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Tale of the tape: Plays that shaped the Cowboys 38-31 loss in Seattle

What did the All-22 tell us about the Cowboys week three loss?

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Another week, another disappointing loss for the Dallas Cowboys. In a game where they had a lead with less than four minutes to go and got the Seattle offense into a fourth down, the Seahawks offense would score just a few plays later. The Cowboys would head home with their second loss on the young season.

After reviewing the coaches film, let’s take a look at some of the plays that shaped the game for the Cowboys.

Just after the game, I had some major issues with the Cowboys offensive game plan in certain drives, and certain parts of the game. While there’s still an issue with the screen-package, and the way it was being used, I came away from the All-22 viewing not as frustrated as I originally was.

The Cowboys knew Terrence Steele was going to be an issue after dealing with food poisoning, and they dealt with it by using the short, quick passing game. While the passing game came out conservative, it eventually opened up, and started clicking on all cylinders. You’ll notice here on their first drive, how quickly the ball is coming out of Prescott’s hand. The Cowboys have really adapted the use of the mesh-concept in their offense in 2020, and they’ve been getting very promising results in the early portions of the season.

Cedrick Wilson came up big for the Cowboys on Sunday, and the Cowboys used him in matchups to give himself and Prescott favorable looks. Wilson made multiple nice adjustments on balls thrown to him throughout the game, and came up big after the catch on both of his touchdowns. While Wilson won’t “wow” you with his route-running, he’s very nuanced in his abilities to create late separation down the seams, and in the middle of the field. Wilson is an excellent option as the teams fourth wide receiver, and Kellen Moore would be wise to find a more consistent role for him as the season progresses.

While the Cowboys had a great shot to win this football game, they should be thankful, because even with the numbers Wilson put up, he had some big misses on Sunday, too. Wilson took a few bad sacks on Sunday with receivers open, but this one was an obvious miss from Wilson on a key third down. Wilson has Swain open underneath running a shallow cross with no defender in the vicinity. Wilson ends up tucking this football and running for a short gain, but likely could have given Swain a chance at the first down if he hits him in stride.

Playing quarterback in the NFL is hard.

The Cowboys cornerbacks had three-to-four major breakdowns in the back end against the Seahawks, but for the most part they had a pretty solid game (minus those mistakes). On a few of the Cowboys sacks, the credit should go to the secondary for playing perfect coverage against the Seattle receivers. This is one of those examples where every cover-man does their job and forces the leading MVP candidate into a sack. Trevon Diggs had another up-and-down game, but there’s a lot to like about the second-round rookie’s showing. Daryl Worley may have been the teams best cornerback on Sunday, showing excellent coverage skills from both man and zone. Lewis wasn’t perfect, and had some big penalties, but he looked more comfortable this week, than he did last week against the Falcons. That group still has a ways to go, but it wasn’t all bad from the Cowboys corners.

While the Cowboys corners had a pretty solid game, the Cowboys safeties did not. Like at all. Both Xavier Woods and Darian Thompson struggled mightily in coverage against the Seattle offense. Thompson was picked on all day, and that trend will likely continue when teams turn on the tape and see this from the two-deep safeties. Thompson doesn’t read the post route from Metcalf, and is way too slow reacting, which allows Metcalf an easy path to the endzone for the go-ahead score. The worst part about this is Metcalf’s route was pretty bad. There’s no explosiveness out of the break, no set-up at the top of his route, and nothing special playing the ball in the air. Right now Thompson is a poor cover defender, and teams will continue to target him.

P.S. The Cowboys have the 31st ranked pass rush win rate percentage in the NFL. Here’s an example of why.

Similar to the Cowboys cornerbacks, the Cowboys offensive line was up-and-down for most of the afternoon. When they needed them the most, they absolutely fell apart on the team’s final drive of the game. On the final drive of the game, Prescott was sacked once, and was hit on two different dropbacks while getting the football out quick with the Seahawks playing two-deep zone coverage. After holding up halfway decent against the Seattle pass rush for most of the game, the Cowboys offensive line picked a bad time to fall apart.

Through three weeks, the Cowboys have a lot of the same issues they had in week one. The defensive line is providing little to no pass rush outside of Aldon Smith through three weeks, the secondary play is far too inconsistent and having far too many mental breakdowns. Until they fix one of those two issues, it’s hard to imagine this defense getting much better, hopefully getting Anthony Brown and Chidobe Awuzie back will help shore-up some of the issues in the secondary, and Randy Gregory is just a few weeks away from helping the pass rush.

Stay afloat Cowboys, stay afloat.

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