There is no other way to put it. The 28-17 Dallas Cowboys victory over the visiting Kansas City Chiefs was a big game, and a big win for a Dallas team that now looks to be rounding into shape after a rocky start to the season. There are things to learn in every game, and here are the ones that stand out after this (mostly) very satisfying win.
This defense is looking more and more legit
Take away the last thirteen seconds of the first half and the opening 5:54 of the second, and the defense held a potent KC offense to only three points. Outside of those two touchdown drives, they also limited Alex Smith and company to only 183 yards and three points. Yes, the crucial breakdowns in the two touchdown drives were perilously close to swinging things back in the Chiefs’ favor - but they didn’t, partly because the Cowboys’ defense was so effective the remainder of the game.
They were particularly effective stopping the run. Kareem Hunt came into the game as the NFL’s leading rusher, and was number three in yards per game. They held him to 37 total yards on the ground, and over half that came on his one big carry of the night for 19 yards during their second touchdown drive that opened the second half. That made Kansas City a one-dimensional team, especially after Dallas retook the lead in the third quarter and then pushed it to the final 11-point margin in the fourth.
The Cowboys did not get as many sacks or takeaways as they have in the past couple of games, but they made the most of them. The biggest two were Taco Charlton’s first sack of his career, which was followed on the very next play by Jeff Heath getting the first interception of Smith this season. Heath was close on an earlier play, too. He is still not consistently good as a safety, but he retains a knack for the big play at crucial moments. David Irving kept his sack streak alive with the only other one of the game for Dallas, but Demarcus Lawrence had his snapped. However, that is a bit deceptive. Lawrence was constantly in the backfield harassing Smith, he was in on a couple of tackles and had a QB hit, and most importantly, he had the KC offensive line flinching all game long. They drew four false start flags, and three of them looked to be right across from Tank. He was clearly in their heads, and it paid off.
The offense was productive once it got rolling
Both teams came out of the gate slow, but the Cowboys put up a touchdown in each quarter. Ezekiel Elliott had 27 carries for 93 yards and a TD, but it was Dak Prescott who really got the job done, both with his arm and his legs. He threw two touchdowns (both to Cole Beasley) and ran for another.
The most important thing they did was string together three consecutive TD drives, starting with their last possession of the first half and continuing with their only possession of the third quarter before putting things just about out of reach with a final score in the fourth. Prescott was particularly impressive on the second touchdown drive, when he was faced with a third and fifteen after a sack. He completed a pass to Dez Bryant for 21 to move the sticks, and then had his longest completion of the night to Terrance Williams for 56 yards to set up the score (Dak’s rushing TD). Williams deserves special mention for his outstanding night. He caught all nine passes that were thrown to him for 141 yards, the best stat line of his career.
When the game was on the line, the offense became unstoppable to put the Chiefs away.
Now we have to wait to see how the injuries sort out
Dallas has had incredible luck so far this year, but that came to a screeching halt in this game. Both Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams had ankle injuries, Tyron Smith had a groin issue, and Brian Price, the only true 1-tech DT the team has on the roster, had a knee injury that has been reported by ESPN’s Todd Archer to be a sprained MCL and dislocated patella tendon that will keep him out for a while. All left the game. Bryant and Williams had already done their damage on the night, and Chaz Green stepped in for the final five minutes or so of the game with no ill effects (further justifying the decision to make Jonathan Cooper the starting left guard allowing Green to serve as the swing tackle).
Now we will have to see how things will shake out this week. Bryant stated after the game that he expected to be back to face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, but the others (except Price) are unknown at this time. Noah Brown is available to shore up the WR corps. Green is always a concern with his difficulties in completing games. If Smith misses any time, Byron Bell will have to step into that swing tackle role. And the Cowboys seem to have a lot of weapons on the defensive line this year (think for a moment just how long we have waited to be able to say that).
It’s going to be at least some degree of next man up, and now we will likely see just how good the depth is this year at some positions.
This edition of the Cowboys is starting to look like a real contender
With a 5-3 record, they are now ahead of the Seattle Seahawks for the second wild card spot (thanks, we have to say, to a Washington upset against the ‘Hawks). More importantly, they are on a three-game winning streak and have finally beaten a good opponent in the now 6-3 Chiefs. They are still chasing the red-hot Philadelphia Eagles (8-1 it galls me to write), but they have both of their divisional games against the Eagles and the presumptive MVP Carson Wentz. They will first face Philly when they are coming off their bye, which adds a bit to the degree of difficulty. But consider these facts.
For the year, Dak Prescott is completing 64% of his passes for an average of 227 yards per game, w/ 16 TD & 4 INT, w/ an avg. rating of ~104— David Helman (@HelmanDC) November 6, 2017
Carson Wentz is completing 61% of his passes for 251 yards/game, w/ 23 TDs and 5 INT, w/ an average rating of ~104.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) November 6, 2017
Look close to you?
This edition of the Cowboys is starting to look like what many of us anticipated when the season started. They finally seem to have some balance between the offense and defense. Each win is building confidence. They still have some challenges ahead of them, but that Falcons game doesn’t look as intimidating as it once did as the defending NFC champs are now at 4-4.
As some mentioned a few weeks ago when the pall of doom and gloom was spreading through much of the Cowboys’ fan base, there are still a lot of games to play. It is only the halfway point for Dallas, and things are all headed in the right direction (outside of those injuries). We still don’t know if Zeke is going to have to sit his suspension before the end of the year, but even if he does, this is not a team you can just write off.
It’s going to be an interesting (and hopefully enjoyable) second half for the Cowboys.