Happy New Year! The Cowboys are undefeated in 2019!— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) January 1, 2019
The Morning After: Meaningless Cowboys game turns into instant classic – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
The Sturminator gives his thoughts on Sunday’s electrifying win over the Giants.
Prescott spent a day with none of his All-Pro assistants (Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, Ezekiel Elliott, and even his red-zone solutions from years gone by, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant). So many claim that those talented teammates are the only reason he is a starter in this league to begin with, but he went out there with whatever was left and led five different touchdown drives, converting three different plays where he was only going to get one chance to get it done (two fourth downs and a two-point conversion). Each time he got it done and put out one of the best performances of his career, a career that now stands at 32-16 through three seasons.
The win capped off a 7-1 finish to the season for the team whose offense scored 27 points or more on five of the seven occasions. Their defense allowed the most points of the season and the most yards in any regulation game of 2018. Basically, every qualifier that is added to Prescott’s name when he is discussed (elite defense, elite offensive line, elite running game) was stripped away and we got a look at what he was capable of. He has never looked better.
Cowboys hope they gave defensive coordinators something to ponder in playoffs - Mark Lane, WFAA.com
Garrett with the long con?
Consider that the club was hoping to give opposing defensive coordinators something extra to ponder as the Cowboys edged the New York Giants 36-35 Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
”I think that was a big part of what we were doing [Sunday],” Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones told “G-Bag Nation” on 105.3 “The Fan” [KRLD-FM] Monday. “It certainly gives the [Seattle] Seahawks something to think about in terms of how they are going to defend us.”
Even though it was against a five-win Giants team that will finish in last place in the NFC East for consecutive seasons, the theory is that the Cowboys offense put on film that Prescott can find ways to move the offense without his All-Pro supporting cast.
Said Jones: “I know for the most part you’d have to believe most teams came in here with the thought if we stopped Zeke we had a good chance to beat them. Hopefully we’ll give them some more things to think about and I think this certainly gives us the multiplicity that we want in our offense.”
Scout’s Eye: New Wrinkles In The Scheme? - Bryan Broaddus, DallasCowboys.com
The Broad one’s weekly breakdown of each game includes some insights into how the team has adapted to the return of Tavon Austin.
A scheme package that we might see in the playoffs is what they call “01.” That means no running back and one tight end. It puts four receivers on the field with two of those guys being Cole Beasley and Tavon Austin in the slots. The Cowboys used this against the Giants, and both guys ran hard pivot routes -- which left Prescott the option to make the more comfortable throw. On this particular play, he chose Austin, who had left Tae Davis in his wake for the first down.
Nice third down dime package with Randy Gregory, Taco Charlton and DeMarcus Lawrence all on the field together. Charlton lined up inside with Maliek Collins at the tackle spot to work the twist stunt. The rush didn’t get home, but all the movement in front of Eli Manning forced him to quickly try to get the ball to Saquon Barkley before it did get there. The pass was poorly thrown, allowing the defense to get off the field.
The fascinating part about Jason Garrett’s decision to go all in vs. Giants -- and how it paid off for Cowboys - Matt Mosley, SportsDay
Many were critical of Jason Garret’s decision to play Dak Prescott the entire game Sunday; Mosley is not one of them.
I once watched in person the New York Giants go all out to beat the undefeated New England Patriots in the final game of the regular season despite the game being meaningless in terms of playoff seeding. The Giants then ripped through the playoffs and beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Guess which regular-season game was referenced constantly in the buildup to that Super Bowl?
I know there were different circumstances involved Sunday, but the Cowboys still went all out to win a game. They wanted to find some rhythm or momentum heading into the playoffs. And against the braying of my colleagues, they may just have found what they were looking for.
If nothing else, the Cowboys planted the seed in Seattle’s mind that Blake Jarwin may be a holy terror in the red zone. I put my phone down at some point during Sunday’s game and simply gave thanks to be watching an exciting football game.
DeMarcus Lawrence’s sack against Giants encapsulated everything he has become for Cowboys – Saad Yousuf, The Athletic
Lawrence has been a consistent force for two years now and is still producing even though he’s fighting injury.
The other side of the coin is Lawrence’s own production. While it’s dipped some, he remains one of the league’s best sack artists. Despite fighting double teams and the torn labrum he’s played through for the last two seasons, he has continued to perform, unimpeded. In addition to his impact on the field, Lawrence has also become an unquestioned, unselfish leader in the locker room.
“I take a lot of pride in my play, period,” Lawrence said. “If I’m out there, I’m giving it my all on each play. It’s really not about the stats or the quarterback pressures. It’s all about me doing my job and causing havoc.”
