In a battle between two teams ravaged by injuries, the Dallas Cowboys were able to pick up a much needed win. This team has been through a lot this season and for them to pick up a win in this manner was a great thing to see. The defense came out and created three turnovers on the Bengals first three drives, and the offense was able to turn them into points. Special teams made plays in the game as well. It was an overall team effort, so let’s grade this game.
This team needed something good to happen after the rough last few weeks they’ve been through. They got it thanks to a big effort from their defense, offense, and special teams. The defense created multiple turnovers and even turned one of those turnovers into points. The offense was able to move the ball and converted those defensive turnovers into points. And finally, special teams was able to flip the field in the Cowboys favor. The coaching staff made the right calls on the field.
The play-calling on offense from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was spot on. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan seemed to have fired up his defense as they were all over the field and flying to the football making group tackles and creating turnovers. This then led to head coach Mike McCarthy being able to have a clean game and not having to answer questions about decisions on fourth down.
Maybe he’s still smashing watermelons to get his players ready to fight.
In a very emotional game, Andy Dalton returned to face the team that drafted him and friends he had played with for nine years. He was able to channel those emotions into an efficient game going 16/23 for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t put up mind-blowing stats but he didn’t need to this week with his defense playing so well. Dalton was able to get the last laugh against the team that released him after taking their now starter in Joe Burrow.
Running Backs: B
The Cowboys were able to eclipse the 100-yard mark as a team once again but failed to really get Ezekiel Elliott going again, thanks in part to the offensive line’s inability to create space for Elliott to work. Elliott did though have a healthy four yards per carry and Tony Pollard was right behind him with 3.5 yards per carry on the day. With the way this offense is built the Cowboys should be getting more from their running backs but that isn’t going to happen this season with this offensive line.
Wide Receivers: B
The Cowboys receivers, mainly Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, once again were the favorite targets for quarterback Andy Dalton. Michael Gallup wasn’t a big factor in this game the way he was last week and only Cooper was able to find the end zone. They should have been able to do more damage this week but once again the offensive line isn’t giving them the time they need to get up the field.
Tight Ends: A
Dalton Schultz was a nice safety blanket for Dalton once again this weekend. Catching three passes for 34 yards and averaging 11 yards per catch nice numbers. Schultz and Blake Bell were also able to help blocking so all around good performance from the tight ends this weekend. Bell would also have one catch for 11 yards.
Offensive Line: B
The this offensive line did a decent job of protecting the quarterback this week but weren’t that effective in creating holes in the running game. They also gave up two sacks against a defense that hadn’t registered one in the last three weeks. Still they are getting better after getting more playing time under their belts. Giving the Cowboys a nice future with depth along the line when the Cowboys starters return next season.
Defensive Line: A
DeMarcus Lawrence and company came to play this weekend, forcing fumbles and scoring touchdowns in the process. Aldon Smith recovered a DeMarcus Lawrence caused fumble and returned it for a touchdown. The only sacks on the day came on back to back plays made by Tyrone Crawford in the fourth quarter and Randy Gregory was close with two quarterback hits. This defensive line led this defense.
Jaylon Smith once again led the Cowboys in tackles and Leighton Vander Esch wasn’t far behind him. Both played well in the running game thanks to the defensive line taking on their blocks and giving the linebackers lanes to the ball carrier. They still have a little trouble in the passing game, but when they are matched up against receivers they aren’t going to win those battles. There were some misdiagnosing of run plays, too, but it was a solid effort.
While the defensive line and linebackers were able to keep the running game under control. the secondary was able to hold the receivers in check at times during the game. The Bengals were able to move the ball, but when it came time to make a stop, the secondary was able to make plays. It was all the more impressive considering how many backups were playing, and how they had to go even deeper on the roster during the game because of injuries. These young, inexperienced players did the job.
Let’s enjoy this victory and see what they can do in their final three games of the season. Next up the 49ers.