Football, at its core, is a strange game.
If not for a few differences in Sunday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons, we all would be beginning our week with anger and frustration as opposed to happiness and relief. As it is often said, it is a game played with an oblong-shaped ball made of leather.
The Dallas Cowboys won on Sunday and that is a great thing. There are a lot of things for us to take away and figure out moving forward and especially things that they will need to work on if they want to have success against the Seattle Seahawks next week.
For now let’s focus on what happened against Atlanta. Here are our five winners and five losers.
Winner: Dak Prescott
To win in the NFL you generally have to have a star quarterback. You can argue with those rules being fair or not, but they are generally the rules.
Dak Prescott’s status as a legitimate signal-caller is one that has been debated in many places. While the team as a whole fell dramatically apart early on, he led them back and achieved NFL history while doing so.
There is little doubt that good things will happen when the ball is in Prescott’s hands. He proved that idea right on Sunday.
His price likely went up, too.
Winner: CeeDee Lamb
Sunday marked the first game in a Cowboys uniform at AT&T Stadium for both Mike McCarthy and CeeDee Lamb, but the latter had by far the better debut.
Lamb led the Cowboys with 106 receiving yards and had moments that showed a superstar in the making. He appears to be everything he was hyped up to be, watching his career unfold will be quite the treat for all of us.
Winner: Trysten Hill
It feels right that the first defensive player named should be the one that has been the most consistent on the young season and that is second-year defensive tackle Trysten Hill. Seriously.
There have been other players that have had moments worth mentioning over two games but Hill has been the most solid as far as average performance is concerned. This is great to see in general let alone after the rookie season of his that was very much worth forgetting.
Hill plays a position that doesn’t typically show up in the box score but he wrecked many a play in the Falcons backfield. He is a disruptor and it is nice to see him carrying the load in the wake of Gerald McCoy’s injury.
Winner: Dalton Schultz
This time a week ago there not too many kind thoughts for the third-year tight end. With news of Blake Jarwin’s torn ACL, there were plenty of doubters that Schultz could carry the majority of the tight end position in 2020.
Schultz was the most-targeted pass-catcher on the Cowboys (he hauled in nine of the 10) and caught the only touchdown that Dak Prescott threw. He was extremely reliable just one game after the idea of that being the case seemed laughable.
He proved all of us wrong.
Winner: Being lucky
Football is indeed often a game of chance, and while there are certainly calls and things of that nature that we are not fans of, the reality is that some things happened out of the Cowboys’ control on Sunday that they benefitted from.
Julio Jones dropped a pass that would have likely iced the game. The Falcons special teams unit forgot the rules to an onside kick. Luck shined on the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon and the good news is that wins don’t reflect anything that would show that.
The Cowboys simply cannot rely on that luck moving forward. Hopefully they learned their lesson without having to suffer the consequences.
Loser: Kellen Moore
There will be those that feel like this should be Mike McCarthy, but it is time for Kellen Moore to be held responsible for the offense’s inefficiencies.
The point here isn’t that there aren’t issues that McCarthy should be questioned over, but this is regarded as Moore’s offense. What’s more is that he is regarded as a believer of forward-thinking. This simply cannot be true given how often the Cowboys are running on first down and that they did something like pitch the ball to Ezekiel Elliott on the two-point conversion that they missed out on.
It is up to you whether you believe him or not, but Mike McCarthy has noted many times that this is Kellen Moore’s offense. While Dak Prescott was able to play hero ball enough to bail the team out from an overall perspective against Atlanta, that will not always be the case.
Loser: DeMarcus Lawrence
We don’t know the full status of what Lawrence was dealing with at the time of this writing, but he was largely absent against the Falcons which is concerning to say the least.
There are more things to a pass rusher’s contribution than sacks which is a point of contention on the internet, but Lawrence was, in fact, missing from an overall standpoint. The Cowboys were touted as having this nice pass-rushing group that has yet to really do anything two games in.
Big contracts bring big expectations. That’s a fact.
Loser: Jourdan Lewis
The same “to be fair” things that were said last week should be applied to Jourdan Lewis here as Sunday was his first NFL game action of the year due to missing Week 1 with an injury, but it was not a memorable performance to say the least.
Calvin Ridley absolutely fooled Jourdan Lewis on one of his two touchdowns and the secondary as a whole got beat all throughout the game. Dallas has a precarious amount of depth at cornerback to be kind, but Lewis was thought to be among the better of the group overall.
We might be in a situation where Trevon Diggs is the team’s best cornerback. No disrespect to him because he’s played admirably for a rookie, but that is hardly ideal.
Loser: Trying to be cute
The Dallas Cowboys tried not just one, but two, fake punts against the Falcons and both were laughable to say the least. The first was an instance in where they put the ball in Chris Jones’ hands and the second was a direct snap that went right up the middle... on 4th and 5.
Oftentimes NFL teams can outthink themselves and get too cute with their alleged trickery. This was absolutely the case for the Cowboys on Sunday as they kept trying to have a “gotcha” moment that just wound up backfiring on them.
These sorts of things can’t be a normality for them. They just can’t.
The fact that they Cowboys started two undrafted free agents at both tackle spots and won is nothing short of a miracle. It looked implausible early on, though.
La’el Collins is still on injured reserve and can’t return until at least Week 4. The Cowboys played without Tyron Smith on Sunday and could theoretically get him back in Seattle, but what if they can’t?
This team’s depth is being tested extremely early on and much of their success on the season will depend on how they are able to manage it. Dallas won and they took are of that hurdle, but many await in the distance.