clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cowboys news: Reactions to Dallas defying NFL death for another week

It’s fun to be a Cowboys fan again.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The NFL awoke Monday morning to the surprise news the Dallas Cowboys were victors over the Philadelphia Eagles and both Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan were still employed. All is right with the world for one day at least. Let’s get caught up with reactions to the surprising outcome.

Jerry Jones on Cowboys win vs. Eagles: We needed this most - Judy Battista,
A look at the scene inside the lockerroom, a much more positive environment than the one from last week.

Jerry Jones was late arriving in the Dallas Cowboys' locker room, the season he bemoaned less than a week ago suddenly saved in the Philadelphia chill. But when he got there, he went right to the heart of his team, to the side-by-side lockers of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. "Whooooo!" Prescott hooted at the boss. Jones replied in kind: "Whoooo!" And then Elliott joined in, too, as Jones hugged them both.

Whooo, indeed. There are few scenes in the NFL as reliable and telling as a Jones post-mortem after a Cowboys loss, when Jones vents and dissects as he did last week after the Cowboys lost to the Titans on Monday night. Then, Jones all but promised that big changes were on the way with the Cowboys' playoff chances slipping away.

With their first road win of the season, a 27-20 cliffhanger over the Philadelphia Eagles -- who were so lethargic the home fans booed the defending Super Bowl champions -- the Cowboys put a halt, at least temporarily, to the Jason Garrett career post-mortems, the hand-wringing over Prescott's accuracy, the outsized angst that envelopes this team in equal measure with elation.

Scout’s Notebook: Praise For The O-Line - Bryan Broaddus,
The Broad one puts his scouting cap on and breaks down what he saw in the Sunday night victory, including a much-needed return to form from Tyron Smith.

Michael Bennett did nothing the majority of the game against Tyron Smith. Without the benefit of looking at the tape, I would say that Smith dominated Bennett. Scott Linehan did a smart thing by running the ball behind Smith in this game. Bennett is so interested getting up the field that playing the run at times is an afterthought for him. Smith used his power to take full advantage of the lighter Bennett to eliminate him from the game and the offensive attack benefited from it.

· Great call by the staff to go with the fake punt there in the second quarter. It made up for the poor throw by Dak Prescott to a wide open Cole Beasley on the previous play that should have been a conversion in the flat. Jeff Heath hit the right spot and was able to ride the surge to the first down. It was a gutsy call but the perfect one -- with the Eagles believing they had made the stop and the distance was too far for the Cowboys to go for it. The element of surprise was well calculated.

How Elliott & The Offense Made A Big ‘Jump’ - Rob Phillips,
Also at the Mothership, the lowdown on how the Cowboys’ running game again looked like the elite unit many of us expected when the season began.

Score and circumstances have been a factor in the run game’s inconsistency this season. The Cowboys had only four possessions in the second half of last Monday’s loss to Tennessee and Elliott finished with only 17 carries for 61 yards.

Sunday, Elliott had only two more carries than last week. But the Cowboys’ offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage against Philadelphia’s vaunted defensive front. Xavier Su’a-Filo was effective filling in for injured left guard Connor Williams (arthroscopic knee surgery) and Martin finished the game at right guard after re-injuring his sprained left knee in the first half.

“The offensive line came out and dominated – they dominated in the run game,” Elliott said. “They gave me space to go out there and do what God gave me the ability to do. The offensive line came out and played their tails off.”

Cowboys lean on defense in Sunday night win vs. Eagles - Conor Orr,
The Cowboys young, dynamic duo at linebacker played key roles in multiple big plays throughout the game.

For Dallas (4-5), their defense remains the only complementary factor. The only thing that is noticeably “new” or “better” about this team from a year ago, or even their memorable 2016 season. With their offense lacking in foresight and diversity, the defense is finding ways to close out games and shut down explosive players. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are two of the best linebackers in football right now.

The benefit of this tandem was seen at the game’s most critical point: On a third-and-two with 1:56 remaining in the fourth quarter, Vander Esch—as the lone safety net on a stunt/blitz combination—evaded a pair of blockers to take down the elusive Eagles RB Wendell Smallwood in the backfield. They were there to shut down a fourth-down attempt early in the second quarter when Smith breezed through his gap to down Josh Adams behind the line. They were there to throw off QB Carson Wentz’s progression on a routine first-and-10 pass to TE Zach Ertz, resulting in Vander Esch’s first career interception.

The Dallas Cowboys’ 3-step winning formula starts with Ezekiel Elliott - Adam Stites,
The Dallas victory highlighted how the team can employ a 3-step victory strategy moving forward.

The key for the Cowboys is to do what they did against the Eagles: Dominate time of possession.

In the win against the Eagles, the Cowboys were on the field for 33:22 of game clock, compared to 26:38 for Philadelphia. That’s especially impressive considering the Eagles entered the game with an average time of possession of 33:46 — the best in the NFL.

It was just the third time this year Dallas has been on offense for more time than its opponent. The Cowboys are 3-0 in those games.

Dallas is designed to win time of possession more often than not. While they haven’t done that consistently yet in 2018, the win over the Eagles showed that the Cowboys have the elements to get that job done.

The Morning After: Cowboys shock Philadelphia in unlikely underdog effort – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
The Sturminator weighs in with his day-after thoughts.

The only way Elliott can really put his stamp on a game like that is if you can extend drives and keep him on the field. In other words, no matter how good a running game will be, there will be situations where the defense loads up to stop him. You had better have a passing game to compliment it, keep defenses somewhat honest, and most importantly, occasionally get you a fresh set of downs.

