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Grading the Cowboys defensive-led 27-17 win over the Saints

The defense saved the Cowboys this week as the offense continues to sputter.

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

On the defensive side of the football, the Dallas Cowboys are playing very good football for the most part, and that’s all thanks to the leadership from defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. You can’t really say the same thing about the Cowboys offense that continues to have issues with consistency in the running game which makes it harder for them to move the ball through the air. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s glowing reviews are starting to become questions about if he can right the ship. He’s lucky that the Cowboys defense is playing well enough to keep them in the game like they did this week against a depleted New Orleans Saints team.

Let’s a take look at the Cowboys through this week’s grades.

Overall: B-

The Cowboys offensive woes continue overall when you see the offensive line allowing pressure on Dak Prescott throughout the game, the running game being ineffective outside of Tony Pollard’s 58-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and CeeDee Lamb’s one big run. Then you have the questionable play-calling at times from Kellen Moore. The good thing for the Cowboys is they are getting healthy and have a talented, and opportunistic defense, to carry them until the offense can get back on track.

Coaching: B

The Dan Quinn-led coaching staff looked active and energetic on the sideline this week. Kellen Moore had another rough play-calling game in which he saw his offense continue to struggle to get out of the gate against the Saints. Moore has been unable to figure out how to get the run game going and the insistence on using Ezekiel Elliott over Tony Pollard is non-sensical. The good thing for the Cowboys is that their defensive coaching staff came to play and their energy was on full display by their players on the field. The Cowboys were without multiple coaches, including their head coach, and had only part of the week to prepare, so they get graded on a curve.

Quarterback: C

Prescott just seems off and it’s hard to figure out exactly what it is. He’s forcing the football and making poor decisions at times instead of taking what the defense gives him. He also isn’t running the football like he was earlier in the season, and some of his throws have just been off. He doesn’t seem to be seeing the field as well as he was earlier in the year. The good thing is that his play right now can be corrected because it looks like it’s all in his head. Hopefully, this win, and the additional rest will give him time to refocus and get back to the level of play he was at when the season began.

Running Backs: C

The running game once again just never established any rhythm this week and when the Cowboys called Ezekiel Elliott’s and Tony Pollard’s numbers, the yards were hard to come by. The Saints were ready for it and able to bring them down quickly. You can see that Elliott, who’s dealing with a knee bone bruise, just can’t get going. He was clearly limping at times during the game, so just like Prescott the extra time off should help him. As for Pollard, it’s time the Cowboys give this guy more time on the field because he has the ability to take it to the house through the air or on the ground. A weapon like that has to be utilized as much as possible.

Wide Receiver: B

The Cowboys were able to get Amari Cooper back on the field in a limited fashion but he was able to give them some plays to move the chains. Noah Brown was Prescott’s go-to guy early in the game to get started, then it became the CeeDee Lamb show for the Cowboys receivers as he led the team with seven catches for 89 yards. Michael Gallup benefited from Lamb’s hard work as he hauled in a toe-dragging touchdown in the first quarter. The Cowboys hopefully will get Cooper on the field more next week and get back Cedrick Wilson as well to bolster their offensive weapons and big-play options.

Tight End: C+

Dalton Schultz was the second-leading receiver on the team with five catches for 43 yards. Outside of that, the group was pretty quiet this week as they were mainly being used in the blocking game to help alleviate some of the pressure the Saints were putting on Prescott, although it didn’t look like it did too much good. The tight ends blocking has been sub-par recently and that has hurt the Cowboys ability to run the ball.

Offensive Line: C-

The Cowboys offensive line was bullying people early in the season and now all of a sudden they aren’t able to open up holes in the running game, and they are allowing more pressure on Prescott than they had earlier in the season. Is the change from Connor Williams and/or Terence Steele on the field the issue, or is it because offensive line coach Joe Philbin has been out after testing positive for Covid and not able to make adjustments during the game to help his unit. Whatever it is, they need to figure it out and get their heads back in the game because the poor blocking and penalties are really hurting this team.

Defensive Line: A

The Cowboys defensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage and keep the Saints passing game under wraps most of the night. Outside of the wildcat offense the Saints ran to give quarterback Taysom Hill room to run, they were in his face and forcing poor throws most of the night. They also added two sacks and scored a touchdown, so all-in-all it was a good week for this unit that just continues to get stronger with Neville Gallimore returning soon.

Linebackers: B+

If Micah Parsons doesn’t win Defensive Rookie of the Year and isn’t in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, then something is wrong with this league. Adding another sack giving him a total of 10 on the season, he also added another three tackles on the night and two QB hits. This kid is going to be a Pro Bowler this season and should make many more of them for years to come. Keanu Neal kicked in six tackles with one sack, so that was a decent showing for him.

Secondary: A-

He’s back. Trevon Diggs was able to pick off his ninth pass of the season but he wasn’t along this week as Damontae Kazee and Jayron Kearse got interceptions of their own this week. This was also a nice bounce-back game for Anthony Brown after his penalty-riddled game against the Raiders last week. They had a few issues with the designed pick-plays run by the Saints this week and some poor tackling *cough Kazee*, but overall this was a solid performance for a unit looking to bounce back from an embarrassing display last week.

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