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Cowboys news: Run defense is one of the areas where Dallas is still vulnerable

Plus other news and analysis from around the Cowboys.

NFL: NOV 05 Chiefs at Cowboys Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Film study: Three areas Cowboys must improve to become elite - Laurie Fitzpatrick, Touchdown Wire

The Cowboys are among the league’s best, but a few improvements could put them over the top.

When diving into the game film, it becomes apparent that the Dallas run defense has issues getting key stops at times.

It is worrisome that the Cowboys rank fifth in the NFL in rushing first downs allowed and 11th in missed tackles, according to Pro Football Reference. Teams are recognizing this, as only six teams have faced more run attempts this season.

In the fourth quarter against the Patriots, the Cowboys defense allowed a 13-play touchdown drive with eight running plays. Against the Falcons, the Cowboys loaded the box much of the game but still allowed 103 yards on the ground.

At times, Dallas defenders appear to inadvertently take themselves out of plays. In the clip below, the two defensive linemen penetrate the A gap. This works great against the pass when performing a stunt — but it works against the defense when it comes to defending a zone-blocking run play.

Mutual Respect Between Dak Prescott, Mahomes - Rob Phillips, Dallascowboys.com

Sunday is shaping up to be a game of the year candidate, hopefully it lives up to the hype.

It’s Dak Prescott. It’s Patrick Mahomes.

It’s the NFL’s two highest-paid quarterbacks and two of the league’s brightest young stars.

And they’ve got plenty of respect for each other.

At 26, Mahomes is already a Super Bowl champion, a Super Bowl MVP and league MVP. After a slow start, the defending AFC champion Chiefs (6-4) have won three straight games, most recently a 41-14 blowout win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday Night Football.

Prescott says he always tries to learn something from watching the great quarterbacks, including Mahomes.

“Just his competitiveness,” Prescott said. “He never believes he’s out of a game, thinks he can make every throw. And I think that’s huge at this position just to have that confidence. I think it goes a long way in bleeding to your other teammates and those guys feeding off of that as well. He’s a big-time playmaker. He’s a great player. MVP obviously, Super Bowl MVP. Special talent.”

Prescott, 28, has led the Cowboys to a 7-2 start, just a half-game behind the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers (8-2) for the NFC’s best record. Through eight starts, he leads all starters with a 110.8 passer rating (20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions) and ranks second in completion percentage at 70.3, a career high.

Helman: Dak Prescott & The Makeup Of An NFL MVP - David Helman, Dallascowboys.com

Dak Prescott is squarely in the MVP race, and rightfully so.

The trophy felt like an affront to everything I loved about college football – right up until my favorite team produced a Heisman candidate of its own.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still believe everything I just said about the Heisman Trophy. But for all its flaws as a concept, watching Joe Burrow win it for my alma mater, LSU, hammered home something important for me: an award like that offers an opportunity at immortality. It cements that season and the player who wins it as special, and something that will be remembered, always. And when the winner is unquestionably deserving, as Burrow was, it makes the achievement that much more special.

Have you guessed yet why I’m writing about this? There’s an obvious parallel.

I’ve spent a lot of my time this week thinking about NFL MVP – a similarly flawed award to the Heisman Trophy — and what it might mean if Dak Prescott manages to win it.

Everything I just wrote about the Heisman pertains in some measure to NFL MVP.

How will the improved Dallas Cowboys defense contain Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs offense? - Clarence Hill Jr., Star Telegram

The Cowboys key to victory will be to control Mahomes and his high-powered offense. How will they do it?

But they have since won three straight since, with Mahomes throwing seven touchdowns and just one interception in those contests. And he’s coming off a 406-yard, five-touchdown effort against the Las Vegas Raiders last Sunday. The performance earned him honors as the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week. But he will be running into a Cowboys defense that is not only coming off its finest performance of the season in a 43-3 victory against the Atlanta Falcons, but its best showing since Mike McCarthy took over as head coach last season. The Cowboys held the Falcons to just 1 of 11 third-down conversions and that one didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter. They picked off three passes, had 10 pass deflections, two sacks and a forced fumble. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, a former MVP who was coming off a week in which he won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award, completed just 9 of 21 passes for 117 yards and two interceptions. His passer rating of 21.4 was the worst of his 14-year career.

Kellen Moore and the Cowboys Are Proving You Don’t Need One System to Win - Steven Ruiz, The Ringer

All season the Cowboys have been able to beat teams in a multitude of ways. That’s credit to Kellen Moore.

The best NFL offenses of the past few seasons have had distinct philosophies: Sean McVay’s Rams and their outside zone run plays and play-action passes; Andy Reid’s Chiefs and their spread attack; the Ravens and their option-heavy running game led by Lamar Jackson. Those offenses were hard to defend, but it wasn’t so hard to figure out what made them good.

This season, the NFL’s highest scoring offense resides in Dallas, where the Cowboys are averaging 31.6 points per game. That unit, led by third-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and MVP candidate Dak Prescott, ranks fourth in DVOA and first in passing EPA, per RBSDM.com. And its success has the team just a half game out of the top spot in the NFC playoff race.

But unlike those high-powered offenses of the recent past, the Cowboys don’t have a clear ethos. Rather, they do a little bit of everything. Per Sports Info Solutions, Dallas doesn’t rank higher than 10th in any of the following categories: play-action rate, motion rate, no-huddle rate, or RPO rate. But it ranks fourth or above in success rate when using each of those concepts. The Cowboys do it all—and they do it all at a high level.

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