The Dallas Cowboys are on their bye and The Masters will take place while they are. It is a very strange year as we are all aware. 2020 has been full of disappointment mostly when it comes to America’s Team, and we all forecasted plenty of it with the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers rolling through town on Sunday.
Ultimately the Cowboys did lose on Sunday, although it was hardly in the way that we were all envisioning. Dallas was competitive and damn near became the first unit to draw blood against Pittsburgh this year. In the end their squad led by their fourth option at quarterback was just a big-time drive away from doing it.
Here are our five winners and losers from Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Winner: Garrett Gilbert
When was the last time that the Cowboys fielded a backup quarterback that looked competent and capable of competing in the NFL? It has certainly been a minute.
Gilbert did in the second quarter what every backup before him combined did in over three whole games. He led the Cowboys on a touchdown-scoring drive and almost scored 20 points before the final whistle.
Dallas appeared to be a worthy challenger to the mighty Steelers which is saying an awful lot given what they have to work with. Garrett Gilbert didn’t make a ton of tremendous plays, but he steered the ship and mostly kept things afloat. Good for him.
Winner: John Fassel
The first few games of this season did not exactly shine a bright light on John “Bones” Fassel, but my goodness this game was as if the sun itself decided to make him center stage. Talk about throwing the kitchen sink at the Steelers.
When it comes to special teams we have all wanted to see the Cowboys improve. Ultimately they were able to do that in this game in extreme fashion as some of their hijinks besides the watermelon kick finally worked.
You know what I’m talking about. This punt return was a thing of beauty.
If you follow the entire NFL then you know that Fassel has done some cute things on punt returns during his time with the then-St. Louis Rams. We obviously are aware of how unique this season is in that the Cowboys, like everyone else, did not get a true offseason or training camp period. Perhaps Fassel’s teachings took some time to take hold as this was extremely impressive.
Winner: Neville Gallimore
The Cowboys have been without their two best starting defensive tackles (Gerald McCoy and Trysten Hill) for some time now and even went as far at the position as releasing Dontari Poe last week. They have drastically been needing for somebody to shine in the interior.
Back before the season began there was some hope that rookie Neville Gallimore could be the guy that Maliek Collins never fully materialized into. He showed flashes of that potential on Sunday afternoon against Pittsburgh as he was constantly in the face of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
We know that Dallas isn’t keen on devoting draft resources to the defensive tackle position. Hopefully Gallimore uses the opportunities that will come throughout the rest of this season - the ones that were a result of releasing Poe - towards becoming someone that can dominate in 2021 and beyond.
Winner: Tony Pollard
The conversations at running back must be somewhat awkward for the Dallas Cowboys considering where they have chosen to spend some of their money in recent memory. Very awkward.
Dallas chose to lock up Ezekiel Elliott prior to last season and this year, granted his offensive line is decimated and his quarterback is gone, that is starting to look (if you didn’t already think it was) like not exactly the wisest decision.
Pollard picked up 57 yards on nine carries (6.3 YPC) while Elliott got to 51 yards on twice as many (2.8 YPC). This is hardly in itself a checkmate of a point against Zeke, but the obvious has become glaringly obvious. At present time Tony Pollard is a better back.
Now to be totally fair here, Elliott entered this game with a hamstring issue, but the Cowboys chose to play him which clearly means that they thought he was able. Feeding the running back that is nowhere near performing as well twice as much is a curious strategy and one that will be interesting to see them potentially tinker with over the bye.
Winner: Greg Zuerlein
It feels strange to highlight Greg Zuerlein here as there were so many solid performances all around for the Cowboys, but he really did play well. He connected on four field goals and has quickly become one of the largest points of reliability on the team as a whole.
Dallas obviously needs to convert more field goal attempts into touchdowns if they want to stand a snowball’s chance in these games, but feeling relatively confident that Zuerlein is always going to knock it down is a luxury that a lot of teams would certainly like to have.
Loser: CeeDee Lamb
Let me be frank and say that it was actually sort of difficult to get to five losers here. I thought the Cowboys gave a really strong effort on Sunday, but nevertheless we did our best.
I’d also like to say here that it felt so good to see CeeDee Lamb having offensive success again. The fact that he scored a touchdown was a lot of fun, but unfortunately he had a highly improbable fumble where a Steelers defender just happened to have insanely quick reflexes.
Things like that happen and it’s hardly a reason to be upset with Lamb; however, the turnover was on him so he lands here. Sigh.
Loser: Randy Gregory
This is a similar situation in that mostly Randy Gregory played really well, he even had the fourth down stop that gave Dallas a shot at the end, but he also had a few penalties that you would certainly like to live without. It’s almost as if he hasn’t played organized football in a long time.
Gregory has shown a really nice return for the Cowboys in the three games that he has played so far this season. Hopefully these little mess-ups are just him finding his form and aren’t something that will be sticking around for long.
Loser: Saivion Smith
It really is amazing how valuable Trevon Diggs already is to the Cowboys secondary, but his worth was on clear display when Saivion Smith was asked to fill in for him. It did not end well.
Steelers tight end Eric Ebron hurdled Saivion Smith with ease for what would be the game-deciding touchdown. Sorry, Saivion.
Loser: Jaylon Smith
I’ve said a few times now that it was difficult for me to choose losers for this week, and I particularly struggled with Jaylon Smith. I thought he had himself a nice game.
Why is he on this list then? If he had “a nice game” then it doesn’t make any sense for him to be listed as a loser.
Unfortunately for Smith, he was the victim of two at-the-very-least-debatable penalties in the illegal contact and roughing the passer flags that were thrown against him, and those put serious wind in the Steelers’ sails.
There are plenty of reasons to have discussions about Jaylon Smith needing to improve. Please consider that he just ran into some bad luck in this particular contest.
Loser: Andy Dalton
The Red Rifle didn’t even play on Sunday, but it might be a while before he does again, and that might have nothing to do with the team’s bye week that they just started.
Garrett Gilbert looked really solid on Sunday, so solid that it might be difficult for the team to justify pulling him when they travel to take on the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11.
The Garrett Gilbert aspect aside, the Cowboys shouldn’t play Dalton in Minnesota. Consider that the Cowboys will travel to Minnesota on Sunday, November 22nd and will immediately have to kick it into high gear as they will host the Washington Football Team on Thanksgiving Day just four sleeps later. Having Dalton return just for a condensed week, including a game against the unit the originally injured him, doesn’t seem like the wisest idea.