clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cowboys news: Leighton Vander Esch receives the love; Swaim to miss games

Cowboy news is here.

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

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

‘Sky’s the limit’ for Cowboys’ Leighton Vander Esch - Kevin Patra,
Rookie Leighton Vander Esch’s play is gathering notice around the league.

The rising star in Dallas, however, is linebacker rookie Leighton Vander Esch. The first-round pick stood out once again, filling the stat sheet, gobbling up eight tackles, three passes defensed, one QB hit and an interception. The INT marked the first time in five seasons a Cowboys linebacker had interceptions in back-to-back games.

”It was right place at the right time,” the modest rookie said of the pick after the win, via the team’s official website.

His teammates weren’t so easily dismissive of the game-changing play.

”That was a crucial turnover right there,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “A stop by the defense allowing us to take a two-score lead.”

The interceptions are big plays, but it’s LVE’s every-down presence that has helped morph the Cowboys into a playoff-caliber defense. In the past, when Sean Lee went down with injuries, the Dallas D got small. With the rookie taking over this season, however, the Cowboys defense might actually be better.

The Saints look like the 2007 Patriots - Albert Breer,
The Monday Morning Quarterback finally gives the Cowboys some attention, noting the dynamic, young Cowboys’ defense.

The play of Vander Esch—another DROY candidate—and the rest of the defense against the Falcons showed that the Cowboys are developing into a different type of team. Elliott has 388 scrimmage yards over the last two games, and that kind of offense, buoyed behind its line, is working to highlight an improving young defense that’s growing up quickly.

Vander Esch, by way of Lee’s injuries, has been thrust into the middle of it all, and has shown to be a quick study. The interception is one example of how, as one staffer explains, “he almost never makes the same mistake twice.” And the rookie, to his credit, says Lee’s been huge for his growth, as he learns the weak-side linebacker spot that’s been the vet’s home for years.

3 things we learned from Cowboys-Falcons, including why Leighton Vander Esch is undoubtedly a Pro Bowl LB - John Owning, SportsDay
Come for the detailed film breakdown of Ezekiel Elliott, stay for the detailed film breakdown of Leighton Vander Esch.

One year after a game against the Atlanta Falcons (4-6) ruined their season, the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) were able to escape Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a 22-19 win over their NFC foe. Missed opportunities killed Dallas’ ability to put the game out of reach on multiple occasions, but in the end, the Cowboys were able to do just enough to eek out the victory.

Led by fantastic performances by DeMarcus Lawrence and Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys defense put up an admirable performance, holding the Falcons offense under 20 points for just the third time this season. Another dominant performance from Ezekiel Elliott powered the offense to victory while Dak Prescott made some timely plays when it mattered most.

With the victory, the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game will be for a share of the NFC East lead against a team that will be without its starting quarterback. With that being said, let’s take a look at a few things we gleaned from the Cowboys road victory.

Swaim Suffers Broken Wrist; More Injury News - David Helman,
Bad news on the injury front as Geoff Swaim joins the list of injured. The tight ends group struggled mightily earlier this season when Swaim missed time.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett confirmed Monday night that Geoff Swaim won’t be available Thursday against Washington, as he suffered a broken bone in his right wrist. Garrett wasn’t ready to rule Swaim out for the rest of the season, but he did say Swaim will require surgery and won’t be available this week.

It’s a tough blow for a tight end group that’s lacking in proven playmakers. Swaim is this team’s fourth-leading receiver with 242 yards and a touchdown on the year. He’s also the Cowboys’ most accomplished blocker, as evidenced by the fact that he has played 514 offensive snaps this season – roughly 80 percent of the Cowboys’ output.

The Morning After: Cowboys outlast Falcons to win yet another huge road test – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
The Sturminator revisits his dire prediction from two weeks ago and admits the NFL is, well, unpredictable.

That is why, 14 days ago, I was comfortable preparing for a Cowboys funeral. Dallas had not won a single road game and they were about to have to go on a two-week trip where getting swept might get people fired before Thanksgiving. Splitting the trip would be better than nothing, but it would not save the season. Sweeping the trip? Why even consider that possibility? There was no point based on what we had seen. Surely, they weren’t going to beat the last two NFC Champions in their home stadiums. Don’t even entertain that ridiculous possibility.

Yesterday, the Cowboys scored three times in the fourth quarter to narrowly defeat Atlanta 22-19. Neither team displayed any real competence offensively for the first 45 minutes as they combined for five field goals in three quarters, and then presto, 26 points were scored in the final 15 minutes. One could easily argue that is the way the Cowboys wanted it, as Atlanta is a team that would have been quite happy to engage in a track meet with a Dallas side that struggles to score — especially on the road.

Before this road trip, we suggested that Atlanta (and to a lesser extent, Philadelphia) would strongly test our theory that the Cowboys defense may be better than we’ve seen since Wade Phillips was coaching it a decade ago. Atlanta averaged 32.2 points and 436 yards per game in front of their home faithful and had no problem putting the ball in the end zone over and over again.