That is why the Cowboys had to make a move to give the passing game a chance. Again, the conversations on this topic have gone on for quite some time and generally come back to why the Cowboys did not prepare for a day when Dez Bryant’s time as a lead receiver reached their conclusion. Instead, they cut him loose in April with no real replacement lined up and asked a limited QB to create a miracle — an effective offense in which no outside receiver can make a play on a consistent basis. After watching that free-fall for seven weeks, Jerry Jones decided he couldn’t take it anymore and paid a steep price to get Amari Cooper. I am not saying everything is fixed on this offense, but wow. What a difference a play-making No. 1 receiver makes for a struggling offense.

Suddenly, they have a guy who is open and when you throw it to him, a first down appears likely. In just two games (!!!) Cooper is already second on the team in first-down receptions, moving the sticks on 10 out of 11 overall catches. That’s right, he trails just Cole Beasley (23) now on a roster where everyone else has played nine games.

2018 NFL NFC playoff race - Bill Barnwell,
Here’s something most of us weren’t expecting after the ugly loss to the Titans: a serious discussion of the Cowboys’ playoff odds. It is indeed a new dawn.

On the final drive of the first half, with the Cowboys leading 6-3, Prescott took a bad sack on first down and then seemingly settled in. The Cowboys picked up third-and-15 on a screen to Michael Gallup, then Prescott hit Cole Beasley and Allen Hurns on deep passes to the right side of the field to set up a sneak where Prescott might as well have told the Eagles he was keeping the ball. It didn't matter when an injured Zack Martin caved in the interior of the Philadelphia defensive line. From that drive on, Prescott played much better.

Again, you might blame that on the injuries the Eagles had in the secondary, but it's a positive sign for the Cowboys. The trade for Cooper might have been too aggressive of a long-term decision, but it's helping this offense. He can separate against man coverage, which is a huge upgrade for a scheme that doesn't do enough to create picks and easy throws for their quarterback. Every other wideout in this scheme suddenly has less to do, which makes receivers such as Beasley, Gallup and Hurns look better. It also helped unlock Elliott on Sunday, as Dallas' best weapon ran for 151 yards and threw in 36 receiving yards on six catches.

Cowboys look for winning streak after saving season in Philadelphia - Schuyler Dixon, Associated Press

Ezekiel Elliott carried the team on his back, especially on two dominating, fourth-quarter touchdown drives.

The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year led two 75-yard drives to touchdowns in the fourth quarter, both of them answers to tying TDs from the Eagles. Elliott finished off each of them after big plays to several receivers along the way.

"It just showed the attitude of this team going into this game," said Elliott, who surged two spots to second in the NFL in rushing behind MVP contender Todd Gurley of the Rams. "We knew we had to win. I'm proud of these guys."

The Cowboys ran off 11 straight wins when Prescott and Elliott were rookies on the way to an NFC-best 13 wins. Dallas slipped to 9-7 and out of the playoffs last season with a deteriorating performance from the offense.

The receivers have struggled without Dez Bryant, released in the offseason, but appear to be benefiting from the trade for Amari Cooper, acquired from Oakland for a first-round pick.

Injuries and mistakes in an offensive line that has been one of the NFL's best in recent years have at times made things difficult for Elliott and contributed to Prescott already matching last year's career high of 32 sacks barely more than halfway through the season. But that line stood out against the Eagles.

Dallas Cowboys' New Big 3 Puts NFC East on Notice - Brent Sobleski, Bleacher Report
Might the Cowboys have a new set of triplets?

The trio showed exactly why during Sunday's performance.

"We didn't hang our heads down," Prescott told reporters regarding last week's loss to the Tennessee Titans. "We picked our heads up. We looked at each other, locked arms and kept moving forward. I knew we were going to give ourselves a great chance to win this game."

They did, because the offense went back to what it does best: leaning on Ezekiel Elliott.

Spagnola: Just When You Least Expect It - Mickey Spagnola,
Back at the Mothership longtime beat writer Mickey Spagnola captures the spirit of the team’s improbable win of the defending champions.

The Cowboys had not won any of their previous four road games going into Sunday night.

Not scored more than 17 points in any road game this year.

Not gained more than 324 total yards in any of those games either.

In this one, they were not playing with the likes of Sean Lee, David Irving or Connor Williams, and then for a like 13 plays no Zack Martin or Maliek Collins around a quarter, too.

On top of all that, the 3-5 Cowboys were playing those “defending world champion” Philadelphia Eagles, what with their bogus No. 2 ranking against the run, and worse, here at The Linc, where the only folks more brutal than the Eagles’ defense are their fans.

And, after losing two consecutive games and falling two games below .500 for the first time since 2015, everyone and their cousin were burying the Cowboys and their coaching staff, along with the owner, president and GM, even if there still were eight more games to play. Why, the outside noise coming from all corners had become deafening.

No matter.

Cowboys 27, Eagles 20.

Audibles at the Line - Football Outsiders Staff

The always entertaining FO folks provide live commentary of Sunday’s game and some thoughts on Dallas and Philadelphia.

Carl Yedor: This may be a “water is wet” comment but the Cowboys’ timeout management has been quite poor today. They’ve used two timeouts on offense, and they just burned their final timeout when Philly lined up to go for it on fourth-and-10. You’re playing a team known for going for it on fourth down, and the mere act of them lining up to go for it cost Dallas its last timeout.

But those missing timeouts don’t end up hurting Dallas, as the Cowboys go down and score a touchdown right before half. After a first-down sack, Philly started using their timeouts to try to get the ball back, but a poorly defended screen pass on third-and-long extended Dallas’ drive, allowing them to punch it in and go up 13-3. Dallas also gets the ball first to start the second half, so that long screen pass could end up being a critical play in the game

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys