This past week, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was asked about the passing game woes that have plagued the first month of the season. His words: Just start slinging it around.
Excuse me, coach? You want one of the league’s weakest passing offenses to sling it around on the Lions first-ranked pass defense? That’s a bold strategy... let’s see how that plays out.
Cowboys Nation stands corrected. More importantly, Dak Prescott has finally busted the five-game slump of sub-200-yard passing games. Before this Lions game, Dak’s last 200-yard passing day was week 14 last season in a 20-17 win over the Raiders. That game wasn’t great for him either, Dak went 18 for 27, 212-yards, no TD’s, two interceptions, and a 59.5 passer rating. Dak picked one heck of a defense to have his big day against as the Lions were only allowing 152 passing yards per game. On top of that, it was Dak’s first 100+ passer rating posting since week 13 of last season.
Dak Prescott: "I know what I can do and I know the player that I am. And I never waver and I’m never going to get down on myself. All of us have good days and bad days and if all of us were judged by our bad days and our jobs, then we’d all be in trouble."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 30, 2018
The Cowboys would have a lot of “firsts” during this game but it started with the “first” time in seemingly forever that they deferred after winning the coin toss. The defense was able to get off the field but much like we’ve seen all year, the Cowboys were a little fuzzy to start. You have to convert 3rd and 1’s against the Lions worst-ranked run defense:
Running the ball= Great— ✭Michael Sisemore✭ (@MrSisemore) September 30, 2018
Tripping on 3rd and 1= Not so much
On their next drive, how about no run at all, how about a little play-action passing to Geoff Swaim for 31-yards? Hello play-action, we’ve missed you.
per @PFF, Dak Prescott play action percentages by week.— Jake Kemp (@NotJackKemp) September 24, 2018
week 1 - 17.9%
week 2 - 44.0%
week 3 - 12.5%
In fact, after not attempting a single deep throw last week, how about one to rookie Michael Gallup?! It’s unfortunate that it couldn’t end in six:
Two big passing plays by Cowboys from Dak Prescott ... first to tight end Geoff Swaim (off of play-action) for 31 yards and then a deep ball down left sideline to rookie WR Michael Gallup for 37 yards. Then Dallas bogs down in the red zone.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) September 30, 2018
7 plays, 76 yards in 2:09 on the drive by the Cowboys. Brett Maher finishes it off with a 32-yard field goal. Cowboys lead, 3-0, with 4:30 to go in first quarter.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) September 30, 2018
Of course, the Cowboys defense picked this game against a prolific passer like Matthew Stafford to have mental breakdowns in coverage. Jourdan Lewis gets worked and Jeff Heath forgot how to tackle:
The disrespect.— Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 30, 2018
Golden Tate with the 45-yard TD. pic.twitter.com/30LknRaxXd
Golden Tate just clowned Jourdan Lewis and the entire cowboys secondary....7-3— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) September 30, 2018
Now you see why Jourdan Lewis doesn't play.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 30, 2018
The Cowboys running game with Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith get the Cowboys to the Lions 34. On 2nd and 1, Tavon Austin can’t haul in a beautiful deep ball from Prescott, Darius Slay with the coverage:
Darius Slay out here putting on a clinic.. patient at the line.. couldn’t get hands on.. good eye discipline.. gets in phase.. look and lean.. pulls left hand away.. good job slay pic.twitter.com/IXW9xKqCuT— CrockTIME (@eric_crocker) September 30, 2018
Dallas has to settle for another 43-yard field goal that Brett Maher nails to cut the lead to one point. Cowboys defense playing tough and drew a facemask penalty off a Lions offensive lineman. On 2nd and 22 from their own 13, Stafford just started showing off that arm talent, starting with a 34-yard completion to Marvin Jones:
the number of different angles Stafford can throw out of is so absurd— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 30, 2018
A few plays later, they send their return-man Jamal Agnew on the jet-sweep to get into the red zone:
Jamal Agnew on offense alert! Speedily picks up 17 yards and puts the Lions in the red zone #DETvsDAL— Tori Petry (@sportstori) September 30, 2018
Thankfully, the Cowboys defense kept the damage to a field goal, Lions lead is 10-6 and the Cowboys get a shot before the half:
The Lions had bigger problems though because they awakened the Tank! DeMarcus Lawrence was not having any TD’s on this drive. We’ll come back to this later:
D-Law is jawing with the Lions' OL after that field goal. Looks like he's unhappy with something they did on that possession.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 30, 2018
Great job by the defense to not break after Detroit hit play after play.— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) September 30, 2018
2:50 left. Would be really nice to end the half with a touchdown.
