The Dallas Cowboys were able to give us a little bit of excitement on Sunday night as they started things out with an early lead. Unfortunately, all the goodness we witnessed didn’t translate into a win as they came up short against the Philadelphia Eagles 23-9. There were some things to be happy about going forward, and then there were other things that will probably be hindering them all season. Here are ten thoughts on Sunday night’s loss.
1. The Nooch
It was pretty much what we expected for the seventh-round rookie making his first NFL start. He struggled with his accuracy at times, and he really liked throwing side arm passes. And while it was clear pretty early that he wasn’t going to be the team’s savior this year, Ben DiNucci did okay. He was sharp on some of the short stuff over the middle, but couldn’t connect on anything deep as his longest completion was for just 14 yards. He didn’t have a pick, although he came close a couple times. He also never threw a touchdown pass as the Cowboys offense as a whole failed to find the end zone for the second-straight game. Comparing the two quarterbacks looks like this:
- Ben DiNucci was 21/40 for 180 yards, QB Rating 64.6
- Carson Wentz was 15/27 for 123 yards, QB Rating 61.2
So, I guess you can say he managed to play like a five-year veteran who was selected with the no. 2 overall pick in the draft. That’s something.
2. There’s Steele a problem at right tackle
Everyone harps on the rookie UDFA Terence Steele. It’s true, he’s the weakest link on the Cowboys offensive line. Early on he had his struggles as he was giving way to pressure that ultimately sent DiNucci to the ground. On the day, the Cowboys quarterback was sacked four times.
The thought occurred that the team might slide Zack Martin over to right tackle, but the team stayed with him. He eventually settled down, and as backups go, he gives the team a lot more than what other teams around the league get. That being said, it’s still an area of concern for this Cowboys offense.
3. Kellen Moore earned his money
Give the Cowboys offensive coordinator credit, he was trying to pull out all the stops to keep this offense working. Between wildcat formations and reverse plays, Moore was a lot more creative than he’s been in the past as he kept trying to catch the Eagles defense off guard. On the second play of the game, CeeDee Lamb took a double reverse for 19 yards. And later in the game, Tony Pollard had nice fake-out reverse for 14 yards.
Not every play was a winner as the Eagles defense caught on to some of them eventually, but it was good to see the Cowboys at least try to pull something together to give their young quarterback some help.
4. Gallup connection
With a new quarterback comes a new opportunity to find a favorite target. It’s only one game, but it’s possible that third-year wide receiver might work himself more into this offense as DiNucci looked to Michael Gallup 12 times. It was good enough to lead the team in receiving as Gallup caught seven passes for 61 yards.
While that’s good news for Gallup as he’s seen a huge drop off in target share this year, it wasn’t such good news for Amari Cooper and Lamb as they combined for five catches for 32 yards. It will be interesting to see how DiNucci distributes the ball going forward.
5. Nice showing for Diggs
Yes, he got beat on a nine-yard touchdown pass to Travis Fulgham, but overall rookie Trevon Diggs had a very nice game. He had his first interception of his career when he was able to keep his shin inbounds in the end zone. He did a great job staying with the ball to haul in the pick.
It was so nice, he had to do it twice as Diggs got his second interception later in the game when he was able to track the ball and pull down an over the shoulder catch. Not only did he intercept the ball, but he had the awareness to run the ball out of the end zone to the 30-yard line.
The rookie is still learning, but his progress is very pleasing. He’s only played eight games, and he already has the same amount of interceptions as Byron Jones who’s played 88 career games.
6. Taking away the ball
Entering this game, the Cowboys defense was last in the league in creating turnovers with just three measly takeaways. But on this day, the defense was in the taking mood as they forced four turnovers! Man, when it rains it pours.
Aided by the sloppiness of Carson Wentz, the Cowboys had two sack/strips to go along with Diggs’ two picks. It was great to the aggressive nature of the defense come up with big plays. It’s just too bad it didn’t amount to a win.
7. Fourth down stops
Not only did the defense create four turnovers, but they also stopped the Eagles offense on all three of their fourth down attempts. A couple of these were key plays in the game, and these stops kept the Cowboys in the game.
The Eagles are known for taking chances on fourth down, and the lack of a threatening Cowboys offense might’ve influenced their decisions, but credit the defense for coming through and making the stops.
8. An overall good game by the defense
After being a stomping board for opposing offenses all year long, the Cowboys defense put together their best game of the season. The Eagles finished with 23 points, but only 15 of them were given up by the defense. Dallas only gave up 222 total yards, which is the lowest yardage total since their Thursday night 13-10 win over the New Orleans Saints in 2018.
The tackling was much better, the coverage in the secondary was good, and it just seemed like the defense had a better sense as to what they were supposed to do. Hopefully, this is some type of sign that they are working out some of their communication kinks and that better play is coming.
9. Tank quietly impresses
It’s so easy to lose sight on what DeMarcus Lawrence gives this defense because he’s just not putting up the sack numbers that everyone is closely monitoring. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t out there making plays. On Sunday night, Tank finished the game with six tackles, three of which were for a loss. He sacked Wentz, chased down runners from behind, and he even forced a fumble, although it just bounced out of bounds.
It’s really been tough to get much from this Cowboys defensive line as they’re suffering in the interior, but Lawrence continues to play well.
10. He was down
Too many times the Cowboys threatened to score, only to come up completely empty when DiNucci got sacked and fumbled the ball. The rookie’s internal clock certainly leaves something to be desired, but that’s what we should expect from a rookie making his first ever NFL start.
On DiNucci’s second fumble, the Eagles defensive linemen recovered the ball as he was lying on the ground. Replay clearly showed the had full possession of the ball, but then a Cowboys player ripped it out of his hands, the ball flung out and was kicked around a bit. Eagles safety Rodney McCleod scooped up the ball and ran it 53-yards for a touchdown.
It’s not clear what the officials saw there to not rule the player down, but the Cowboys got hosed on that one.