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Tale of the tape: Cowboys defense powers Cowboys to second straight win

What did the All-22 tell us about the Cowboys Monday Night Football performance?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

That’s two straight for the NFC East division leaders after topping the Giants 37-18 on Monday Night Football in front of the whole world.

They all can’t be pretty, and this one definitely wasn’t, but the defense had themselves a heck of a game, and gave the Cowboys offense time to figure itself out before exploding for 14 points in the fourth quarter. Again, while it wasn’t pretty, any time you can go on the road, against a division opponent, and win by 19, there’s plenty to be happy about.

The offense unfortunately started out slow yet again on the road. While it wasn’t because of their inability to move the ball, it was again weird plays/calls that hurt them in their first few drives. A bobbled snap that resulted in a seven yard loss, an interception on the very first play of the game, a missed field goal, or questionable penalties like the one above. If it could have happened, it did for the Cowboys Monday night.

Here, Kellen Moore dials up a nice play design to have Randall Cobb run a stop-and-go double-move to beat the nickel corner. Cobb does a nice job selling the hitch, before running the hoop and getting vertical. Cobb doesn’t waste any motion, and creates a ton of separation for Dak Prescott to get the football to him, which he does. Unfortunately, offsetting penalties were called on the play, and the nice play-design, route, and throw were all for naught.

After what some would consider a slow start to the season, DeMarcus Lawrence is all the way back. Lawrence had the first sack of the night on Daniel Jones, and he did so by winning the inside with excellent quickness and shielding abilities.

Notice how when Lawrence gets even with the line of scrimmage how he dips and rips his outside shoulder/arm to blow past the Giants right tackle. The shielding of his shoulder and chest, makes it extremely difficult for the tackle to recover once beaten to the inside landmark. When Tank wins, you rarely see him fail to finish, and he lays a nice hit on Daniel Jones for the first sack of the game.

Lawrence’s second quarterback hit was more thanks to the scheme and players beside him. The Cowboys show a heavy stack on the left side of their defensive line with Michael Bennett, Maliek Collins, and DeMarcus Lawrence all lined up and showing heavy pressure to the B and C gaps.

You’ll notice at the snap, the path Bennett clears out the right tackle and right guard, while Maliek Collins contains the center to give Lawrence time to run his twist from the left defensive end spot. In order for this to be effective, the coverage on the back end has to hold up, which it does here. Lawrence gets yet another big shot on Daniel Jones to force an incompletion and punt on third down.

Michael Bennett more than lived up to the hype in his Cowboys debut on Monday Night Football. Bennett played up and down the line of scrimmage for the Cowboys and was very disruptive from multiple spots. Bennett finished with a sack, four QB pressures, and three tackles against the Giants, and this play may be my favorite from his showing.

Bennett blows Will Hernandez off the ball with great leverage, but then his ability to shed Hernandez to work towards the football is what is really impressive here. We often see guys get in the backfield on running plays, but it’s hard to then find the football and bring a back of Saquon Barkley’s caliber down behind the line of scrimmage.

On a key third down play in the second half, the Cowboys offense came up big thanks to design and execution.

The Giants are bringing the blitz to put some heat on Dak on third and short, but Dak saw the blitz pre-snap and got out of the original play to get into a quick, easy throw against man coverage. The route concepts between Randall Cobb and Jason Witten cause a natural rub between the man defenders on this play, giving Randall Cobb plenty of space to work with. The biggest bright spot on this play is the pass protection from Tony Pollard. Pollard picks up the blitzing safety, and gives Dak enough time to get the ball out to Cobb for the first down. Pollard whiffed on a block earlier in the game, but came back when the team needed it most. This is good progress to see from the rookie fourth-rounder out of Memphis.

Amari Cooper had another big game for the Cowboys, catching four passes, for 80 yards, and a touchdown. Cooper did have a drop in this game late in fourth, and while it didn’t hurt the Cowboys at all, it did take away one of Dak’s best throws of the night.

There’s one window to put this ball in and Dak does it. With the cornerback having nice position with trailing inside leverage, and the safety coming down over the top, Dak must put this ball on the back shoulder, right over the corner’s head, but cannot lead Cooper up the field due to the free safety coming down to play the ball. While this is one Cooper will want back after watching the film, it’s one he’ll need to be sure to come down with in the tougher stretch of the schedule coming up.

Ezekiel Elliott has been on a tear the last two weeks. Whether it’s doing an excellent job in pass protection, or picking up big-time yardage on the ground, Zeke’s been looking a lot like Zeke lately.

While we’ve still yet to see Elliott break the big run, he has been very productive carrying the football. Elliott has done an excellent job of finding the creases in the zones up front, and working the cutbacks when he needs to. Not taking anything away from Elliott, but this offensive line deserves a ton of credit as well, as they’ve been a dominant run-blocking unit in these last two games.

Last but not least, it was so nice to see a vintage Sean Lee game. Playing in his natural position, Lee was absolutely phenomenal Monday night. HeHe showcased his tackling abilities, that old-man athleticism, but most importantly the great instincts that he’s played with since being drafted out of Penn State. Lee diagnoses plays so well that it’s incredible to slow things down and see how quickly he sees things and reacts to them.

Here, Lee sniffs out the screen before the offense even shows any signs of a screen play to Barkley. He wastes no time getting downhill and getting to Barkley at about the same time he’s catching the football for a tackle for loss. It’ll be interesting to see how the team handles Sean Lee’s snaps when Leighton Vander Esch works his way back into the fold in the coming weeks.

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