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Dak and Zeke Report: They weren’t the reason the Cowboys lost to the Packers

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Both Dak and Zeke fought valiantly. It was other parts of the team that ended up costing the Cowboys a win.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

This was another very disappointing loss by a Cowboys team that hasn’t found its groove yet, especially on defense.

Like last game, Dallas jumped out to a big first half lead that should have been bigger. At 21-6, Green Bay had the ball, but after a sack, it was second and 17 when Anthony Hitchens grabbed a Green Bay facemask on a short completion and gave Aaron Rodgers a first down. Had the team gotten a stop on third and long there, Dallas would have been in position to add to their lead, and may have almost iced the game. Instead, Green Bay scored a TD to cut the lead to 21-12.

In the second half, Green Bay received the kickoff and kicked a field goal, later a Dak Prescott pick-six gave Green Bay the lead. The ball was on Terrance WIlliams’ hands but he just couldn’t hold onto it. (Dak also threw a very good ball to Dez Bryant in the end zone on the opening drive that Dez dropped. Fortunately, an odd penalty was called on Green Bay and Dallas had another chance to get a TD, and they did.) Dak actually threw a more-interceptable ball to Dez Bryant that Dez knocked away from the defender.

Meanwhile, Zeke was a battering ram for the Cowboys. It wasn’t until late in the game that he got any lanes to run in. But he kept relentlessly pounding the Green Bay defense on his way to his most carries and yards of 2017. Indeed, it was the second-highest number of carries for Zeke in his two-year career.

The real culprit in this game was the same as last game - the inability to stop the opponent’s running game without Sean Lee. The Cowboys had Anthony Hitchens back instead of Justin Durant, but that wasn’t enough (and we noted Hitchens’ critical penalty above.) Sure, Aaron Rodgers had a stellar passer rating and threw three TDs, but without the running game to balance, including on the game-winning drive, it might not have been enough.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Dak Prescott

Here is Dak’s line for the season.

WEEK OPP SCORE CMP ATT CMP% YDS ANY/A TD INT RATE QBR RUSH YDS TD SACKS YDS
1 NYG W19-3 24 39 61.54% 268 7.08 1 0 90.55 69.6 3 24 0 1 5
2 At DEN L42-17 30 50 60% 238 3.42 2 2 68.6 35.1 3 24 0 2 10
3 At AZ W28-17 13 18 72% 183 11.26 2 0 141.7 85.7 3 16 1 1 9
4 LAR L35-30 20 36 56% 252 7 3 1 93.8 78.2 3 25 0 2 1
5 GB L35-31 25 36 69% 251 7.02 3 1 105.2 96.6 4 37 1 1 6
Total 2W-2L 112 179 62.57% 1192 6.45 11 4 93.1 79.7 16 126 0 7 31

The impressive number for Dak in this game is his QBR rating of 96.6. We didn’t track this number on a weekly basis last year, but it’s pretty hard to do better, as it’s on a scale of 0-100. Dak is now second in the NFL this year in this stat to only Deshaun Watson, another quarterback who makes great use of his running ability.

The ANY/A number could have been higher given his completion percentage, but there were a lot of short completions to Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, and Keith Smith. We wondered last week what had happened to Dallas’s ball-control passing game, and for at least this game, it seems to have returned. But you don’t really want yards per completion as low as they were. Even Dez Bryant only averaged just over 10 yards per catch. Is this a factor of not having enough time in the pocket? Methinks the Cowboys offense is starting to run better in spite of an offensive line that isn’t matching last year’s, rather than because of it.

Dak wasn’t able to drive into field goal range with just under a minute before the half, stalling at the 50. But he did drive the Cowboys twice in the second half to take the lead, including what could have been the game-winning touchdown. With a defensive effort that was up to par, that should have been enough.

Perhaps this will force the Cowboys to try to be more ruthless in running up the score. The Cowboys aren’t there yet, but this was the second game in a row over 400 yards, something they did eight times in a row last season. So there’s hope.

Ezekiel Elliott

Here are Zeke’s numbers.

WEEK OPP SCORE RUSH YDS Y/A REC YDS Y/C TD FUM
1 NYG W19-3 24 105 4.4 5 36 7.2 0 0
2 At DEN L42-17 9 8 0.9 4 14 3.5 0 0
3 At AZ W28-17 22 80 3.6 3 14 4.7 1 0
4 LAR L35-30 21 85 4.0 4 54 13.5 2 0
5 GB L35-31 29 116 4.0 1 16 16 0 0
Total 2W-2L 105 394 3.8 17 134 7.9 3 0

This was not an easy game for Zeke. The offensive line didn’t give him any lanes until late in the game, when he ripped off his biggest run (25 yards) and had some other nice ones too. Four yards per carry is not enough, but you can’t blame Zeke for these totals. He seemed to be carrying half of Green Bay’s defense along on several of his runs.

Despite being used for 29 carries, just under the 30 he registered last year in his third game, most of the post-game comments thought he should have been used a bit more at the end to eat the clock and keep Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones from shredding the Cowboys defense to come back and win the game.

Here are my grades:

  • Dak. A-. Really strong QBR number, in large part because he made great use of his legs. He also led team to its first opening drive TD of the year (though the Cowboys needed a penalty to make it after Dez dropped a TD pass that Dak put in his hands), 21 first-half points, and a late TD to regain the lead. But his ANY/A numbers are still low, and the pick-6, while it was to Terrance Williams, might have been a touch too high.
  • Zeke. A. Zeke had his season high in carries and yards, and they were very tough yards. He helped push the Cowboys’ 3rd down efficiency above 50%, and the team was a perfect three for three on fourth down (two were Zeke runs, and one was a Dak sneak). There isn’t much more he could have done in this game unless they handed him the ball at least one more time on that last drive.

Dak and Zeke report - final numbers from 2016

Dak and Zeke report - week 1 victory over Giants

Dak and Zeke report - week 2 loss at Denver

Dak and Zeke report - week 3 win at Arizona

Dak and Zeke report - week 4 loss to the LA Rams