Not many people expected this outcome from the Dallas Cowboys game this week against the Denver Broncos. The team as a whole appeared out of sorts in this game as the offense wasn’t able to get anything going, and the defense couldn’t slow down the Broncos on the ground or through the air as they would fall 30-16. Let’s take a look at how this could have happened to the Cowboys in this week's grading of the Cowboys.
This was by far the worst game the Cowboys have played this season and it’s not even close. Everyone assumed that this offense would be able to move the ball against the Broncos defense but that wasn’t the case. The Cowboys offense couldn’t build any momentum and would go scoreless for most of the game. On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive line wasn’t able to get consistent pressure, and the secondary wasn’t able to stop the Broncos from picking up big chunks of yardage in critical moments. Overall the Cowboys were just outplayed, plain and simple.
You can’t put this week's loss on the coaching staff this week as it was the players on the field who weren’t able to get the job done. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was drawing up plays that could have worked if executed correctly on the field. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn had defenders in position to make plays but they just couldn’t finish their tackles or keep their receivers in front of them. The only real issue you can see out of the coaching staff was the move of Terence Steele to left tackle and not give him much help as he just couldn’t slow down the Broncos pass rush on that side.
It’s amazing what a week with limited work in practice can do to a quarterback, but we got a first-hand look at it this week as Dak Prescott looked off all game. Overthrowing or underthrowing his receivers all day, and at times when he could have made plays with his legs to pick up first downs he seemed reluctant to do it. Hopefully, this was the game where Prescott knocked the rust off and rights the ship going forward because going 19/39 for 232 yards an interception, and two touchdowns late in the garbage time aren’t going to cut it going forward.
Running Backs: C
The Broncos game plan this week looked to limit the Cowboys running game and rely on their secondary to cover the Cowboys receivers and it worked. Ezekiel Elliott couldn’t get anything going on the ground and would have to leave the game for a period of time with a knee injury but was able to return. Tony Pollard wasn’t able to find any space on the ground or through the air to make the plays we’ve grown accustomed to him making. The offensive line didn’t do them any favors this week either as they would combine for just 62 yards on 14 total carries. Hopefully, Elliott is okay and will be able to go next week.
Wide Receiver: D
When your tight end has more yards than your top receiver you’re not really going to win this game unless your tight end is Travis Kelce. Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb were effectively shut down by this Broncos defense and couldn’t find any space to get open, and when they were open Prescott wasn’t able to connect with them. Except for the time Prescott threw it right to Cooper for an important first down, and Cooper dropped it. The two combined for four catches and 60 yards. On a positive note, Malik Turner was able to find the endzone twice in garbage time to get the Cowboys on the board.
Tight End: C
Tight end Dalton Schultz seemed to be the only receiver that Prescott was able to actually get the football to, but that was mainly late. Schultz was able to corral four passes for 54 yards, outside of that Schultz and company weren’t really effective in blocking this week when lined up along the offensive line. This group will go as far as their quarterback allows them too and this week they weren’t able to get too far.
Offensive Line: F
The Cowboys offensive line was the main reason for the Cowboys’ offensive struggles this week as they weren’t able to give Prescott solid time in the pocket consistently. The loss of left tackle Tyron Smith was a huge blow to the offensive line and Terence Steele seems better suited to be the Cowboys right tackle instead of their swing tackle due to his inability to slow down the Bronco's pass rush from the left side. They were also unable to create lanes for the Cowboys running backs to gain yards, instead, they were fighting most of the day to get back to the line of scrimmage.
Defensive Line: C-
The defensive line early in this game was able to get interior pressure on the Broncos, but they couldn’t sustain that pressure and Denver was able to start picking up yards throughout the game on the ground. The pass rush wasn’t effective either as linebacker Micah Parson was the only player outside of Carlos Watkins that picked up a full sack this week. To make things worse they were facing a depleted Bronco’s offensive line that was missing three starters this week. Neville Gallimore and DeMarcus Lawrence can’t come back soon enough.
On one hand Parsons was able to pick up 2.5 sacks this week and had 10 combined tackles while fellow linebacker Leighton Vander Esch had 12 combined tackles. They were active in the running game as well but they weren’t always consistent and that led to some big running plays from the Broncos. It was a solid effort from this group, and Parsons was particularly effective in rushing the passer, but the Broncos gouged the defense in the running game and some of that falls on the linebackers. A real mixed bag here but compared to the rest of the defense they were the only ones making any kind of plays.
How the mighty ball-hawking secondary of the Cowboys has come down to earth. It wasn’t long ago that many were saying Trevon Diggs is one of the top corners in the league, but his play the last two games has not been elite. This week he again had penalties, and allowed one long passing touchdown from the Broncos. Anthony Brown took a beating too, and no one else stood out on the positive side. They were just as bad in the running game as their tackling left much to be desired with their struggles to get the ball carriers on the ground. This group looks to have lost their swagger and they need to find it again fast.
We did our best to put together all of the highlights from Sunday’s Dallas Cowboys loss to the Denver Broncos. You can watch them on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. Make sure to subscribe to our channel (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of our videos.