The Dallas Cowboys pulled out a very satisfying win over Washington on Sunday, so let’s check in on the news of the day.
Everybody’s talking about Dak Prescott. The rookie who looks so poised on the field and led Dallas on a crucial winning drive in the fourth quarter. He’s already being talked about differently after the win.
Eatman: In One Week, Prescott Went From Game Manager to Game Winner — The Mothership
What a difference a week makes? Dak Prescott looked like a rookie last week, albeit a good rookie with talent, but he still looked like a player making his NFL debut.
This week, Prescott looked more like a seasoned vet who not only managed the game, but figured out how to win it.
The Cowboys certainly have a better backup quarterback this year. I think it’s pretty safe to say they’ve found their quarterback of the future, too. Now, who knows when the “future” will actually get here, and there’s no telling how his career will turn out.
For now, Prescott certainly looks the part, and he’s finally gotten the Cowboys to believe they can win without Tony Romo. He certainly got a lot of help from Dez Bryant, who was missing last week. But their connection was solid in the Washington game.
Along the way, Prescott broke a 32-year old NFL record:
Dak Prescott sets NFL record for most passes w/o an Int in a player's 1st 2 games in NFL history. (via @EliasSports) pic.twitter.com/phaFWicdHj— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 18, 2016
Dez Bryant does Dez Bryant things in Cowboys’ win over Redskins — Star-Telegram
“You just have to be patient and let things sink in,” Bryant said. “This is our standard offense with a lot of good playmakers, and you’ve just got to be patient.
“I’m just going to continue being patient. I was excited. We got things done. We’re just going to continue to keep doing the things we need to do.”
Bryant said everything was standard, but the Cowboys were obviously moving Bryant around the formation a lot more in this game. They did scheme to get him more involved. Bryant’s approach didn’t change, according to Bryant.
“It was the same attitude, same mindset, same approach as the first [game],” Bryant said. “Didn’t think too high, didn’t think too low, just kept my mind level, and that’s how I’m going to be throughout this whole year, and that’s how the rest of the guys are going to be. The way we practice and the way we go about our business is totally different from these past years.”
Washington made the statement that they weren’t going to move Josh Norman around to follow Dez. That changed in the second half after Dez was too much for Bashaud Breeland to handle. They didn’t practice it during the week, so it was an on-the-fly operation.
Redskins opted to have Josh Norman trail Dez Bryant in the second half — Washington Post
“It was new to me on the fly,” Breeland said.
When asked if he felt like he needed to be moved, Breeland responded, “Nah, I didn’t.”
“It’s not hard when you’ve got two corners that are smart and can play the game,” he added. “You can do that on the fly.”
Bryant finished with seven catches on 12 targets for 102 yards, with 56 of those yards occurring in the first half. Breeland was in coverage on receptions made by Bryant for 17, 16 and 15 yards.
One downside to the game was the play of Ezekiel Elliott. It wasn’t his running that was the problem, he actually started to show some patience this week and had a nice day with 83 yards and a touchdown. That all came to a screeching halt when he started to get fumbleitits.
Despite Career-High in Yards, Another TD, Elliott Focusing More On 2 Fumbles — The Mothership
That was Ezekiel Elliott’s quick and blunt answer when asked to recall the last time he had fumbled twice in a game.
“It hasn’t happened,” Elliott said. “But that’s on me. You can’t lose the football.”
The Cowboys had to turn to Alfred Morris to close out the game as they couldn’t risk Elliott putting the ball on the ground again. Elliott showed some poise by totally understanding the situation.
“He deserved it, he definitely deserved it,” Elliott said of his veteran teammate closing out of the game. “We all go to work together and make each other better. We make each other better. I was glad to see him get in there.”
Morris was able to get the game-winning touchdown, and stick it to his old team. Although Morris being such a nice guy and all, he didn’t hold a grudge.
Cowboys RB Alfred Morris: No hard feelings for Redskins -- ESPN Dallas
"It was the same as any other game, just excited for the opportunity, excited to do what I love to do," Morris said. "People probably think I'm joking when I say that, but from the bottom of my heart, I have no hard feelings for the Redskins or the organization."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys are employing a bend-don’t-break philosophy. They don’t have much of a pass rush, so unless they blitz they are pretty much just going to have play behind the receivers and hope for the best. On Sunday it worked.
