The Dallas defense started shakily again, allowing Arizona to march 82 yards for an opening drive TD. But after the Cardinals had a touchdown negated by penalty on the next drive, then missed the consolation field goal, Dallas forced punts on Arizona’s next four possessions and took control of the game. Dallas won 28-17.
Dallas got out-gained for the second straight game. This time it was closer - 332 to 273 yards. But, as we will see in the special teams section, Dallas won the secret yards, with better punting and punt returns to come out ahead overall.
The key on defense was the pass rush generated by the defensive line. DeMarcus Lawrence was a monster, with three sacks and a fourth that was negated by a Sean Lee penalty, along with numerous other hits and pressures.
But his partner in crime was Maliek Collins, who added two sacks of his own. Dallas finally found its rhythm when it rushed three (Tyrone Crawford was usually the third guy) and used six defensive backs. The other two stars of the defense were Jourdan Lewis and Byron Jones. Pro Football Focus liked their games.
Rookie CB Jourdan Lewis and S Byron Jones both finished with coverage grades above 84. They were targeted a combined 18 times in coverage and surrendered only 9 catches. They combined for three pass break ups, with Jones responsible for two of them. The athletic Jones was tasked much of the night with handling Cardinals TE Jermaine Gresham and only allowed two receptions for 21 yards while covering him.
After going 15 for 18 in the first half with two sacks, Dallas held Carson Palmer to 14 for 30, adding four more sacks for a loss of 29 yards in the second half.
This was not a great game defensively, but Dallas adjusted better than Arizona did and got better as the game went on. It’s kind of amazing that Dallas could win with 81 snaps on defense and only 47 on offense, and losing time of possession 36:15 to 23:45. It was a combination of factors, including all the sacks on Palmer, Dak’s high ANY/A and passer rating, better special teams for Dallas, the missed field goal by Arizona, and a lot of empty yards for the Cardinals at the end of the game.
Here are the snaps.
Tyrone Crawford’s ankle is obviously healthy, as he moved up to third place in snaps this week behind Maliek Collins and DeMarcus Lawrence. Charles Tapper was a healthy scratch with Damontre Moore back from his suspension.
Here are the production numbers:
- DeMarcus Lawrence: four tackles, three sacks for 24 yards, three tackles for loss, six quarterback hits.
- Maliek Collins: four solo tackles and one assist, two sacks for 12 yards, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.
- Tyrone Crawford: two tackles and one assist, one sack for six yards, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits.
- Benson Mayowa:, one tackle, one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hit.
- Brian Price: two tackles and one assist.
- Damontre Moore: one tackle and one assist.
- Stephen Paea: one tackle, and a tackle for loss.
- Taco Charlton: one tackle.
The three-man rush was the story of this game, as it actually led to several of the sacks. By giving better coverage it forced Palmer to hold the ball longer.
DeMarcus Lawrence was a monster, but he mostly got there off bull rushes. The Cowboys still don’t have a true speed guy who can turn the corner. Maliek Collins was also effective inside. But you have to wonder if teams will sell out more to stop Lawrence.
Who will pick up the slack then? David Irving anyone? His return in game five could give the Cowboys two guys who can dominate one-on-one matchups. The question is, who will sit when he returns? Taco Charlton is the logical choice if Irving is used outside, but that could make Cowboys fans restless.
Here are the snaps.
Sean Lee led the way, as usual. He missed the end with a hamstring issue, but initial word is he should be okay. The biggest difference from a snaps standpoint was that Justin Durant was finally used.
- Sean Lee: eight tackles, one tackle for loss
- Jaylon Smith: four tackles and three assists
- Damien Wilson, one tackle and one pass defensed
- Justin Durant, no stats.
This group needs Anthony Hitchens to return. It is amazing that Jaylon Smith can play as much as he does, but he’s not yet where he needs to be, and the team will likely be better if he splits snaps.
First, the snaps.
Another patchwork effort in the secondary, with Nolan Carroll and Chidobe Awuzie out, Ben Benwikere active but not seeing any snaps, and Orlando Scandrick and Jeff Heath each missing snaps due to in-game injuries they returned from.
This was actually Scandrick’s first full action. Pro Football Focus has him with a 77.8 grade, which is not bad. But he lost a jump ball fight with Larry Fitzgerald on a third and 18 play.
Jourdan Lewis got another heavy dose of snaps, and did a fantastic job with them. Is he already the best cornerback the Cowboys have? Seems preposterous, yet the Cowboys need to keep using this gamer. He was especially solid as a tackler, and broke up a downfield throw with a last minute leap to knock away a ball in the receiver’s hands. Xavier Woods also got an increased workload, as did Kavon Frazier. This is a good sign. The Cowboys really need to get these young guys on a fast growth curve to help the team make the postseason and be ready when the Cowboys get there. Byron Jones played his best game.
Here are the production numbers:
- Jourdan Lewis: six tackles, a tackle for loss, and a pass defensed.
- Byron Jones: four tackles and two assists, and two passes defensed.
- Jeff Heath: three tackles and an assist.
- Xavier Woods: three tackles and a pass defensed.
- Orlando Scandrick: two tackles and a pass defensed.
- Kavon Frazier: one tackle
- Anthony Brown: one tackle
The Cowboys may not be missing much with Nolan Carroll out, but they need to see what a healthy Chidobe Awuzie can do. Carson Palmer threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns, with no picks. He ended up being sacked a lot, but the Cowboys can’t expect other quarterbacks to stand still as much as Palmer.
The team needs to get a lot better, and fast. Jared Goff and the Rams have been tearing it up on offense, and are coming to Dallas on Sunday. Then Aaron Rodgers comes to town.
The other big factor? No turnovers forced this week. That also has to change for the better.
My son kept saying throughout the game that Dallas had the best special teams in the NFL. That may be an exaggeration, but perhaps he’s onto something!
The special teams definitely picked up some “secret” yards that help explain the final score. Remember our point up top that Arizona out-gained Dallas 332 to 273 yards - a difference of 59 yards?
Well, Chris Jones’ punted the ball inside the Arizona 20 four times, to only twice for Andy Lee. And Ryan Switzer returned Lee’s punts four times for 43 yards, while Arizona had only four yards of punt returns. This field position game helped Dallas set up three times from the 50 or inside Arizona territory, and all three times Dallas scored a touchdown out of it. Arizona’s best field position was its own 44 and 46. The first time they punted. The second time they also scored a TD. Field position matters.
Dallas also likely played a role in the Arizona missed field goal, with Anthony Brown screaming around the edge, my son thought he blocked it, but he may have just influenced Phil Dawson to push the ball wide right to evade Brown’s attempted block.
The Dallas special teams tackles were made by Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and Kevin and Rod Smith. Here are the snaps.
Defensive snaps Game 1 - New York Giants