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Cowboys news: Ezekiel Elliott draws rave reviews

And updates on David Irving and Terrance Wiliams

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys outlast Lions with fourth-quarter fireworks – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
Sturm provides his usual deep dive into what happened Sunday and what it means moving forward. He focuses on the three big plays from Ezekiel Elliott.

The third play almost didn’t happen. Moments earlier, Dak Prescott showed his developing Football IQ when he threw a ball away to avoid a massive yardage loss on a near-sack fumble that would have ushered in a third and 25 if it went differently, but with the incompletion, they lined up for third and merely 3.

But, on that play, Elliott was out wide right in a stack and ran a half-hearted out to the sticks. Two plays later, he runs what appears to be a short option route, but again, he is not really running the route so if the Cowboys are playing the long-game to lull his man to sleep, they are really selling that Elliott is not in the plans as a receiver. Yet they keep lining him up out to the right as a wide receiver option in this all-important drive.

It’s second and 10 from the Dallas 41 with 1:23 to go and the game needs a play. Elliott is back in the right slot and the slant underneath takes the safety when Prescott looks him off. This leaves Elliott in man coverage versus the impressive linebacker Jarrad Davis yet again, but this time, Elliott runs a ‘go’ right past him. He doesn’t have a huge advantage, but he does have a step, which allows Prescott to nestle a great ball right on the money. Just like that, the Cowboys are in field goal range. This is a component of Elliott’s game that has seldom been explored. Teams will see this and realize that it is an option now that it cost Detroit the game.

Three huge plays — the biggest plays of his 2018 season — all in one afternoon, and after Brett Maher split the uprights from 38 yards, it was easy to see why Elliott has his reputation as one of the best backs in football.

Boy, did they need this win. But what makes it even better is that the Cowboys’ best players on each side of the ball played like their best players. That is how winning teams can keep winning. If Lawrence and Elliott can ball out like that, this team can get rolling in October.

Dak Prescott badly needed a win — and he came through – Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
Prescott, for a week at least, quieted his critics and Watkins gives us his thoughts.

What about Prescott?

He went after the end zone with a deep ball toward Austin, which was well-thrown but dropped. Prescott also threw a high pass to inexperienced tight end Rico Gathers in the end zone. But he made that wonderful sideline throw to Michael Gallup late in the first quarter which the rookie receiver caught at its highest point. Prescott also found Allen Hurns with a perfect throw over the defender for another completion. Then there was the best throw of the day, the ‘Linehan Special’ to Elliott. Prescott recognized the coverage, man-on-man, and Elliott ran an inside fade for the biggest catch of the game.

The questions about the identity of the Cowboys offense continues to go unanswered, even after the Lions victory. That identity is also tied to Prescott.

“We have a great offense with a lot of potential,” he said. “I think (Sunday) we made good plays, but I think there are still plays that we left out that should have been made. We expect to make those plays.”

MMQB: Teams taking huge risks in NFL Week 4 - Albert Breer,
It took four weeks, but the Cowboys finally warranted a mention by the Monday Morning Quarterback.

Speaking of improvement, Dak Prescott was a lot better this week, in large part because the offensive line and Zeke Elliott were on their game. That’s what the identity of the offense was built to be, and while Elliott was a monster on the ground (25 carries, 152 yards), he flashed the pass-game ability that made him a value in the upper reaches of the 2016 draft. Elliott looked like a receiver in hauling in a 34-yard dime over Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis to set up the game-winning points in a have-to-have-it win for the Cowboys.

Dak Prescott finds his poise, leadership in the Cowboys' big moment - Todd Archer, ESPN
Archer also has praise for Prescott's game, especially the final, game-winning drive.

As he walked on to the AT&T Stadium field with 2:17 to play, Dak Prescott did not carry with him any extra pressure, even if the Dallas Cowboys’ season might have been on the line.

In the first three games of the season, the offense scored four touchdowns and was ranked close to the bottom of the league in many statistics, except rushing and this was not the time to run the ball, down two points to the Detroit Lions.

Prescott thought only of the possibilities after Matthew Stafford’s 38-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate gave the Lions a 24-23 lead.

“We’re still good,” Prescott said on the sideline before the final drive. “We’ve got a lot of time.”

In Thursday’s practice at Ford Center at The Star, Prescott led the offense down the field for a last-second Brett Maher field goal.

He made Sunday just like practice.

The Cowboys can't have Ezekiel Elliott as their No. 1 receiver. Here's where they could get help - Rick Gosselin, SportsDay
The Cowboys offense finally generated more than 200 yards passing Sunday but Gosselin points out they continue to get virtually nothing from the wide receiving corps. Who knew a collection of cast-offs and mid-round draft picks would struggle?

Maybe the Dallas wide receivers are getting open. Maybe they are not. Maybe Prescott is holding the ball too long. Maybe he's not. Maybe Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan have not been creative enough with their scheme to free up the wideouts. There's enough finger pointing to go around. But there is one certainty - the Cowboys need more from their wide receivers. Much, much more.

The longest receptions by these wideouts this season have been a 64-yarder by Tavon Austin against the Giants, a 37-yarder by rookie Gallup against the Lions and a 20-yarder by Allen Hurns against the Panthers. That's it - three receptions of 20 or more yards by this wide-receiving corps through the first four games.

Detroit's Golden Tate had receptions of 45, 38 and 35 all by himself against the Cowboys. Marvin Jones chipped in a 45-yarder and Michael Golladay a pair of 22-yarders as Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford put the Lions in position to defeat the Cowboys.

