The will he or won’t he play storyline surrounding Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was answered as his backup Cooper Rush played against the Minnesota Vikings. Rush was able to lead a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter thanks to a defensive stand from the Cowboys defense. Even though it wasn’t the prettiest of games, from Rush and the defense, they were able to pick up the win and at the same time give the Cowboys some stability behind Prescott.
Let’s take a look at how the Cowboys did this week from a coaching aspect and on offense and defense.
Whenever your team is able to pick up a come-from-behind victory against a worthy opponent, then your team is doing something right. The Cowboys had some missteps along the way, a dropped pass here, overthrown ball there, and some questionable penalties didn’t help either. Yet, without their spiritual leader on the field, they were able to do what many didn’t think they would in Minnesota, win. Tough teams win tough games and the good teams should be able to do it no matter who they have playing in games. That’s exactly what the Cowboys were able to do.
If your team is able to pick up a win on the road without your starting quarterback, then your head coach and offensive coordinator have done a good job preparing your team. They played games with the media this week about Prescott’s status, but that kept the Vikings guessing and might have helped. The Cowboys defense was able to keep the Vikings offense off-balance thanks to some nicely timed blitzes and coverage schemes from Dan Quinn. Overall this was a strong display of coaching skills from the Cowboys this week.
Starting in your first NFL game under the bright Sunday Night Football lights hasn’t been too kind to quarterbacks in the past, but Rush was able to get the job done. Going 24/40 isn’t a great stat, but the 325 yards and two touchdowns that came with it make up for the at times poor throws from Rush. His two turnovers dock his grade just a bit. Overall, this was a learning experience for Rush and when he goes back and looks at the tape and realizes how many passes he wasn’t set before throwing he will see something to work on. Hopefully, the Cowboys won’t have to see him take the field anytime soon, but if they do they know they have a quarterback that can win.
Running Backs: B-
The Cowboys needed a solid game out of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to take the pressure off of Cooper Rush, and they were able to make some plays to help out. Without Prescott on the field, the Vikings decided to try and take away the Cowboys running game and force Rush to beat them, so the overall output was not great. But Zeke was able to make a huge run after a catch to set up the winning touchdown, and at various other points they picked up key first downs on the ground. Zeke also pitched in with pass protection, but Pollard had a big error in that area which led to the Rush fumble.
Wide Receiver: A+
The Cowboys receivers stepped up big-time in this game and were able to help Rush. Cedrick Wilson had 84 receiving yards, a 35-yard pass, and a 73-yard touchdown. Amari Cooper had a team-high 122 receiving yards and the game-winning touchdown in the back of the endzone with 55 seconds left in the game. CeeDee Lamb did his part as well with 112 yards receiving and doing a lot of the heavy lifting early for this group. Outside of Lamb’s dropped pass, this unit stepped up and made plays when they needed. It was another strong performance at a time when they needed them the most.
Tight Ends: C
It was an unusually quiet night from Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin this week with Schultz being the only one to catch passes. Rush didn’t use the tight ends as much in the passing game as Prescott does, so the production was low. While their presence wasn’t felt in the passing game, they were able to help in on the blocking game to give Rush time to make passes, especially when Tyron Smith went down with an injury.
Offensive Line: B-
The Cowboys offensive line was under constant attack from this Vikings defensive front thanks to Rush’s presence under center. At times they were able to give Rush time to go through his progressions, and then there were times where he was under pressure, one of which caused a sack-fumble, but that was more on Pollard missing the blitz pickup. Things got worse once Tyron Smith went down with an ankle injury as Ty Nsekhe had his struggles in pass protection. The running game was also average as they couldn’t open up big holes. But this unit held together and was able to do just enough to pull off the win against a very tough defensive front.
Defensive Line: B-
The Cowboys defensive line wasn't showy on the night, they only had one sack by Randy Gregory, but they helped control a Vikings offense that has a lot of talent. Dalvin Cook only had 78 yards rushing and a 4.3 average carry. They managed to make Kirk Cousins uncomfortable at times and the Vikings only had 184 yards passing and scored 16 points. Overall, the stats aren't going to blow you away although they did finish with eight QB hits, but they were able to keep things contained and stiffened when the Viking got close to scoring. They did pick up some unnecessary penalties which needs to be corrected.
The Cowboys main linebackers, Micah Parsons and Leighton Vander Esch, did a very good job of keeping Vikings running back Dalvin Cook in check for most of the game. They also did a good job of taking away the crossing routes and getting into the backfield to make plays in the running game. Parsons in particular was everywhere on the field getting 11 tackles with four of them for loss. The Vikings running backs are good in the passing game, but they contributed very little in this game, another testament to Parsons, Vander Esch, and Keanu Neal getting the job done. It was an outstanding effort from the middle of the defense.
The streak has finally come to an end as Trevon Diggs wasn’t able to pick up an interception. They may not have had any interceptions this week but they were able to hold two very good receivers, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, in check. The Cowboys safeties were also able to make their presence felt breaking up passes as well and stopping Cook from picking up more yards. For this group, the Cowboys have to hope that the injury to Diggs isn’t too serious as they can’t afford to lose him.
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