Statistically, the difference between Lawrence recording that sack to get to 10.5 or staying at 9.5 isn’t much. Lawrence said whether he was credited with a sack or it just went down as an interception, the film shows his impact and he’s concerned with that a lot more than the stat sheet. His value didn’t suddenly catapult because of it, nor would it have decreased without it.
Film room: 3 takeaways from Cowboys’ win over Giants, including TE development and ‘Late-Game Dak’ - John Owning, SportsDay
Excited by Blake Jarwin’s breakout game Sunday? So is John Owning and he breaks down the film to give us his insights.
After a slow start to the season, Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz have developed into quite the tight end duo for the Cowboys. With Geoff Swaim on injured reserve and out since mid-November, Dallas needed the two tight ends to kick their development into overdrive, which is exactly what’s happened.
Their development was on full display against New York, as each thrived in their individual roles on Sunday.
Blake Jarwin is Dallas’ stretch tight end who is moved all over the formation and makes his biggest impact as a receiver. Schultz, on the other hand, is more of the classic in-line tight end who does a lot of his best work in the run game -- though he is an important check down option for Prescott at times.
On Sunday, Jarwin went “Super Saiyan” against the Giants defense, finishing with seven catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns. Previously with zero touchdowns in his NFL career, Jarwin took full advantage of New York’s suspect defense in between the numbers.
Audibles at the Line: Week 17 - Staff, Football Outsiders
The FO staff live blog every Sunday’s slate of games and have opinions on our Cowboys’ performance.
Vince Verhei: We've been wondering why Dak Prescott was in the game, and Dallas' last drive ended when he was sacked. Now on New York's next drive, Leighton Vander Esch is down and they're checking his leg. He leaves under his own power, but there's no reason for the stars to be out there.
Jeff Heath does not count as one of those stars -- he got stiff-armed on the long Barkley run, and now he misses a tackle on Engram, who gets free for a 51-yard gain, as the tight ends are running wild today. Wayne Gallman finishes with a goal-line touchdown run, and the Giants take a 25-21 lead.
And yes, Prescott is still at quarterback for Dallas on the ensuing drive. This is lunacy.
Scott Kacsmar: If Dallas has gone with starters this long, they might as well finish the game off. It makes less sense to me why Tom Brady is still out there throwing with a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter. He took a sack too. He did get to 6,000 completions, but I can't imagine getting that today was on anyone's mind.
Bryan Knowles: At least the Patriots had things to play for. I agree that Brady probably should be out by this point, but their game actually mattered; the Cowboys could have started the people in this group chat and had no effect on their situation.
My oh my, what a catch. Facing fourth-and-15, down seven, Dak Prescott hits a diving Cole Beasley in the back of the end zone. It's called incomplete on the field, but his knee JUST scrapes the end zone. An exceptional touchdown -- and now they're going for two and the win rather than risking overtime.
But we’ll leave the last word for @ScooterMagruder, who seems to accurately capture every Cowboys’ fan’s thoughts each week.
Cowboys Fans During the Giants Game pic.twitter.com/13E9xQZHZa— Cameron Magruder (@ScooterMagruder) December 31, 2018
NFL Playoffs Debrief: What you need to know about the tourney - Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com
It’s never too early to look ahead to a Cowboys’ playoff game.
The Cowboys' one-point victory over the Giants was typical of their season. Only one of their 10 wins in 2018 came by more than one score (Week 6 against the Jags). Dallas' playmaking defense combined with a stagnant passing game and a conservative head coach invites close games, something very likely to happen next Saturday night against the Seahawks.
Seattle's 24-13 victory over Dallas in Week 3 was one of three games the Cowboys lost by more than one score. These teams are mirror images of each other: They have power rushing attacks and coaches who can be too hesitant to throw on early downs.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer also invite close games. In their final three games, the Seahawks lost by three to the 4-12 49ers, beat the 12-4 Chiefs by seven and narrowly escaped overtime Sunday with a late fourth-quarter field goal to down the 3-13 Cardinals. It's hard to imagine either the Seahawks or the Cowboys consistently grinding out yards in a matchup that will feature one of the best veteran linebacker tandems, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, and the best upstart linebacker tandem, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.
In the playoffs, the teams with the better quarterbacks and head coaches usually win. I'll take Carroll over Jason Garrett anytime, and Russell Wilson is playing at a far higher level than Dak Prescott, who has been erratic throughout the year. Amari Cooper, who energized a struggling Cowboys offense when he arrived in late October, has just 83 yards on 23 targets over the last three weeks. This game will probably come down to one play at the end, and no one is more likely to make it than Wilson.