Stats won’t show it, but Cowboys’ defense comes up big — Star-Telegram
“The thing we did well was we finished. We haven’t done that well,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “… If you don’t panic and just keep playing, usually the offense will self-destruct, if you just don’t give up the home run and make them keep punching.”
Kirk Cousins obliged with a killer interception in the fourth quarter. Something that helped the Cowboys perform better on defense this week in the redzone.
“In the red zone last week, we kind of struggled,” Church said. “They went 3-for-3. This week we kind of stepped up in the red zone, forced them into field goals, and we got a takeaway. I think that was the momentum we needed. Going forward if we want to keep winning and play like the defense we need to be, we need to play great in the red zone.”
A couple of other notes on the defense. Justin Durant came up huge with a pass deflection late in the fourth quarter to kill a fourth-down play for Washington.
Scout’s Notebook: Scandrick’s ‘Gut Check’ Game, Durant’s Instinct, More — The Mothership
I had my doubts about linebacker Justin Durant and what he really could bring to this defense. That play he made on fourth down was pure instinct on his part. He wasn’t fooled by the movement going away, and he knew that if he held his ground, there was going to be a good shot the ball was coming his way. Durant’s positioning was perfect because if he is not there, and with Morris Claiborne struggling to get back in position on the slant, it was likely going to be a catch and a first down to keep the drive going.
Also, the Cowboys finally gave in and moved Tyrone Crawford to defensive end for much of the second half. They were trying to generate more disruption from the defensive line and it finally paid off late in the game with a Crawford sack.
The adjustment I thought that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli would make during the game was to move defensive end Benson Mayowa from the right side to the left to rush. Instead, he took Tyrone Crawford from the inside and kicked him out. This was a position that Crawford played when he started his career, and to his credit, he was able to outwork Redskins offensive tackle Morgan Moses around the edge for his first sack of the season. Nice job by the defensive staff to create a matchup that they could have success with.
A quick update on Tony Romo’s health.
Tony Romo has positive exam before Sunday’s game, still no timeline — Star-Telegram Cowboys Corner
Owner Jerry Jones said Romo had a “really good” exam with the team doctors before Sunday’s game against the Redskins, and is in the part of the process in which Romo dictates how much he can tolerate in rehab.
“He’s in that stage right now,” Jerry Jones said. “Hopefully, soon, he’ll be out of the danger stage relative to his spine – probably 2-3 more weeks and we can see how far he wants to go by his own volition.”
If Prescott continues to impress, could the Cowboys be more patient with Romo?
“Not necessarily. Not necessarily,” Jerry Jones said. “Tony’s situation when he’s back will be about whether he’s functional. We’re a better team. We play better [with Romo].”
And we can’t get out of here without reveling in Washington’s distress.
Kirk Cousins had chances to make big plays against Dallas. He didn’t. — Washington Post
For all that Cousins did right Sunday at FedEx Field — 28 completions, 364 passing yards, one touchdown — you remember when he failed the most. And that’s the problem. The list was frighteningly long: overthrew Jamison Crowder, who was open by six yards, on a sure touchdown pass; overthrew DeSean Jackson, who was open by three yards, on a long third-down heave; underthrew Josh Doctson on a 57-yard gain that could have been a touchdown; made a terrible decision five plays after the Doctson pass, throwing a fourth-quarter interception into an area with four Dallas defenders; sailed a pass behind Pierre Garcon on fourth and one just after the two-minute warning.
Colt McCoy anyone?
Locker room grumbling begins regarding Kirk Cousins — PFT
Terrible news after the game: Washington offensive players are reported to be openly grumbling about Kirk Cousins. Don't you just hate to see such a fine organization like Washington implode from within?
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, multiple offensive players have begun to complain about quarterback Kirk Cousins, pointing to a lack of decisiveness, erratic play, and confusion.
I asked the source whether the players who are griping would prefer Colt McCoy. Said the source, “At least he’d play with poise.”