The third game of the season for the Dallas Cowboys saw them facing a depleted Chicago Bears team with a backup quarterback and missing players all over the defense. It was a game that the Cowboys should have dominated despite being without Tyron Smith and Orlando Scandrick themselves, and of course rolling with Dak Prescott. But we have seen Dallas stumble too often before in similar situations.
Fortunately, that did not happen as they rolled to a big early lead and parlayed that into a 31-17 win. We would see Ezekiel Elliott have his first 100 yard game, Cole Beasley would catch the longest pass of his career, and Lance Dunbar would score his first ever NFL touchdown. Despite having Chaz Green starting at left tackle and Ron Leary having to come in to spell a struggling La’el Collins, Prescott would not be sacked and the running game was obviously very strong. Oh, and that no touchdown pass streak would finally end for the rookie quarterback, courtesy of Dez Bryant, of course, while his no interception string remained intact.
The Cowboys certainly came out smoking. They would score 17 points to start the game before the Bears even made a first down. Prescott continued to look good, even though he still did not pass for a touchdown before finally breaking through in the fourth quarter. But he got one on the ground, Alfred Morris got his second of the season, and as mentioned Dunbar scored as well. Meanwhile, Elliott racked up 76 yards in the half, and the defense was solid if not spectacular. They did not get any sacks against a suspect Bears offensive line, but the plan seemed to be not letting Chicago hurt them with the running game and forcing Hoyer to try and move them through the air. For the most part, it worked well. The Bears only had one drive that got into the Dallas red zone, and the defense held them to a field goal. Dallas had a 21:47 to 8:13 advantage in time of possession. Often, that is not a telling statistic, but in this case, it perfectly reflected the dominance on the scoreboard. In addition to having another very solid half, going 12 for 15 and 139 yards, he became the first Dallas quarterback to score rushing touchdowns in back to back games since one Roger Staubach.
The second half started as a continuation of the first, with the Cowboys forcing another three and out. The decision to keep Leary rather than trade him certainly paid off, as he came in to replace Collins and the line did not miss a beat. Then disaster struck when a long gain by Terrance Williams, who was definitely back in the game plan, was nullified when he was stripped of the ball. It was the first big break of the game for the Bears. Hoyer was able to get some offense going, driving from the Chicago 37 to the Dallas 2. It took them four tries from there, but Hoyer found Zach Miller to get a touchdown for them and breathe life into the Bears. And things got a little dicey on the next Dallas possession, when Elliott was stopped just a couple of inches short of the first down mark on third and two. A facemask penalty on the ensuing punt put Chicago back in business at their 39, and the pucker factor began to build. But J.J. Wilcox figured out some geometry for a change and forced a fumble by Cameron Meredith. The Cowboys were unable to move it from there, and Dan Bailey had an uncharacteristic miss to leave the score at 24-10.
But that was the last real chance the Bears had, as the Cowboys got their offense back on track in the fourth quarter, and the defense continued to be rather stout. Chicago was simply not able to sustain any offense, and their defense did not have any real answers for Prescott and company.
The all defensive tackle front four used, called the elephant line by some, did not get a lot of pressure on Hoyer, but as mentioned above, it did make running the ball very difficult. It was perhaps a calculated risk based on a belief that Hoyer could not get it done, but things paid off in the end. The idea was to get a win against what certainly seemed to be an outmanned team, and that is what they managed to do. Hoyer finally started to try and go deeper with his passes in the fourth quarter, but by then he was again facing a three touchdown deficit. He cut that to fourteen points with a second touchdown to Miller, but there was only six and a half minutes of game left and Elliott and the offensive line were starting to wear the defense down. The Bears did get a stop, but used up two of their time outs. They managed to drive down the field to the Dallas 40, but then, despite only using a three man rush, Hoyer stumbled under pressure from David Irving, lost the ball, and Benson Mayowa recovered it to give the Cowboys a chance to run things down even further. The Cowboys had gotten out to too big a lead to overcome, especially for a team with the woes of the Bears.
It perhaps should have been a bigger win for Dallas, but they were pretty clearly the best team on the field. That year-long plus, eight game home losing streak has been put to rest. The Cowboys sit at 2-1, one game behind the division leading Philadelphia Eagles. The mission was accomplished, even though there were some flaws along the way.