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Cowboys vs. Lions — 2nd Movement: Adversity

A football masterpiece in four movements. In the second quarter Dallas began to dig a hole for themselves against a desperate and talented opponent. The second quarter would tell how they would respond.

Coming out of the first quarter, the game looked like it was to be a major offensive performance for both teams. It seemed likely to come down to the wire and whoever had the ball last would win. Dallas’ defense again struggled as Detroit drove. Yet, as they have done often, they stiffened in the red zone.

"That was a huge defensive stand"

Even though it did not end up that way, I still felt that the Dallas defense showed a lot on Detroit’s second possession and pointed towards a good future result. But first, there was a hiccup or two. Put this one on getting too cutesy with the play-calling.

That’s a three man rush with DT Jack Crawford in man coverage on Eric Ebron. The result was predictable.

But once it got down to it, the defense responded. First Maliek Collins shot through the B-gap and hit Stafford on a one-step drop, forcing a high throw.

Then David Irving showed his remarkable lateral agility staying home against Stafford on the bootleg and forcing another errant throw.

Then Jack Crawford split the same double team that beat him so badly in the first quarter to deny the Lions third and goal from the 1.

Unfortunately for Dallas, a valiant effort at keeping Stafford out of the end zone on fourth down did not succeed and they gave up a tying score. Then disaster...

"Can’t take that sack with Dez that open"

Despite what the quote implies, this was not Dak’s fault. I was just expressing bitterness at the missed opportunity on the key play of a Dallas three and out. Dallas had an interesting route combination. Detroit was in nickle and blitzing both linebackers through the same gap. This left a big hole ion the middle right where Jason Witten (lined up right side) was headed. Unfortunately Witten didn’t break off his route for the blitz because Dak’s read was a good one. But it’s the other side of the play where all the important stuff happened. Dez’s deep out combined with Terrence Williams’ go route created a huge opportunity down the field. Cole Beasley’s pivot route actually provides the only possible success on this play as it happened, though.

Witten continues upfield, delaying Dak’s ability to get the ball to him. Ezekiel Elliott, (silver circle) does a good job picking up the blitz and Dak should’ve had time to complete his read. Unfortunately Ezekiel Ansah (blue circle) is beating Tyron Smith, who did not set deep enough. I wonder if he expected Dak to shorten his drop because of the blitz. Dak still has a moment here, but is unfortunately not looking at his only hope, Cole Beasley.

Had Dak been looking to Beasley instead of Witten, he might have gotten the ball off here and had a good gain to Beasley. Witten still hasn’t broken across and, as you can see in the blue circle, Dak is about out of time.

But had Tyron Smith been able to hold his block here’s how the play finished. Dak’s read of Witten is a nice gain, but look at Dez. That’s a huge gain, and Dez only has a couple of guys to beat, especially if Williams can get in the way of the man covering him. The missed opportunity really hurt as Dallas had to punt the ball straight back and a tired defense allowed Detroit right down the field.

"Look at Dez!"

But after another poor performance by the offense, the defense would step up and get a huge stop, finishing with a fine sack by David Irving and Benson Mayowa. However, there was a little luck involved as well. Here is the simultaneous moment that Matt Stafford hits his drop, Irving sheds the center (silver circle), and Mayowa comes free on a stunt. Notice Eric Ebron (blue arrow). There is one person between him and a 90-yard touchdown if Stafford anticipates this play and has the ball coming out. At the far right you can see J J Wilcox’s toe (silver arrow). He’s the only Cowboy between Ebron and the end zone.

But the sack forces a Detroit punt and Dallas gets the ball in good field position. Detroit would not score again. Dallas wouldn’t fail to score until a full series after taking Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith out of the game.

When Dallas lined up at the Detroit 25 and we saw this, however, the shouts were unanimous. "Look at DEZ!" I’m not sure if anyone important heard us, but everyone on my row was screaming for a deep shot to Dez here.

By the time the ball was snapped, it seemed that the safety might have heard us, as he started edging that way, but Dak kept his vision in the center long enough that the safety had to respect Jason Witten down the seam.

And that was all it took. The safety breaks full speed for the corner. The CB has perfect position. It doesn’t matter, the ball is out. And a deep throw to Dez in single coverage is always the right read.

At this point we saw how badly Dez was getting mugged and we were already celebrating the ensuing flag. We thought there was no way the ball would be completed because why would you grab someone that badly and then allow them to catch the ball anyways? When Dez stood up with the ball, I said "wait... he caught that?" No one heard me. I said "guys! Dez threw up the ‘x’, it was a catch!" I couldn’t get those around me to believe it was a TD until Dallas lined up for the extra point.

One of the most amazing catches I have ever seen. And, by the way, I’ve seen a lot of Detroit complaints that Dez initiated the contact by grabbing Johnson Bademosi by the face mask. I have the moment of first contact here, and in close up. Dez did not initiate the contact, at all.

That catch started a run of 28 unanswered points by Dallas.

That’s how this club deals with adversity.

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