Dallas Cowboys at midseason: 5 games determine playoff fate - Clarence Hill Jr, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The next month of the Dallas Cowboys 2019 season will likely determine their ultimate playoff fate.
This is the most talented and balanced Cowboys team since the Super Bowl dynasty teams of the 1990s, and they have shown that at times over a frustrating first half of the season, which has shown them to be nothing more than consistently inconsistent.
How else do you explain a team that opened the season with three wins, followed by three losses and is now riding a two-game winning streak? How do you explain only one of five wins against a team with a winning record? They have two wins against the lowly New York Giants (2-6) and wins against the Washington Redskins (1-8) and Miami Dolphins (2-7).
The stats tell the same maddening story.
Veterans Sean Lee and Jason Witten both turned back the clock on Monday night.
Witten is 37. Lee is 33. Neither is signed beyond the 2019 season, which made Monday's win a little more special. "I would challenge you that we're still the same players that we've always been," Lee said. "We feel that way. But to go prove it week in, week out, that's part of getting older. You do need to work and show it and maybe prove some people wrong at times."
Starting at weakside linebacker for an injured Leighton Vander Esch, Lee was credited with 12 tackles and a pass deflection Monday. His work on Saquon Barkley helped limit the Giants' dangerous running back to 28 yards on 14 carries. Barkley caught six passes for 67 yards, and 65 of those came on a screen pass in the fourth quarter, with Lee dropping Barkley for a 7-yard loss on one completion.
Lee played 61 of 72 snaps, his highest total of the season and the most he has logged since 2017.
Cowboys LB Sean Lee Turns Back the Clock in Huge Performance vs Giants - Matthew Lenix, Inside The Star
Another look at just how well veteran linebacker Sean Lee played on Monday against New York.
The key to stopping the Giant's offensive attack is to neutralize Saquon Barkley as much as possible and with the help of Lee, the Cowboys defense did just that holding him to just 28 yards on 14 carries.
The video below is an example of how much football is still left in Lee's tank. He doesn't hesitate for a second as he recognizes the play quickly, shoots the gap and stops Barkley dead in his tracks. Even in year 10 he still has the instincts he displayed during his All-Pro/Pro Bowl days of 2015 and 2016.
Sean Lee the Cowboys LB playing well tonight.— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) November 5, 2019
But I'm also just happy for Sean the person, who’s been active and healthy in all 8 games this season.pic.twitter.com/96oL2dYbhj
The Dallas defensive and offensive lines both dominated in the blowout win over the Giants.
The Cowboys offensive line consistently created huge running lanes for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Kellen Moore also did an outstanding job of mixing zone and gap blocking schemes to keep their opponents guessing. The young offensive coordinator’s varied play-sequencing was a highlight throughout the game, and his increased usage of counter runs was noticeably effective.
On the team’s drive opener before the two-minute warning, they executed their staple outside, or wide zone run. The defense had an extra defender in the box, but that didn’t matter, given how the offense blocked on the play.
Because of the threat of a rollout or bootleg pass, the back-side defender hesitated in his pursuit while the linebacker flowed a little too quickly to the front side. This allowed for a large cut back lane as Tyron Smith was able to cross the face of Leonard Williams and seal him off.
Elliott gained 15 yards on the play to put his team near midfield. They would score their first touchdown of the night five plays later.
Information on Daniel Ross’ arrest, who is on the injured reserve.
The Cowboys are aware of an incident involving Daniel Ross and are gathering information on the matter.
Reports indicated Wednesday afternoon that Ross was arrested Wednesday morning for possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of a weapon.
The veteran defensive tackle was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury in Week 1, so he hasn’t been part of the lineup since the preseason. Ross was originally signed in 2017 and has 19 career tackles.
Dallas begins their four-game in 19 day stretch on Sunday as they take on the Minnesota Vikings.
The Cowboys have hit this strenuous stretch of playing four games in 19 days, starting with Sunday night’s game with the Minnesota Vikings at AT&T Stadium, then followed by those back-to-back road games at Detroit and New England, which might as well be a night game since it’s a late afternoon start, meaning the team likely will not get back until early Monday morning and then have to turn around and play on Thanksgiving against Buffalo.
Oh, and it doesn’t end there. Because the Cowboys will play the next Thursday evening at Chicago, meaning continuing a stretch of four-games in 19 days into a culmination of five games in 26 days that on a normal week-to-week schedule would be five games in 35 days.
No wonder Jason Garrett is giving his guys a break Wednesday, a light practice similar to those morning sessions at training camp instead of the one padded practice of the week, and will not put the team in pads at all Thursday or Friday.
But as for this week’s shots, they’re still loaded.
Michael Bennett played very well Monday night. Can he help make the Dallas defensive front one of the more dominant units in the league?
While Bennett’s presence may not lead to an increase in interceptions, he certainly should provide an increase in quarterback pressure, which could create some much needed havoc for the Cowboys defense. In fact, among defensive linemen with a minimum of 50 pass rushes attempts this season, Michael Bennett ranks sixth in the league with a pressure rate of 34.5%. Complement that with fellow Cowboys defensive linemen Robert Quinn (46.2%) and DeMarcus Lawrence (29.6%), and you’ve got yourself a nightmare for opposing lines. What’s more, it means Dallas not only plugged its recent Tyrone Crawford-sized hole in the defensive rotation, but managed to substantially upgrade in the process.
Last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, Bennett recorded 9 sacks, 34 tackles, and 2 forced fumbles. For a third pass rusher, and one you acquired for a future sixth round pick, that’s fantastic production to add to the mix. While Bennett may not be a spring chicken anymore at 34, Dallas is more than confident that he still has plenty left in the tank.
The Dallas Cowboys are 5-3 through eight games. What will their record be after eight more? We discuss.
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Here’s how Cowboys fans are feeling through Week 10.