We’re just going to say it up front. We’re going to cheat on this week’s game ball. Instead of just giving out one solid ball, we’re going to slice it up into chunks and give those out to some deserving candidates. That might seem unusual for a game the Cowboys actually lost, but given how much better the team looked on Sunday compared to the past disasters, it’s warranted.
We’ll start off with the easy one.
We’ve already talked about Gilbert in a previous article. For a quarterback who had so little experience actually playing in NFL games, and who was (basically) a street free agent refugee from the AAF, he played remarkably well. Gilbert only had a few weeks to learn the Cowboys system but he was in command. He not only looked comfortable in the pocket, he also took charge at the line of scrimmage making adjustments. He kept the Cowboys in the game and almost led them to a last-minute rally to win the game.
We don’t want to go overboard in our praise, in the end he had a pretty ordinary stat line and the Cowboys did lose the game. His interception was a crucial mistake that cost the Cowboys three points. Still, given his path to starting the game, and given the level of defense he was facing, Gilbert exceeded expectations.
Welcome to the NFL, rook! It wasn’t Gallimore’s first game action for the Cowboys, but it was certainly the first time he was noticed. The Cowboys have been desperate for anybody to show out as a defensive tackle this year, and for the first time they really got an impactful game from someone. Gallimore only ended up with three tackles in the game, but he was very disruptive in the middle and was part of the reason the Steelers run game bogged down.
Gallimore had a quarterback hit and a tackle for loss, two impact plays, and was constantly beating blocks that re-routed the Steelers running game. He also was getting some push through the middle of the line on passing plays. It’s too early to tell how good he will be, but this game puts Gallimore on the radar. Cowboys fans will want to see how he finishes out the 2020 season.
Special Teams/John Fassel
Bones finally makes his bones. For the first time in a while, the special teams unit of the Cowboys were making plays and positively impacting the game. John “Bones” Fassel was reputed to be among the best special teams coaches around, but it certainly hadn’t showed up in Dallas yet. This week, it did.
The Cowboys did the normal things well. Greg Zuerlein was perfect on field goals with four made and he hit his lone extra-point attempt. New punter Hunter Niswinder wasn’t great, only a 39.5 average on two punts, but at least there were no major flubs or big returns on his punts.
But the Cowboys special teams had three big plays. The one everyone remembers is the trick punt return where Cedrick Wilson lateraled across the field to C.J. Goodwin for a 73-yard return. Goodwin’s acting job of a hurt hamstring while he positioned himself for the lateral was Oscar-worthy.
There were two more plays besides that one. Rico Dowdle took a pooched kickoff at the one-yard line and somehow tip-toed the sideline and avoided tackles while returning it for 64 yards. The Cowboys also blocked an extra point when Tyrone Crawford leaped over the middle of the line and got his big paw on the ball.
All the way around, special teams was outstanding on the day.
Honorable mention: Let’s take a moment to recognize how good Tony Pollard looked on his limited touches. He averaged 6.3 yards on nine carries. He looked quick and decisive to the hole and had incredible burst. It makes you think about the Cowboys decision on how they spread the touches around among their running backs, and what the future holds. Are the Cowboys really using their salary cap dollars wisely at the position?