This is when Ezekiel Elliott took matters into his own hands, determined to get something before the half:
19-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott to start this drive.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) September 30, 2018
Cole Beasley sauces the Lions for 12-yards on the next play:
Holy butt Beasley had Agnew running in circles. Full Sauce.— Jeff Cavanaugh (@JC1053) September 30, 2018
You know what’s next, there goes that man again, Ezekiel Elliott telling Dak: “I got you, man.”
Yes folks, that’s Joe Looney on the block!
Elliott with 100 yards total offense— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) September 30, 2018
Cowboys take the lead 13-10 before the half! This just had that feeling of scoring too soon because Stafford was unstoppable for the most part. Remember DeMarcus Lawrence? He’s the guy that strip-sacked you as a rookie in that playoff win. The two were reunited:
Demarcus Lawrence has his roll through cradle down perfectly. pic.twitter.com/X6JQ8lYdfH— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) September 30, 2018
Back-to-back big plays for DeMarcus Lawrence and Leighton Vander Esch. Matthew Stafford is usually pretty good in the two-minute. Big stop there to prevent any points before the half. Cowboys up 13-10 at halftime— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 30, 2018
Dak-Watch: Not quite there yet, sir.
Dak Prescott is 6 of 11 for 134 yards and a TD at half. He hasn't hit the 200-yard mark since passing for 212 yards Dec. 17 at Oakland last season.— Kate Hairopoulos (@khairopoulos) September 30, 2018
Cowboys kneel down and get the ball back to start the third quarter. Cowboys offense gets a ton of help from the Lions defense for three holding calls that get them inside the Detroit-40.
Lions helping the Cowboys here. Three holding penalties on this drive give the Cowboys three first downs.— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) September 30, 2018
Thanks for the jynx, dudes! Right on cue, the Cowboys started making some mistakes of their own...tisk, tisk boys! Illegal block by Elliott puts them back at the Detroit 36.
Cowboys' first penalty of the day comes on a play I have not seen them run before— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 30, 2018
A couple of plays later, Prescott walks right into a sack that puts Cowboys out of field goal range. Not ideal from the quarterback:
Well, you can't take a sack there. Fourth and 32— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 30, 2018
Cowboys waste Detroit's penalty gifts with Dak Prescott blame for a 14-yard sack that took the Cowboys out of FG position.— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) September 30, 2018
Cowboys pin the Lions deep and Tank Lawrence keeps them there, sacking Stafford for the second time:
Cowboys get the ball at their own 36 and this time, Zeke is still hungry:
Ezekiel Elliott with the 41-yard run to start the drive.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) September 30, 2018
Zeke is over 100 rushing yards for the second straight week.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 30, 2018
the Lions are allowing an average of 149 rush yards per game. the Cowboys have that at the halfway point of the third quarter.
DO IT, COWBOYS! FEED ZEKE!
A couple of plays later on 3rd and 10, Cole Beasley gets nine to the Lions 3 and Cowboys have a decision to make on 4th and 1:
Cowboys going for the jugular here on fourth and 1 from the Detroit 3. By going fast, they forced the Lions to call a timeout.— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) September 30, 2018
Elliott tries to punch it in, fumbles, it’s recovered by Blake Jarwin in the end zone for the TD! Wait...whistle...no advancing the ball forward on the fumble, Cowboys first and goal? What to do when Lions send the hounds? Throw it over the defense to the tight end? Touchdown, Geoff Swaim!
Dak-Watch: Still not there, young man!
