The Dallas Cowboys are back in the winning column! Granted, it came against a very bad Cincinnati Bengals team, but beggars can’t be choosers. On a positive note, the Cowboys didn’t just narrowly escape with a close win, but had control of this one early before eventually pulling away. While the competition was quite different, it was still a much better showing than last week. Here are ten thoughts on the Cowboys 30-7 win over the Bengals.
1. Bad teams give the ball away
It’s so nice to be on the other side of a fumble fest, and that’s right were the Cowboys were on Sunday as the Bengals put the ball on the turf three times. And all three times the Cowboys recovered. Cincinnati’s first three possessions all ended with a fumble lost. The Bengals kept shuffling through their running backs as different ones put the ball on the ground. DeMarcus Lawrence had a nice strip. Darian Thompson popped Bengals receiver Alex Erickson, knocking the ball loose. And in one of the best defensive plays of the year, Aldon Smith scooped up a fumble and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown.
2. Run defense was much more respectable
We knew coming into the game that the Bengals weren’t a good rushing team. Of course, being good at running the ball isn’t necessarily a requirement for teams to run all over the Cowboys worse-ranked rushing defense. While Cincy did break the century mark with their 101 yards on the ground, it came at a measly 3.4 yards per carry. The Cowboys defense did a great job swarming to the ball, and we saw them do a much better job wrapping up. Sure, it’s just the Bengals, but the effort was there, and the front seven did their job.
3. Depleted cornerbacks came through
It wasn’t just the guys up front that played well. Surprisingly, the Cowboys secondary showed up also. Nobody was expecting backup quarterback Brandon Allen to light up their corners, but the Cowboys holding them to just 208 yards passing is still pretty good. The more impressive part is that the Cowboys cornerback group was so depleted. Guys like Savion Smith, Rashard Robinson, Deante Burton, and Chris Westry all saw action in this game. This very easily could have gone a different direction, so we have to give these reserves their due credit.
4. Making stops on the money down
Not only did the Cowboys defense create three takeaways on fumbles lost, but they also showed up multiple times on the money down. Four times in this game, the Bengals chose to go for it on fourth down, and in all but one, the Cowboys defense made a stop. On a 4th-and-7, the defense forced Allen to throw incomplete as he was looking for Tyler Boyd, leaving Cincinnati empty at the Dallas 10-yard line. On their next possession, third-string quarterback Ryan Finley airmailed it out of the end zone on a 4th-and-19 desperation play.
5. Special teams did okay
The Cowboys special teams has been so erratic this season. While the bulk of the big plays have came at a detriment to the team, every once in a while they’ll pull out a good one. For the third time this season, Tony Pollard had a nice return as he took the second-half kickoff 60 yards. It was also nice to see Greg Zuerlein make all three of his field goal attempts. And while this play didn’t officially count due to an illegal formation penalty by Justin March, backup punter Hunter Niswander nailed a perfectly placed punt that was downed inside the five-yard line.
6. Dalton’s return to Cincy
It was nice that the Cincinnati announcers gave Andy Dalton a warm welcome back into Paul Brown’s stadium. It was also nice to see the veteran quarterback put together a clean and efficient passing game. In the stat book, it ended up being his lowest yardage total in a Cowboys uniform (minus the two partial games his played). Dalton finished 16/23 for just 185 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. This was good for a nice 8.0 yards per attempt.
7. The quiet receiver
It’s not hard to understand how people forget just how good Amari Cooper is as he just quietly goes about his business. In this game, he only had four catches for just 51 yards, but he did score a touchdown for the third straight game. If he catches four more passes this year, he’ll set a new career high in receptions. And he’s just 58 yards away from his fifth 1,000-yard season. To think he’s been able to pull this off after losing Dak Prescott early in the season just shows you how talented Cooper is.
8. More touches for Pollard
Ezekiel Elliott came into this game nursing an injured calf, but like he always does, he was out on the field powering through the pain. Zeke only ran the ball 12 times for 48 yards. Instead of piling on the work, the team decided to give Tony Pollard 11 carries in this game, which is the most rushing attempts he’s had all year. Pollard only had 39 yards rushing, but it was still nice to see the team balance the rushing attack out a little more.
9. That crazy NFC East
The New York Giants stay at the top of the division was short-lived. After winning four straight games, the G-men were the team riding hot and that shifted the pendulum in their favor. Unfortunately, they were the only NFC East team to lose this week, and that now drops them out of first place. Washington moves to the top as now they are team who has won four straight. To complicate matters even further, the Philadelphia Eagles snapped a four-game losing streak against what was the top team in the NFC, the New Orleans Saints. The Eagles might be getting a spark from new starting quarterback Jalen Hurts.
10. Winning comes with a price
Those on “Team Tank” are not happy with this outcome as every win hurts the Cowboys draft positioning come April. But surprisingly, this win only moves the Cowboys from the no. 4 spot to the no. 5 spot, only being jumped by the Los Angeles Chargers (they also won, but now own a lower strength of schedule). The damage may be minimal now, but if they get fancy and win more games, they could risk moving out of the top 10.