A gritty 28-17 win for the Cowboys in Arizona, where they haven’t won since Tony Romo’s first season as QB back in 2006.
We gave a play-by-play overview of the offense in our Dak and Zeke Report. The key to this game was creating good field position, and then cashing in when the Cowboys had it. Three times Dallas started from the 50 or inside Arizona territory, and each time they scored a touchdown. Their last touchdown came off a 75-yard drive, but it was jump started by a 53-yard bomb from Dak Prescott to Brice Butler on the first play, when everyone was expecting a hand-off to Zeke.
He was ruled down before the TD...— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2017
But this @Dak to @Brice_Butler connection is #DALvsAZ pic.twitter.com/gjgy1NRqUu
Dak and Zeke were the show on offense, with some incredible help from Brice Butler, who gained 90 yards on two bombs and a touchdown. Terrance Williams continued his streak as the most reliable receiver, by catching three of four for 47 yards. He’s the only Cowboys receiver with more than one catch who is above a 70% catch rate.
Dallas finished the game with only 273 yards, just five more than last week’s blowout loss to Denver. The difference was field position, and how they converted those yards into four touchdowns.
Dak was highly efficient, with a quarterback rating of 141.7, and an ANY/A of 11.26, both numbers tied for the second best of his short career. Zeke had runs of 30 and 20 yards, and an eight-yard TD run for his first of the year. Dak also ran one in, and pitched TD passes to Dez Bryant and Brice Butler.
Once the defense figured out a strategy to pressure, sack, and contain Carson Palmer, the offense did just enough to seize control of the game and pull out the win.
The offensive line continues to have growing pains. Dak was sacked only once for nine yards, but the tackler blew by Tyron Smith almost untouched. It eliminated any shot at an early field goal try. Travis Frederick was also blown up, as were La’el Collins and Chaz Green. Dallas’s hope has to be for this unit to get better over the season as they work together. All five guys took all the snaps again.
Here are this week’s Pro Football Focus season grades for the Cowboys linemen:
- Tyron Smith: 62.2
- Chaz Green: 34.2
- Travis Frederick: 77
- Zack Martin: 85.5
- La’el Collins: 32.9
PFF’s grades can be quirky, but if they are even close to being accurate, that’s not going to cut it. The Cowboys still have Jonathan Cooper in reserve at guard, but no one to relieve La’el Collins, who’s just going to have to play better.
Dak played all the snaps, naturally.
As mentioned above, and in the Dak and Zeke report, he did a fine job once he got the offense going, which happened after Zeke hit a 30-yard run.
Zeke was the only running back with a carry, though Ryan Switzer lined up in the backfield and carried once for three yards. He’s listed under wide receivers.
It’s difficult to understand what the Cowboys see in Alfred Morris, or why they don’t go with Rod Smith as Zeke’s primary backup. On another post, someone thought Smith could be a bit like MBIII given his size and be used to carry to kill the game when the Cowboys are ahead late. The team may eventually get there, but needs to use him enough to trust him on those situations. Morris? He’s a wasted slot on the 46-man roster at the moment.
This week Brice Butler was the star, with two game-changing bombs from Dak on two targets. One went for a 37-yard touchdown, and the other went for 53 yards to set up Dallas’ game clinching touchdown. This play went completely against Dallas’ typical conservative approach, coming with just under seven minutes to play and Dallas up four. First down on the Dallas 25, Dak rolls out off a run fake to Zeke and with no one chasing him, throws it deep down field and high so Butler could use his size and hands to go up and get it.
Dez Bryant had only one significant catch at the Arizona 15. He first juked two Arizona defenders, then dragged five more the last three yards into the end zone.
Terrance Williams remains the Cowboys most reliable receiver, with an 81% catch rate on the year.
Noah Brown got his first target and catch of the year, a nice 13-yarder on one of Dallas’s TD drives.
The real mystery is what has happened to Cole Beasley? He only had one target for a single catch, though it led to a critical first down on one of Dallas’s TD drives. Chris Harris and Tyrann Mathieu are likely the biggest reason for this. Let’s hope he won’t face that kind of coverage going forward.
Jason Witten got taken out by Arizona in this game, with only one catch on four targets for three yards. It came on Dallas’s first series. James Hanna and Geoff Swaim both played much more than last week, but neither was targeted. Dallas really needs the playmaking potential of Rico Gathers.
Yards Per Snap
This week, and going forward, we’re going to combine the wide receivers and tight ends to run this yards per snap analysis.
|Player||Game||Snaps||Targets||Catches||Percent||Yards||TDs||Yds/Snaps||2016 Snaps||2016 Yds||2016 Y/S|
From this you can see that Brice Butler was ridiculously productive, with almost 13 yards per snap this week! His seasonal number is 2.16 yards per snap. Terrance Williams had another strong game, and is second on the season with 1.1 yards per snap. Noah Brown is at 1 yard per snap on one catch. Jason Witten is fourth at .83 yards per snap, followed by Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and Ryan Switzer.
Butler, Williams, and Witten are well ahead of last year, with Dez and Cole well behind. Noah Brown is a rookie. The Cowboys still need to figure this out, as teams have not just neutralized Dez, but Cole Beasley as well.
Offensive snaps Game 1 - New York Giants