The Dallas Cowboys are riding a three-game winning streak after their 37-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. It was also their third straight game of scoring at least 30 points. This is very satisfying for Cowboys fans as we thought a bunch of offensive stars would waste away after the team lost Dak Prescott for the season.
But the Cowboys offense isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. In fact, they’re starting to hit their stride, and that can make things a lot more interesting as they enter Sunday’s game fighting for bonus football.
Why is the Cowboys offense suddenly clicking? Let’s see what we can learn after re-watching the game film in this week’s offensive edition of After Further Review.
Dalton’s best game of the year
Early on, the disparity between Dak Prescott and any of the other backups was so significant that it was hard to muster up any optimism for this offense. But with each new game, Andy Dalton looks more and more comfortable in this offense. We can see the growth he’s made and it’s now starting to make this Cowboys offense potent as he’s taking advantage of all the weapons at his disposal.
One of the most surprising things about this game was how well the offensive line held up against the Eagles’ pass rush. Entering the game, the Philadelphia defense had a sack rate of 8.6% which is the second-highest rate in the league. Now, they did lose one of their best pass rushers in Fletcher Cox as he exited the game early, but the Cowboys took matters in their own hands by mitigating potential pass protection problems by getting the ball out of Dalton’s hands quickly.
All day long, the Cowboys offense relied on quick passes that turned into big gains. Dalton ended the day with a season high 377 yards (his first 300-yard game of the year), but his three receivers, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb, did a lot of the leg work. Credit the coaching staff for attacking the Eagles secondary, whose constant penchant for taking poor angles and falling down led to some big plays for the Cowboys offense.
While the play-designs were nice, we have to give Dalton a lot of credit for making good throws. His 73% completion rate on Sunday was his highest of the year. His 134.7 QB Rating was the highest of any Cowboys quarterback this season. In fact, only twice has a Cowboys quarterback had a QB Rating over 120 this season, and they’ve both come from Dalton over the past three weeks.
Dalton’s accuracy was on display several times in this this game. He was particularly good hitting his receivers as they cut towards the middle of the field, and had great chemistry with Gallup. On these three plays to Gallup (below), Dalton completes a key third-down pass, a well-thrown back shoulder pass that only his receiver could catch, and a very accurate strike that resulted in the Cowboys first touchdown of the day. Pay close attention to where the defender is when Dalton releases the ball on the touchdown pass as it shows great anticipation of where the hole is going to be. In real time, the ball looked slightly thrown behind him, but looking at it again makes you appreciate the accuracy of Dalton.
He also did a very nice job going through his progressions. It has to be difficult when he’s grown accustomed to knowing that internal clock ticks fast, but credit him for trusting his protection and making the correct reads. On this play, you can see he is wanting to go to his left to either Lamb on the outside or Cooper on the slant, but the coverage is pretty good so he looks towards the middle. Tony Pollard is open and that’s the safe throw for an easy 3rd-and-2 conversion, but Dalton sees his tight end give the defender the slip and decides to look his way for a nice 16-yard play.
We mentioned last week that Dalton was very good going to his right, so it was nice to see the Cowboys script the first play of the game to have him roll out and throw it deep and hit Cooper. That’s a great way to start the game. Dalton was also pretty accurate throwing while rolling to his left as he connected with Gallup as the third-year receiver had a sensational sideline grab.
Let’s talk about Zeke
Ezekiel Elliott has had a rough season. With suspect quarterback play early on, injuries to the offensive line, and his tendency to put the ball on the turf, things have gone really bad for the Cowboys star running back. To make matters worse, he’s been dealing with injuries that caused him to be in street clothes on the sideline for the first time in his NFL career.
But on Sunday, Elliott looked like a re-charged back. Against the Eagles, he was running with a lot of energy, spinning out of trouble, and powering through arm tackles. He forced 11 miss tackles in that game which is the most by any running back in the league thus far this season.
He finished the game with 105 yards on 19 carries, which happens to be his season high for rushing yards. It was also the first time he averaged over five yards a carry. His running mate Tony Pollard only had 12 yards on nine carries (1.3 ypc) as he could never really gain any traction. Elliott always runs with that forward push, which really helps turn nothing into something as he continues to power out as many yards as he can, and it’s nothing we should be tripping out about.
Speaking of tripping...
Admit it, you were yelling out the TV when that 3rd-and-4 Zeke draw play came up short resulting in a three-and-out, after the Cowboys fell behind in the game 14-3. After further review, it didn’t look like a bad call. The Cowboys got the look they wanted, and Elliott would’ve powered through for a third-down conversion had he not been tripped up by Connor McGovern’s foot.
And speaking of yelling at the TV...
Did anyone else see a touchdown here or was it just me?
Okay, so the refs called him short, but here is what the Cowboys should have done next:
- Throw the challenge flag
- QB sneak
- Hand off to Zeke
You know what’s not on that list? Running a play-action pass only to have Dalton take off running and be pushed out of bounds for a two-yard loss.
I firmly believe Mike McCarthy goes for it on fourth down if Dalton just throws it away, but taking a sack for a loss takes that out of the mix, and Dalton immediately regrets it. Kellen Moore called a great game, but sometimes he can get too cute at times. On that play, he should’ve just kept it simple.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate another Cooper moment as he’s made a living out of embarrassing Eagles defensive backs and I will never stop loving it!