Whenever a close game slips away and ends in disappointment there are always some heavy emotions affixed to each fan and sometimes it gets the better of us. The Cowboys recent loss to the Giants is just such an occasion. A close loss with an extremely frustrating ending can lead to doubt. So let's examine a few areas that left us with question marks after the game.
After settling down and re-watching the film, what is the verdict of some of these burning questions?
Did Ezekiel Elliott play poorly?
There is no question that Zeke struggled in the running game. A paltry 2.5 yards per carry is just not going to cut it. And then there was Alfred Morris who didn’t seem to have the same problem getting his yards. Credit Morris for doing what he does best – squirming his way through the running lanes. The veteran running back doesn’t need a lot of room.
But there are two key points about this that must be acknowledged.
First, Morris had better looks. It’s just not a fair comparison when you examine the lanes Zeke had vs. the ones Morris had. Bryan Broaddus agrees.
Just got done watching the tape. Morris had a cleaner path of running the ball than Zeke. https://t.co/vleZ95IP4i— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) September 12, 2016
The rookie running back just didn’t have the space. Which speaks to the second point – the Giants defense sold out to stop Elliott. Linebackers and safeties were filling the holes extremely well. New York’s defense made a conscientious decision that the Cowboys young running back was not going to beat them. This is a testament to Elliott’s skills. Rather than being disappointed in his performance, it should be encouraging that defenses are so worried about him right out of the gate.
Things won’t always be this difficult.
VERDICT: No. Zeke’s fine. He’ll get his lanes and once he gets in space, people will start feeling a lot better.
Are the New York Giants this good?
The Giants committed a lot of resources on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. It may look like a sign of desperation to throw so much money at all those free agents, but it’s looking like they got some really good players. Whether he is overpaid or not, Olivier Vernon is a force on the edge. Not only does he apply great pressure on the quarterback, but he seals of the outside in the running game. Damon Harrison is another free agent that is just a beast in the middle of the defensive line. These two new linemen for the Giants combined for nine tackles on Sunday and each of them had a tackle for a loss.
And it’s not just the guys up front that are getting it done. Linebacker, Jonathan Casillas reacted quickly to clog up any holes and safeties Landon Collins and Nat Berhe were very active against the running game. Each of them had six tackles.
One of the more concerning things about this game isn’t so much how the Cowboys offense faltered, but rather just how good this Giants defense has become.
VERDICT: Yes, they’re that good. This could be troublesome.
Was it a solid debut for Dak Prescott?
We are all hoping that Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the future, but as it turns out, he’s got to be the quarterback of the present.
So, how did he do?
For Prescott, it was a tale of two halves. He absolutely tore it up in the first half. He led three straight drives scoring drives consisting of the following:
- 15 plays, 70 yards, 8:25
- 15 plays, 52 yards, 7:58
- 11 plays, 68 yards, 5:34
His decisions were great and his throws were right on target. The Cowboys offense had to settle for field goals in each of those drives, but it wasn’t because of Prescott. Cole Beasley and Dez Bryant each had touchdown passes slip through their hands.
But then the second half happened. As on target as he was in the first half, he was misfiring quite a bit as the game progressed. There were varying degrees of misfires. Sometimes the ball wasn’t quite placed in the most catch-friendly spot. And there were other times when ball had no chance to be caught is it wasn’t even in the vicinity of the receiver.
This is a little worrisome because Prescott is going to have to make these throws for the offense to be successful. Defenses are going to keep loading the box until they are given reasons not to.
VERDICT: It was a solid performance. The Cowboys are going to need to have success with deeper throws or else it’s going to be 2015 all over again. Fortunately, Dak has the skills to get it done.