Cowboys will have a rested Ezekiel Elliott vs. Seattle - Todd Archer, ESPN
While Dak was allowed to “get his reps in”, Zeke Elliott was allowed to rest in week 17’s contest.
By sitting Elliott, the Cowboys showed just how important he will be to their playoff success.
“We all know the leading rusher in the NFL is an important player,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “But he’s also had more touches. Maybe the guy we played [Saquon Barkley] might’ve been right there with him, but [Elliott] had more touches than anybody I’ve ever been around as far as 15 games. This was real similar to his rookie year when he didn’t play in the last regular-season game when he led the league in rushing that year either.
“I think it will help him, think it’ll be a little jolt for him feeling refreshed going into next week’s game.”
In a league dominated by passing, the Cowboys will look to win the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl in an old-school manner: the running game and defense.
Cowboys Primed For Seahawks After Gutsy Win - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com
Like many of us, Helman was excited by the team’s “meaningless” victory over the Giants.
Talk about prepping for the postseason in style.
To be honest, the word “style” doesn’t even do justice to the Cowboys’ regular season finale. For a game that was essentially meaningless, it certainly delivered its share of fireworks in a 36-35 shootout that sent the Cowboys into the playoffs with a 10-6 record.
“I don’t believe you could’ve drawn that up – for our fans or for the players – and created a better way to step into the playoffs,” said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
How could anyone have seen this coming, when the game plan was outlined from the start? Prior to kickoff, the Cowboys confirmed that Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith and Zack Martin would sit this game out to rest up for the postseason.
Missing three Pro Bowlers, not to mention the NFL’s rushing champion, who would have guessed the Cowboys would blow up for 419 total yards and 36 points?
Monday Morning Digest, Playoff Preview Edition - Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report
Again, it’s never too early to start analyzing a Cowboys’ post-season tilt.
Key for the Seahawks: The Seahawks offensive line is much improved over last year's unit (five guys pulled off a New Year's Eve pub crawl bus would be an improvement over last year's unit), but that doesn't mean it's good. They allowed six sacks in a narrow win over the Cardinals on Sunday, 51 on the year.
The Seahawks must find a way to both slow down Tank Lawrence (10.5 sacks) and create running room for Chris Carson and their other backs against a defense that allows just 3.8 yards per carry.
Key for the Cowboys: Speaking of sacks, the Cowboys allowed 56 of them this season due to injuries along the offensive line, Prescott's tendency to hold the ball too long and Garrett's innovation-free approach to game planning. Protecting Prescott means running the ball, and Ezekiel Elliott should be able to eat against a run defense ranked just 18th in the NFL entering Sunday by Football Outsiders.
Ravens, Eagles, Colts Crash Playoffs; Black Monday Begins – Peter King, ProFootballTalk
More on the upcoming contest.
Seattle (NFC 5th seed, 10-6) at Dallas (NFC 5th seed, 10-6), 8:15 p.m. ET, FOX.
How strange. Dallas has the league rushing champion, but Seattle had the more productive run game this year. Hmmm. Ezekiel Elliott or Chris Carson. Who’d you rather have? But Seattle, after replacing Tom Cable with Mike Solari as offensive line coach, ran for a steamrolling 2,560 yards (4.8 per rush), compared to Dallas’ 1,963 (4.5 per rush). That could help Seattle take the Dallas crowd out of the game early. Running it so well has helped Russell Wilson have his best season (35 touchdowns, seven picks, 110.9 rating). Dallas’ two young linebackers, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, will be vital against the run and in spying Wilson.
Offensively, the Cowboys have developed enough weaponry to win without Elliott dominating, as they showed in the 36-point game at the Giants on Sunday, when Elliott was a healthy scratch. The difference here could be how much the Seattle front seven, led by veteran linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, can dent the Cowboys’ offensive line and pressure Dak Prescott, who was sacked a surprising 56 times this year. Seattle beat Dallas in Week 3, 24-13, in the Earl Thomas middle-finger game. Seems like 12 months ago, not three.
Wild-Card Weekend: All the biggest storylines - Will Brinson, CBSSports.com
Where Peter King just skims the surface in hiss analysis, Brinson goes deeper.
This is a Spiderman meme if there ever was one: the Cowboys and Seahawks both want to establish the run and take shots down the field and both want to slow you down up front. What's odd here, though, is the Seahawks are actually the better running team and the more efficient offensive team, while the Cowboys have morphed into the better defensive team.
This is a pretty incredible shift for both teams. The Seahawks lived on being a dominant defense, while the Cowboys ruled the roost in 2016 by crushing people with their rushing offense. Both teams are still pretty good at doing what they used to do, but they are actually better at doing what the other team used to do.