If you were rooting for the Dallas Cowboys to beat the Seattle Seahawks, you are likely grateful that America’s Team plays in the NFC East. They lost, but their playoff hopes look about as bright as they could all things considered.
Nobody wants to focus on that today though, obviously. The Cowboys lost and we demand answers. If not for a kick named after a fantastic summertime fruit, the Cowboys would be winless as October approaches. Thankfully they are not, but problems persist.
It should of course be acknowledged that the Cowboys have played the Los Angeles Rams (who almost pulled off a win after trailing the Buffalo Bills by a 28-3 margin) and the Seattle Seahawks (the team led by this season’s early MVP front-runner). Nobody is trying to make excuses here, but all facts should be considered.
Sunday afternoon in Seattle produced the passing performances that many anticipated going into it. In the end the Seahawks won and the Cowboys lost, but there were of course a few more winners and losers. Let’s talk about those.
Winner: Cedrick Wilson
Who would have thought that the first and second touchdowns caught by a Cowboys receiver in 2020 would belong to Cedrick Wilson? Talk about a coming out party.
So much of the focus for Dallas since the drafting of CeeDee Lamb has been on their rookie, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup. All the while a Cedrick Wilson Hive waited and believed, and their faith was rewarded by a 107-yard, two-score performance.
Hopefully he will be more involved moving forward.
Winner: Zack Martin
It is hard to make the winners list when you are already a sure-fire Pro Football Hall of Famer, but Zack Martin was called upon in a different way in Seattle and answered in amazing fashion.
When the Cowboys decided to bench rookie UDFA Terence Steele (spoiler alert, more on him later) they realized that their best combination of offensive linemen required some shuffling around. Fellow rookie Tyler Biadasz jumped up to center (after briefly getting in the game while Joe Looney got right), and Looney slid over to right guard. This meant that Zack Martin would have to play right tackle for the first time in an NFL game and shocker, he was fantastic.
La’el Collins is technically eligible to return from injured reserve in Week 4, but it doesn’t seem like the idea of that is too promising. Will the Cowboys stick with Martin at right tackle from the jump against Cleveland? We will wait and see.
Winner: Aldon Smith
It has already been said, but the Cowboys pulled off quite the deal in returning Aldon Smith to the National Football League. He has arguably been the best defensive player on the team three games in.
Smith had three sacks against the Seattle Seahawks. Read that sentence again (I’ll help you). Aldon Smith had three sacks against the Seattle Seahawks. This was literally his third game since not having played in the NFL in five years!
A bit of love should also be shown here to Antwaun Woods who not only appeared at fullback once again but got a sack himself. Of the non-Aldon defensive players on the Cowboys the aforementioned Woods actually has half of the sack total. He and Everson Griffen each have one on the season and Aldon Smith has four all to himself.
Winner: Brandon Knight
Only one tackle that started for the Cowboys finished the game at his post and it was Brandon Knight. Filling in for Tyron Smith is hardly an easy thing to do but Knight has held his own for two weeks in a row now.
Knight is having the most impact from the 2019 Dallas Cowboys rookie draft class and he went undrafted. If Tyron Smith returns against Cleveland then it makes sense to keep Zack Martin where he is and play Knight on the other side, but it is still a bit early to make those types of assumptions.
Winner: Trevon Diggs’ hustle
When Trevon Diggs poked the ball loose from DK Metcalf I tweeted that it might have been the best play that a Dallas Cowboys cornerback has made over the last five years. That might sound hyperbolic, but try to think of one better.
What’s ironic about this being such a great play is that Diggs got absolutely toasted and beaten which allowed for the greatness to happen. He’s a rookie so this is sort of to be expected, but that was really incredible hustle from Diggs that is indicative of the type of play that we can hopefully come to expect for a long time.
Loser: Tony Pollard
There is no longer any reason to have Tony Pollard handling kickoffs. None.