But this Dallas defense continues to impress. Given the fact that the front seven was down several key players — David Irving, Taco Charlton, Antwaun Woods, and Daniel Ross all were scratched due to health, as was Sean Lee — the Cowboys had to manage the best they could up front while defending the red zone by turning touchdowns into field goals and even occasional field goals into punts. Cosmetically, it might not dazzle as the Falcons still put up 354 yards and had a 50% day on third downs, but overall, they put up most of their yardage working their way down the field and almost none of the yardage turned into points.

Scout’s Eye: Crediting The Cowboys’ Lines - Bryan Broaddus,
Over at the Mothership the Broad one looks at the tape and awards gold stars.

On the first sack by DeMarcus Lawrence, not only an explosive move by him to work around Ryan Schraeder but outstanding coverage by the linebacker and defensive backs to make Matt Ryan hold the ball. Initially, Ryan wanted to go toward Ito Smith, but Jaylon Smith was all over that. Then, Ryan’s secondary option was to hit Julio Jones, who was well covered by Byron Jones. It was also a nice design on the scheme where the Cowboys showed a Cover 2 look, then dropped Jeff Heath into the middle of the field like a “robber” in order to take care of any crossing routes.

Two really nice blocks by Zack Martin and Allen Hurns in order to spring Ezekiel Elliott on the screen. Martin was able to kick De’Vondre Campbell outside, while Hurns was able to do the same to Desmond Trufant to give Elliott a lane to the inside. The fake of the jet sweep to Amari Cooper also did a nice job of holding Foyesade Oluokun in place at his middle linebacker spot so he couldn’t be a part of the play.

Michael Gallup away from Cowboys after brother's suicide - Wire Reports
Tragedy for Michael Gallup and his family as news of his brother’s suicide broke following Sunday’s game.

Coach Jason Garrett said on his radio show Monday that Gallup received the news after the Cowboys' 22-19 victory over the Falcons. Gallup didn't return to Dallas with the team, instead staying in Georgia with his family. His status for Thursday's game against Washington is unknown.

"Our team and our entire organization are deeply saddened by the news of Michael's loss," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. "His family is our family. We share in the grief and pain that comes with something so personal and tragic. We offer our support, care and comfort for Michael, and we ask that all of those who have sons and daughters and brothers and sisters join us in keeping Michael and his wonderful family in their thoughts and prayers."

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys in thick of NFC East with Redskins up next - Schuyler Dixon, Associated Press
The Cowboys, left-for-dead by many a couple weeks ago, are now being called favorites for to win the NFC East.

After playing a huge role in helping the Cowboys thrust themselves into the NFC East race with a win at the Falcons, Elliott will be right in the middle of trying to get them back to the playoffs instead of having to watch a season go south without the 2016 NFL rushing champ.

"We can't lose this grit. We can't lose the way we're going out there and working every day. We can't lose the way we're going out there and competing on Sundays," Elliott said after a 22-19 win over the Falcons . "We've got to build on that."

It's quite a two-game streak to build on for Dallas (5-5): road victories over the past two Super Bowl participants from the NFC, before which the Cowboys were winless away from home and teetering on playoff extinction just halfway through the season.

And it set up a Thanksgiving showdown against Washington (6-4) on Thursday.

Who can really believe in anyone in the NFC East? The Cowboys have a simple answer to that question - Tim Cowlishaw, SportsDay
Cowlishaw questions who wants to win the NFC East then takes aim on those alleged Cowboys’ fans who aren’t interested in making the playoffs.

Probably the single argument I dislike the most is the one that some choose to make no matter whether the discussion is a Big 12 champ in the College Football Playoff, the Mavs reaching the Western Conference playoffs just about any spring or, suddenly, the Cowboys playing football in January.

It goes something like this:

What difference does it make, they'll get killed in the playoffs, anyway.

It's a ridiculous, self-defeating way to look at sports or competition of any kind.

Audibles at the Line: Week 11 - Staff,Football Outsiders
Every week the FO staff gives their live reactions to the week’s games.

I expected this to be a high-scoring game between Atlanta's offense and Atlanta's defense, but for 45 minutes it was a bit of a slugfest and a bit of a mess. Then the game I was expecting broke out in the fourth quarter, with all three of the game's touchdowns and two field goals. The Dallas offense runs through Zeke Elliott, but we already knew that. The decision I want to highlight from this game was Dan Quinn, down 19-9, electing to kick the field goal on fourth-and-2 from the Cowboys 3. They got the stop and Julio touchdown they'd need to tie the game, but that left them vulnerable to Dallas just needing a field goal at any point to win the game in regulation. That's exactly what they got. Jason Garrett did go a bit conservative at the end of the game, but that's a lot more justifiable in a tied game.

Jerry Jones wouldn't accept less than $10 billion for Cowboys - Shalise Manza Young,
Jerry Jones, never one to shy away from a microphone or speak openly about thing others might keep private, was asked a simple question and gave a simple answer.

Asked “how much would you accept to sell the Cowboys?”, Jones gave a number that just a handful of people on the planet could afford.

“If I had to sell the team tomorrow I wouldn’t accept anything less than $10 billion,” Jones said. “But I don’t want to imply that I would take $10 billion for them. The Cowboys are just not for sale. They’re a long-term asset and my immediate family – which has been part of making them what they are today – they’ll own the Cowboys long after I’m gone.”

Jones said he didn’t use the $10 billion figure “just to say a ridiculous number” but based it on what he believes someone would pay.

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