CeeDee Lamb hauled in a short completion on the second play of the game and raced 37 yards down the left sideline into Atlanta territory. For a Dallas offense that had struggled so immensely the week prior, it was a revelation, and a relief, for the crowd at AT&T Stadium. But Lamb’s explosive play did more than set the tone for the Cowboys. It signaled the full potential of the Cowboys receiving corps now that Michael Gallup had returned from an extended stay on injured reserve.
With no disrespect to Cedrick Wilson and his fantastic play in relief this season, Gallup’s presence brings a new dimension to the Dallas passing game, allowing Lamb to shift back inside much more than before, where so few nickel corners have a prayer of containing him. It didn’t matter that Gallup finished the day with three catches for 42 yards—granted, he might have had more had he not dropped a pass from Dak Prescott on 3rd-and-6 from the Dallas five-yard line. Gallup’s return created a matchup nightmare for the Atlanta Falcon’s secondary, especially with Lamb in the slot.
The return of Michael Gallup moved CeeDee Lamb into the slot with great success: @NextGenStats said Lamb lined up in the slot on 61% of his snaps in Week 10, up from 16% in Weeks 2-9. He caught all 4 of his targets for 48 yards and 2 TD when aligned in the slot.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) November 17, 2021
Lamb finished the day with six catches for 94 yards and two scores, all of which was accumulated before the half in a game that had already been decided. Aside from the scores, however, Lamb’s best play might have come on a 4th-and-5 at the end of the first quarter. With Dallas at the Falcons 33-yard line, Lamb beat his man and then come down with the ball for a first down. The catch alone would’ve been enough, but Lamb refused to be dragged down by the fallen defender clutching at his jersey tail and instead broke free for what ended up being a 21-yard gain that set up the Cowboys nicely in the redzone.
In all, Lamb was targeted seven times, completing six of those looks at 15.7 yards a pop. He also had a rush for 12 yards in the third quarter before an “arm contusion” ended his day. Considering the score at the time and the lack of any update, it’s safe to say this was purely a precautionary move in what had become a laugher of a game by that point.
Taking more snaps out of the slot for Lamb is more than just taking advantage of a team’s third corner, it’s a place of comfort for him. In his final year at Oklahoma, his production was nearly perfectly halved between yardage and touchdowns outside the numbers as inside from the slot. He’s a match-up menace to opposing defenses every time he steps onto the field and he’s only going to get better.
Even with operating predominantly out wide this season, Lamb is on pace for about 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns. Yes, those numbers are helped by a potent offense and an elite quarterback, but the fact that he’s been that good without the benefit of having Gallup’s presence drawing extra attention is impressive.
Lamb is to the offense what Micah Parsons is to the defense—a chess piece that can be moved any number of places on the board while still holding an advantage. And when Gallup starts getting back into a rhythm, look out.
CeeDee Lamb on getting Michael Gallup back: “Very excited. A lot of people know what MG can do, and if you don’t, you’ll find out real soon. The guy is a playmaker, phenomenal teammate. Can’t wait for him to touch the endzone a couple times here soon.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 10, 2021
( : @dallasnews) pic.twitter.com/QDJbcgnCL2