Dak's stat line: 11/17, 156 yards, 2 TDs, no INTs. Passer rating of 133.5. And don't forget Tavon Austin dropped a TD pass on the screws... Dak has been good today against the NFL's #1 pass defense. @NBCDFW @1053thefan— Pat Doney (@PatDoneyNBC5) September 30, 2018
Matthew Stafford wasn’t done by any stretch and cut that lead down in a matter of seven plays and three-and-a-half minutes, major help from two 20+yard completions to Kenny Golladay like this one on 2nd and long:
The Lions made it look easy here with the run by Kerryon Johnson and it’s now only a three point lead for the home team:
Kerryon Johnson. Beast.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 30, 2018
Buckle up, y'all.
TD Lions. They aren't going away.#Cowboys 20— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) September 30, 2018
The Cowboys next drive was puzzling as it starts at their own 11-yard line thanks to a blocking penalty by Damien Wilson. Well, the Lions just don’t seem interested at all in stopping the run, do they?
ZEKE HURDLE— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) September 30, 2018
On 3rd and 1, Zeke gets another first down! #DETvsDAL— 105.3 The FAN (@1053thefan) September 30, 2018
That’s the not the only thing that happened...a few passes later, Dak Prescott finally broke 200 passing yards against the league’s best pass defense:
Dak clears the 200-yard mark for the first time this season.— Kate Hairopoulos (@khairopoulos) September 30, 2018
Beasley is up to four catches for 53 yards.
I don't want to buy too much into stats in Week 4. It's too soon to say how good Detroit's secondary actually is.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 30, 2018
But, it is worth pointing out: Dak is repeatedly making clutch, well-placed throws against the best pass defense in the NFL right now.
With first and goal from the Lions 6, Scott Linehan had an interesting set of calls that didn’t include a single run for Elliott.
Worst run defense in the league. Two-straight passes from the 4-yard line.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 30, 2018
A 16-play drive ends without a touchdown against a team who’s quarterback was having his way with your secondary. Cowboys needed seven but settled for three:
I don’t know if this is true, he must have not watched the whole game:
Stafford is back on the field with plenty of time but first must have another meeting with the Tank, his third of the night!
Three plays later, Stafford makes the Cowboys pay for kicking that field goal. Guess who? Cowboys’ nemesis Golden Tate again! Anthony Brown got burned badly...
Not sure who messed up, but it appears Anthony Brown thought he had deep help and Kavon Frazier was the deep man.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) September 30, 2018
Wow, Lions strike quick. Matthew Stafford hits Golden Tate for a 38-yard TD pass down the right sideline (he beat CB Anthony Brown in coverage) and Detroit leads now, 24-23, with 2:17 to play. Plenty of time, though, for Dak Prescott and this Cowboys' offense to answer.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) September 30, 2018
After the past three weeks, did you ever think you would say this?
Well, at the very least the Lions left Dak Prescott plenty of time to work with.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 30, 2018
After a seven-yard completion to Swaim, the opportunity was almost blown. Dak gets stripped but pulls a Tony Romo and picks it up and tosses it away to preserve the drive:
On 3rd and 3, Allen Hurns gets nine and keeps hope alive:
Allen Hurns said good things will happen if he's targeted more. That was a CLUTCH catch right there.— Jordan Ross (@CHQ_Jordan) September 30, 2018
On 2nd and 10, Ezekiel Elliott asked Dak to let him be his WR1 and it’s a backbreaker for the Detroit Lions:
ZEEEEEEEEEEEEKE on a DIME from Dak.— Shan Shariff (@1053SS) September 30, 2018
And with that...Brett Maher does the honors, boots a 32-yarder and the Cowboys beat the Lions 26-24!
Though the Cowboys made a few mistakes here and there especially in the secondary, the only thing that matters is the win. Dallas improved to 41% on 3rd down and had 400+ yards of offense dominated by their two stars. The Cowboys offense had nine possessions, six of them ended in points, only two punts and one kneel down at the half, not bad at all for this team.
It’s always fun when these teams get together. Zeke was sensational. Dak looked like the Dak we all remember. Brett Maher absolutely rewarded the Cowboys’ faith in him.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) September 30, 2018
That’s a wrap!!! Cowboys offense found themselves but now it’s time to build on that!