing Cowboys move the ball into scoring position. Overall, he gained 107 yards, but it wasn’t enough to help the Cowboys to victory.
What did you think of their performances?