It may not have been exactly the return to form many Cowboys fans were hoping for, but Dallas managed to break a short losing streak with a win over the New Orleans Saints, 27-17. Sometimes you have to win ugly, and that is what Dallas did. Now they have a mini-bye to rest, self-evaluate, and try to get things back on track.
It should be remembered that the Saints defense is a pretty good unit that is fully capable of causing trouble. And they did just that for a sputtering Cowboys offense. Additionally, the Cowboys were coming off a chaotic week where their head coach couldn’t even attend the game. On-the-fly adjustments had to be made, multiple assistant coaches had to take over for other missing coaches, and they were on the road.
Truly, that could have been a recipe for disaster, but the Cowboys prevailed. That is commendable as they got to 8-4 on the season, a record fans would have gladly taken if presented with before the season began.
What did the Cowboys have to say about their performance? Basically, there’s no apologizing for a win, but they would like to play better.
On offense, the biggest problem facing the Cowboys is their run game. It has died on the vine, save for a couple of explosive plays by Tony Pollard and CeeDee Lamb. Ezekiel Elliott is hurting and the offensive line is failing. But, the players would like to remind us the Saints are very good at run defense.
“The Saints have a good front,” Elliott said after the game, unwilling to attribute his struggles to his knee. “They do a lot of movement. They have a lot of good guys up front. So it was a little tough.”
As players do, they tend to look ahead.
“We made the plays we needed to make and all we can do is celebrate this win and turn around and figure out how we can get better,” Elliott said.
But the one thing this 10-day rest will do is hopefully help heal Zeke’s knee because he doesn’t look the same from the start of the season.
“It’ll be good to get a break,” Elliott said.
What has complicated matters for Dallas is that their passing offense is not performing at the level it was during the six-game win streak. It hasn’t completely died like the running game, but it is certainly inconsistent.
Again, when you win, that is always the most important thing.
“I mean, a win is a win. It means a lot,” said Dak Prescott. “The adversity we’ve had, we’ve faced coming off the last two weeks and then coming in this week and being hit with the COVID, losing the head coach this week. So many people stepped up.”
But even Prescott knows the offense is struggling, and that he is part of that.
“It’s frustrating on my part,” Prescott said. “I think just being greedy in some of the reads, trying to put the dagger in them, I guess you could say, rather than just continuing to play through the play and play through the drive.”
“We’ve just got to be more sound, more focused,” Prescott said. “As I’ve said, I’ve got to stay disciplined, just playing it play by play and not try to put the dagger in them and knock them out of the game.”
Luckily for the Cowboys and their fans, the defense continues to step up in most games. (We’re trying to forget the Raiders game). One big story for this game was the return of their leader on defense, DeMarcus Lawrence. He had limited snaps, but still affected the game and was thrilled to be back.
“It was electric,” Lawrence said in his postgame press conference. “Just to play with the guys, at the level they’re playing with, and to be out there and have a little impact on the game, is amazing. I’m just glad to be back. Thankful I can play this game of football that I love. Glad we came home with the win.”
The coaching staff was also very excited with his return.
“I was very excited to see him,” Quinn said. “He’s got such a quickness and violence with his hands and his play style. So I was expecting he would look rusty, and he did not. It was a difficult night, chasing and chipping on the edges to go but his attitude and his mind-set, and now I’m hopeful we can keep stacking weeks and weeks as we’re building and his play time will increase.”
Lawrence’s return is welcome, but the guy who is turning into the star on defense, Micah Parsons, keeps on keeping on.
“Regardless of what the offense is doing, we’ve got to do what we do regardless,” said uber talented linebacker Micah Parsons. “If the offense scores zero points, then we expect to hold the other team to zero points.”
“I was hunting after [Taysom Hill] all night, chasing after him,” Parsons said. “He’s faster than most quarterbacks in the NFL, but it felt good to get the quarterback down. Told you I’m going after every quarterback.”
We mentioned the chaos in the coaching area as multiple assistants, along with head coach Mike McCarthy, were unavailable for the game. Needless to say, they were thrilled to get the win and move on to the next game.
“It was rough, I’m not going to lie,” McCarthy told ESPN via phone after the game. “I’m proud of the guys and how it all turned out, but I don’t ever want to do this again.”
“Adversity win, ugly win, however, you want to define it, you have to have these wins, especially when you get to later in the year when you’re playing teams that are trying to get in the playoffs or make a run,” McCarthy said. “This is a great experience for us. Let’s face it, this is today’s NFL. You’ve got to be able to win with change.”
“One thing you’ve heard me say before is I love doing hard things with a group of people, and this was one of those moments,” said Quinn, who was the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach for parts of six seasons and had a 2-3 record inside the Superdome. “We got great people to get the job done. We wanted to make sure Mike and all the guys who missed, let them know we got their backs. So honestly, that was the only thing I was nervous about. I didn’t want to let him down. He’s done a great job leading us, to how it’s going to go down, the play style that we wanted. But it was just a cool win.”
It wasn’t pretty, unless you count the four interceptions from the defense, but there is never shame in a win. It’s a chance to learn from mistakes while not losing, and that is a pretty good bargain overall.
The Cowboys are not going to make noise in the playoffs with the way they are currently playing. Fortunately there is still plenty of time to get things corrected.