Pollard was a disaster last week in returning kicks and frequently set the Cowboys up with worse field position than if he’d taken a knee. He didn’t exactly rebound from that performance well as early in this game he stumbled coming out of the endzone, fell down, and put the ball at the team’s own 1-yard line. The Seahawks would go on to record a safety.
This would prove to be a critical thing moving forward. Consider that the Cowboys not only lost a possession because of Pollard but they gave the Seahawks two points in a game that was ultimately decided by one possession.
Let someone else handle kickoffs.
Loser: Ezekiel Elliott
The Cowboys finally tried to use Ezekiel Elliott in the screen game, but to the frustration of fans everywhere they drove that idea into the ground. To make matters worse Elliott continually dropped passes that came his way which hindered what the team was able to do overall offensively.
Zeke was targeted 12 times in this game. 12. Remember that the Cowboys have a wide receiver group of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb, AND that Cedrick Wilson blew up (Noah Brown has made some nice plays, too).
That Zeke only caught half of his targets makes matters worse. He looked fantastic in Week 1 and had a rough start against the Falcons. This game was rough.
Loser: Terence Steele
We made mention of Steele in praising Zack Martin, and to be fair getting benched as an undrafted free agent rookie is hardly something to be ashamed of. Playing in the NFL is hard. Who knew.
Unfortunately professional football life has come at Steele fast and expectations are supremely high for the Cowboys. This exacerbates the issues he has and unfortunately the Cowboys had to yank him and were much more effective when they did.
Loser: Greg Zuerlein
Zuerlein was the hero last week having successfully pulled off an onside kick and game-winning field goal, but that kind of success is short-lived when you stumble in the week after.
We’ve noted that Tony Pollard cost the Cowboys two points with his poor return, well Greg Zuerlein also did by missing two extra points (although one was blocked by an un-blocked rusher). This combination arguably even cost the Cowboys a hidden extra point. Allow me to explain.
The Cowboys scored a touchdown early-ish in the fourth quarter that took transformed the 30-22 score to 30-28. They would go on to attempt a two-point conversion that failed, but what if Zuerlein hadn’t missed those extra points and Pollard hadn’t set up the safety?
If we assume some really bad things don’t happen to the Cowboys in the lead-up to this situation then the score is 32-30 them after Dak Prescott finds Michael Gallup for a touchdown. There is no need to go for two in this situation so they likely kick the extra point to make it 33-30. If we play out the rest of the game as it went they would have added a field goal to that before Russell Wilson hit DK Metcalf near the end of the game and therefore would have only trailed 38-36 even if Seattle got the two-point conversion that they converted.
This means that the Cowboys could have won the game with a field goal near the end and not necessarily have needed a touchdown. There are obviously some hypotheticals involved here but it goes to show how these special teams gaffes can cost a team in the end and that absolutely happened to the Cowboys.
Loser: The secondary as a whole
While Trevon Diggs did show some great hustle, the fact remains that he was burnt on that play. He certainly has that in common with his fellow secondary players.
Russell Wilson is an amazing quarterback and therefore playing him is obviously a challenge but man, the Cowboys looked absolutely lost in the secondary. Play after play it seemed like there was a wide open Seahawks pass-catcher; consider that Tyler Lockett had three touchdowns at halftime.
The unit is banged up and depending heavily on the play of a rookie second-round pick, but excuses have worn thin. This group collapsed throughout a lot of the game and was one of the main reasons why the team lost.
Obviously it feels like the sky is falling, but the Cowboys are tied for first in the NFC East and still have 13 games to play. The good news is that the division looks like an abomination, but you don’t want to win it just to get embarrassed in the first round of the playoffs.
This is a very unique NFL season that has brought with it many challenges never before seen. The Cowboys have undergone a lot of change over the last nine months and all of that has merit.
But this team has a lot of talent and Mike McCarthy was hired to make the most of it. Three weeks in they are barely treading water and things are not going to get easier from here.