How sweet it is to get back in the win column. After a horrible one-game skid, the Dallas Cowboys righted some wrongs on Monday Night when they beat the Arizona Cardinals 28-17. It wasn’t pretty, but the reigning NFC East division champs stand at 2-1 and remain tied with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. The New York Giants are not tied and they can’t win football games.
It was stressful at times, but the Cowboys got the job done. Here are 10 observations on Monday night’s action...
1. Here we go again
What a terrible start to the game. The defense rolled out the red carpet and allowed the Cardinals to go 76 yards on eight plays to open a 7-0 lead right out of the gate. The Cowboys defense, who pride themselves on limiting big plays, allowed three plays of 20 or more yards on the game’s opening drive. That is not the way we wanted the game to start.
And then the Cowboys offense followed it up with a three-and-out to where they had two running plays totalling zero yards and a pass that was nowhere close to a first down.
Total yards in the first quarter:
Cardinals = 140
Cowboys = 3
2. Rookie DBs were making plays
It’s hard to say without a closer film study, but the initial review of Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods was really good. They both were challenged and they both were up for it. Lewis had six tackles and Woods had three. Many of these tackle were open field tackles, where they brought down the ball carrier solo.
And they both made great pass deflections.
Jourdan Lewis has ball skills. pic.twitter.com/REgDhUg80o— Cowboys Nation (@CowboysNation) September 26, 2017
With Nolan Carroll and Chibobe Awuzie both inactive due to injury, it was great to see the Cowboys third round pick come through.
Jourdan Lewis.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 26, 2017
3. The stars kept fighting
Dak Prescott would only throw 18 passes. Ezekiel Elliott would average 3.6 yards per carry. And Dez Bryant would only have two catches for 12 yards. All these things point to another dismal offensive performance from the Cowboys.
But alas, that was not the case. What those numbers don’t tell you is the sure will that each of these guys displayed tonight. They would all find the end zone and had to work for every bit of it.
It feels like every good gain by the Cowboys offense is the result of a terrific individual effort. Nothing gonna come easy...— rabblerousr (@rabblerousr) September 26, 2017
The fight of this team was on display Monday night. Even when things weren’t clicking early, the team kept at it. Prescott made some amazing plays with his feet. Whether it was a clever read-option run, or rolling to his right to make a huge pass play - he showed why he is such a special playmaker for this team.
Zeke kept pounding. It was brutal at times, but he kept weakening the line of defense and was able to shoot through for a few nice runs.
Cowboys are now 12-2 when Ezekiel Elliott gets at least 20 rushing attempts. #cowboyswire— Rob Phillips (@robphillips3) September 26, 2017
Dez wasn’t involved very much as he only had two targets after having 25 over the first two games. He never showed frustration. He just kept working and made it count when his number was called.
DEZ BRYANT ABSOLUTELY CARRIED THE STADIUM INTO THE END ZONE!!— Patrik Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) September 26, 2017
4. Tank was amazing
For three straight weeks we have identified DeMarcus Lawrence as a player to look out for. And each time, he’s delivered. Over and over again, Tank would beat Cardinals right tackle, Jared Veldheer. He would use his speed to go around him and he would use his power to go through him. It was an amazing display of pass rushing for Lawrence.
He would finish with three sacks and six quarterback hurries, but it felt like it was so much more than that.
The crazy thing is, D-Law was a penalty & a finger tip away from having FOUR sacks and an INT in this game...— Jordan Ross (@CHQ_Jordan) September 26, 2017
Some were saying that this is the year the Cowboys finally find their future pass rusher. While it might not be the name people were thinking of, you have to wonder if Lawrence is the real deal. He now leads the entire NFL in sacks with 6.5 after just three games, ahead of Melvin Ingram and Calais Campbell - two of the top free agent pass rushers this off-season.
Should the Cowboys look to lock him up for years to come?
20 years ago on Monday Night in a Cowboys game in Arizona, Rod Tidwell had his statement game.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) September 26, 2017
I think the Cowboys need to show Tank the $$ pic.twitter.com/BSQjlBLfh3
5. The Butler did it
What a game for Brice Butler. He caught both his targets for 90 yards and a touchdown. Both his catches shifted the momentum to the Cowboys. With so much attention given to other receivers, it was great to see him win his one-on-one match ups.
Brice Butler: this was my best night as an NFL player.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 26, 2017
The Cowboys made a great decision bringing him back this offseason to round out the receiver position group.
$1.34 million: What Jerry Jones is paying Dak Prescott & Brice Butler combined this season.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 26, 2017
6. The Puntisher
It gets lost so easily sometimes, but the job Cowboys punter Chris Jones is doing this season is remarkable. When the team is spinning their wheels offensively, he does such a great job putting the defense in position to re-establish momentum. Jones hit four punts inside the 20, including one on the seven-yard line and one on the three. Only two of his punts were returned - Kerwynn Williams, one for four yards, and Patrick Peterson, one for no yards.
7. Much respect for Fitzgerald
There aren’t many non-Cowboys players that I have a lot of admiration for, but Larry Fitzgerald is one of them. He’s such a class act and has been a phenomenal receiver his whole career. He was on fire Monday night, catching 13 passes for 149 yards, including a touchdown.
He made a ridiculous catch on a 3rd and 18 against great coverage by Orlando Scandrick. It was an amazing catch by an amazing player.
Larry Fitzgerald. Now here's a guy that reminds me of a jar of honey. No matter how old he gets, he's still good, man. Wow. I want a biscuit— Jon Gruden (@Faux_Gruden) September 26, 2017
8. Jekyll and Hyde defense
In Week 1, the defense was outstanding. In Week 2, the defense was horrid. On Monday night, they were both.
There were times the Cowboys defense allowed the big play and there were times where they looked flat out dominant. It was strange to see such a contrasting display, but at the same time - this is what you’re likely to get when a defense is still a work in progress, but is put in opportunistic situations.
The Cowboys would have six sacks, thanks primarily to DeMarcus Lawrence and Maliek Collins. While Lawrence is off to a smoking hot start, Collins had two sacks against the Cardinals and now has three on the year. He had five last season and looks like he’s not going to have a problem setting a new career high.
The defense would also have four other negative plays behind the line of scrimmage. As good as it was at times, those big plays are not characteristic of a Rod Marinelli defense.
9. Break from tough defenses
So far the Cowboys have faced two of the stingiest defenses in the league last year (Broncos #3, Giants #4) when it comes to points allowed. They’ve also faced two of the stingiest defenses in the league last year (Cardinals #2, Broncos #4) in yards allowed. That’s a rough patch. The good news is, things get a lot easier.
The Cowboys now face three teams in the bottom half in points allowed (Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay, and San Francisco). They won’t face another top 10 defense until they meet up with Kansas City in Week 9.
That’s not to say things are going to be easy by any means, but at least we should be able to see some good Cowboys offense in coming weeks.
10. Come out unscathed?
There were several Cowboys players leaving the field on Monday night. DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford limped off, Jeff Heath was down on the ground a while, and Orlando Scandrick left to go to the locker room.
But all those guys returned and continued to make plays, however there were two players that endured injuries late in the game.
Garrett says Sean Lee & Jourdan Lewis are dealing with hamstring problems. He doesn’t have an update on the severity.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 26, 2017
We’ll have to keep our eye close to the ground to see if how serious these injuries are.