3 things we learned from Cowboys' win over Lions: Byron Jones may be the best CB in football right now - John Owning, SportsDay
John Owning, now at SportDay, is always a must-read. His lengthy breakdown of the Cowboy's victory has a number of interesting insights.

The coaching staff did a marvelous job of putting the players in a position to succeed throughout the game. While Dallas didn't run anything "new" per se, it did use more pre-snap motion, play-action and up-tempo offense against Detroit as offensive coordinator Scott Linehan showed an improvement in sequencing his play calls.

A higher frequency of pre-snap motion gives Prescott an opportunity to identify coverages better before the snap, leading to better post-snap decisions. The Cowboys routinely aligned Elliott out wide before motioning him into the backfield, a helpful way for quarterbacks to identify coverage.

Furthermore, the Cowboys offense played at a faster tempo than it had previously. Using no huddle is a great way for an offense to dictate personnel and create mismatches since it prevents a defense from being able to substitute. When Detroit used its lighter personnel packages on defense (nickel and dime), Dallas countered with an up-tempo offense, allowing it to condense its formations and create beneficial running situations for Elliott with defensive backs in the box instead of linebackers.

More play-action forced the Lions' second-level defenders into a lot of run-pass binds, leading to indecisive play from their linebackers against the run and pass. Play-action passes took advantage of the Lions linebackers creeping toward the line of scrimmage to stop the run. In fact, the Cowboys used play-action on four of the five passes that went for 15 or more yards.

Top 10: Zeke & D-Law Are Easy, But Who’s Next? - staff
The staff over at the Mothership vote on the top ten performances from the victory over the Lions.

The Cowboys had plenty of game balls to pass around on Sunday, but there were three that stood out the most. Obviously, Zeke, D-Law and Maher stole the show, but what about the rest?

10. Allen Hurns – His stat line wasn’t great and hasn’t been all season. But Hurns is starting to look like definition of a “possession receiver.” When the Cowboys needed a big first down, Hurns was there three times on Sunday, delivering clutch receptions to move the sticks.

Cowboys Will Wait & See On David Irving’s Role - David Helman,
David Irving is officially eligible to return to the Cowboys. How soon he'll see live game-action is an unknown. Helman gives us the details on this evolving situation.

“The schedule is for him to be in today and re-acclimated with the team tomorrow,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.

The reality will probably be a little bit more complicated, though. After all, for a guy who missed all of training camp and the first month of the regular season, it might be a little bit more complicated than simply hitting the ground running.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, the nature of Irving’s suspension did not keep him away from the facility. He has been at The Star for much of the past few weeks working on his conditioning. But it’ll still be a wait-and-see process while the coaching staff figures out how ready he is to participate.

Scout’s Eye: Big Blocks, Defensive Grades - Bryan Broaddus,
The broad one gives his scout's judgments of Sunday's contest. Like many of us, he liked what he saw from Chidobe Awuzie despite the second-year corner surrendering a number of catches.

If you only judge from the stat sheet, it might have appeared that Chidobe Awuzie played poorly. But after studying the tape, that wasn’t the case at all. It was clear that the Lions’ game plan was to attack him and Anthony Brown, staying away from Byron Jones. The problem for Awuzie was he was in outstanding position in coverage to defend the routes -- but the ball placement by Matthew Stafford and his receivers to finish on those receptions were spectacular. There honestly was nothing that Awuzie could do any differently that he wasn’t already doing.

Audibles at the Line: Week 4 - Staff, FootballOutsiders
The FO staff have running commentary on the Dallas - Detroit matchup, which is pretty interesting.

Vince Verhei: Tavon Austin runs a fly route on Darius Slay. He's not really open, but Dak Prescott hits him in the chest and at least gives him a chance to outfight Slay for the ball. Sadly, Austin fails to do that, collapses to the turf, and immediately starts grabbing his wrist and shoulder. A thin Dallas wide receiver corps looks even thinner now.

Scott Kacsmar: Ezekiel Elliott had 37 yards on his first 11 catches this season, which gives you another idea of how bad that offense has been. He just had a 38-yard touchdown on a screen pass. The Cowboys have had three pass plays of 30-plus yards in this half.

Vince Verhei: There was a weird play right before that Elliott screen pass. Prescott dropped back, pinballed off a couple of defenders, tried to keep his balance, and eventually fell to his knee for a sack. But when he stood up, Romeo Okwara knocked him right back down, an easy 15-yard penalty. That turned a second-and-long on Dallas' side of the field into a first down at the Detroit 38, and Elliott and his convoy of linemen took over from there. My favorite play in football is still the well-executed screen, with a wall of big linemen rumbling downfield escorting their teammate into the end zone. Really gets to the heart of what I think football should be.

Terrance Williams expected back Tuesday – Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk
C. Williams reports T. Williams is expected back after missing the first game of his career Sunday.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he expects receiver Terrance Williams to rejoin the team Tuesday.

Williams missed the first game of his career Sunday.

The Cowboys made Williams inactive, and he did not attend the game. Garrett said Williams was “working through some off-field stuff.”

Williams also missed practice Friday, a non-injury-related absence.

We’ve got a new episode of The 75O with Tony Casillas (yes, THAT Tony Casillas) and RJ Ochoa available for you on the Blogging The Boys podcast feed. The guys broke down everything that worked (and things that could use some work) during the victory against Detroit.

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