Interesting take. It’s not only about the Dallas offense.
Despite the pick-six, I don't know if it's fair to say that Prescott had a horrendous game. He had some nice throws. It's just that this is a ridiculously good pass defense, and they appeared to be in Prescott's head from the beginning.
Dallas' passing game is mainly fueled by just how good and efficient Dez Bryant can be. With Bryant catching just seven of 16 targets for 59 yards, the Cowboys were forced to promote the rest of their receivers to more central roles that they just can't handle. Jason Witten is one of the best tight ends of all time, but jogs out routes like your dad at this point in his career. Cole Beasley wins with short-area quickness. If Bryant can't get 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage in this offense, none of the reliable receivers can. And against this pass defense, you can't afford to constrict yourself at all.
It was a brutal game for the whole unit, though perhaps not one that tells us much as of Week 2. I'd be more inclined to reach for a panic button were this not, you know, the Denver Broncos. Von Miller can make any offense look foolish.
There is also a point worth reading on how Dallas chose to [mis-]defend Trevor Siemian.
A nice analysis, complete with video clips, on how the Broncos schooled the Cowboys on Sunday. Not sure I agree with everything he suggests, but it’s well worth the read.
Coming into this season, the strengths of their offense are different, but their strategy has changed very little. Their offensive line is weaker after having to replace two of the five starters, their running back’s future is uncertain, but they have an experienced and confident second-year quarterback. The offense needs to be more Prescott-dependent. But just giving him more opportunities to throw the ball is not enough. The next time the Cowboys face a top-tier defense, Scott Linehan and the offensive staff must produce a better game plan.
Sturms’ weekly Decoding Linehan post is required reading. He is back to argue the point he made yesterday that Dallas gave up too easily on the run. He also notes a bad trend of road games against good defenses, dating back to last year.
So, basically, the reality is this: In Dak Prescott's 17 games as QB of the Cowboys (we don't count Week 17 of last year in Philadelphia), the last 3 road games would rank 15th, 16th, and 17th in terms of yardage production, 3rd down efficiency, and points scored.
Let that sink in here for a brief moment. And try not to panic.
One thing to read if you don’t want to panic is Cole Patterson’s post on Dak’s history of bouncing back.
Dak has a history of coming back with a strong performance following a less-than-ideal outing the previous game. He has the mental toughness, the work ethic, and the determination to bounce back from any adversity that he hits. He has shown it time and time again.
The only unfortunate part about that is that it was the running game and defense that took the deeper dive on Sunday. How will they bounce back?
After Sunday’s loss, everyone has a theory about what the Cowboys need to do to bounce back. Here’s Gosselin’s.
They've got to scheme it now where Prescott can make plays with his arm to compensate when Elliott is not dominating the game.
"Now it's on the coaches to figure out a way to make Dez Bryant an impact player again, figure out a way to make Cole Beasley a bigger impact player, figure out a way to get Terrance Williams involved down the field and Brice Butler. They've got to do things quotient-wise to make this passing game work again.
The quote suggests a broader approach, but Gosselin’s really all about Dez Bryant, who has not been the most efficient receiver for Dallas.
Michael Irvin has some useful perspective.
"We have to make sure whatever goes down in the playoffs for us goes down in our yard. We see what it's like if we get caught in the wrong place. I still believe if you line 'em up and we get in another site, the run game would be much better and they play much better than yesterday. You get out of that noise, have an opportunity, have a chance. This should be the team that says we got to make sure that when we get to where we want to be, these games are played in our yard."
Broaddus always has decent insights. Here’s one: The blocking was bad.
What was surprising about the nine carries that Ezekiel Elliott had was that four of those came with the Cowboys in “12” personnel. It is usually an outstanding running package with Jason Witten and James Hanna, but it had its share of struggles. When you chart the overall breakdowns, there was only one time where I felt like Elliott made a poor choice with his cut. Other than that, the main culprit for the lack of running room can be traced to individual breakdowns. Missed cut off blocks. No movement on defensive tackles when executing fold blocks and just physically getting shed at the point of attack. The only time Elliott had any real space to operate came on his final carry, with seven Broncos in the box. Tyron Smith and Chaz Green were able to cave down the right side of the line to get Elliott inside.
Moore sifts through Jason Garrett’s comments. He’s high on Prescott.
"If you get a chance, go back and watch the tape of No. 4,'' Garrett said at his Monday afternoon news conference. "No. 4 is a special player.
"It was not an easy game for him. Got knocked around a little bit, got banged up early. And talk about a guy who battles. Talk about a guy who fights. Talk about a guy who leads the team under adversity, under duress.
"It was special.''
"He certainly could have been frustrated,'' Garrett said. "Obviously, he had been very productive as a running back over the course of his career and certainly in the NFL up to this point. He had a game where he carried the ball nine times for 8 yards, so there's no question frustration could have set in, but I have not had a conversation with him yet.''
Graziano think’s the Cowboys are a mirage. Really??
The Cowboys looked as bad Sunday as they have at any point in the still-nascent Elliott/Dak Prescott era. They won't look that bad every week. Their underlying offensive fundamentals are as strong as they were in 2016. But they played only three games against top-10 defenses last season -- two against the Giants and one against the Vikings -- and they went 1-2 in those games. Sunday showed the sledding will be tougher in 2017.
A couple of points. How did the Cowboys do against the Giants defense this year? And will the likely playoff contenders in the NFC be defined by defense, or offense? Cowboys need to get better during the season, sure, but there’s no reason they can’t.
It’s too bad one of Witten’s milestones came during such a down game.
“My mind is just so focused on helping this team win, and it’s so much bigger than just me,” Witten said. “Certainly I recognize the people that have helped me along the way to get to a point like this to achieve something like that, but, you know, it’s kind of hollow right now. Even though I know how much respect I have for all the tight ends that played, and there’s been some great ones. So I tip my cap to those men that I’m able to kind of pass and join, in Tony, but certainly my focus is on improving, and they’ll be a lot of things I can get better from in this game. That’s kind of where my focus is.”
Archer’s Five Wonders.
As we wait to see whether Elliott will be suspended six games this season or next season, let’s talk about the 2018 draft for a moment. I wonder how early the Cowboys will select a running back next spring. Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris will be free agents after the season. I can envision the Cowboys saying goodbye to both veteran running backs. They like Rod Smith, but I don’t believe they like him well enough to be content with him as Elliott’s top backup just yet. We are seeing rookies Kareem Hunt and Tarik Cohen, third- and fourth-round picks, have success early on, so the middle rounds would make sense to find Elliott’s backup. But he might need to be more than a backup if Elliott can’t stay out of trouble in the future.