We learned a lot of things on Thursday night. For instance, we learned that the Dallas Cowboys are not going to go undefeated this season.
If you had told any Cowboys fan prior to the game that the team would see a 400-yard performance from the quarterback while the defense would generate four turnovers odds are that they would have taken that and assumed the best. On paper it was a nice performance for Dallas, but there were certainly flaws throughout the game.
We are here to discuss all of it. Welcome to our winners, losers, and honorable mentions from the team’s opening game of the season, a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Winner: Dak Prescott
The Dallas Cowboys have one of the best young quarterbacks in the game right now who exerted his will against a defense that stifled Patrick Mahomes seven months ago, and he did it without his best offensive lineman in the building.
Nobody is saying that Dak Prescott is flawless. But he is undeniably the best player on this team, their driving force, the straw that stirs the drink, and the reason why the team almost pulled this thing off.
Winner: Kellen Moore
Offensively the Cowboys were well-prepared for the challenge that the Bucs defense presented which speaks to how Kellen Moore prepared for the contest. Many people wondered why there wasn’t a ton of action in the run game, but the Cowboys were down Zack Martin as mentioned and facing a stout defensive front.
Moore devised a strategy to put the Cowboys offense in a position to succeed. We saw some cute levels of misdirection and fun little tricks, but ultimately we were treated to a whole lot of offensive efficiency.
Winner: Connor McGovern
While playing without Zack Martin never seemed like it was going to be easy or manageable, Connor McGovern made it feel somewhat seamless.
There is no diminishing Martin’s impact on this team, but McGovern more than held his own. For being thrust into this situation at the beginning of the week he was wildly impressive and now represents depth along the interior.
Winner: Amari Cooper
It feels like people so often forget just how good Amari Cooper is. He reminded the world on Thursday night.
Whenever a big play is needed, Cooper is there. Whenever a spark is looking to be found, Cooper is there.
Any idea of him not being right physically - or the silly notion that he disappears on the road - can firmly be put to bed.
Winner: DeMarcus Lawrence
The Cowboys were blanked in the sack department and that will prevent some from recognizing how Tank contributed to the cause, but he was by far the team’s most disruptive and notable defensive player on Thursday night.
Of the four turnovers on the evening, Tank was the casue of the first one when he punched the ball out. He is extremely good at what he does.
Loser: Greg Zuerlein
It isn’t hyperbolic to say that the Cowboys need to take a long and hard look at this situation. They lost this game because of Greg Zuerlein.
No one is faulting him for missing a 60-yarder at the end of the first half (more on that in a bit), but the way he hooked his first field goal attempt of the season was extremely concerning.
Zuerlein also missed an extra point which means he missed two kicks that he definitely should have had. He isn’t reliable right now which is a high point of concern.
Loser: Anthony Brown
It is difficult to put in perspective just how bad of a performance this was.
Anthony Brown had a hard assignment in front of him in having to go against Antonio Brown, but he didn’t come anywhere close to fulfilling his obligation there. He was picked on over and over and over and a huge liability to the team on defense.
Loser: CeeDee Lamb
This one hurts. A lot.
Lamb will no doubt grow into a superstar, but he was the weakest part of the offense on Thursday night.
Dak Prescott’s lone interception came on a pass that hit Lamb right in the hands, one of his couple of drops on the evening. There were positive plays so it wasn’t a night filled with only dysfunction, but this was a really tough go for the second-year wide receiver.
Loser: John Fassel
Why did the Cowboys allow Greg Zuerlein to attempt a 60-yard field goal at the end of the first half?
Zuerlein missed it (shocker) and Dallas handed Tampa Bay sterling field position. Considering that the Buccaneers had been gashing the Cowboys for big chunks at that point on the evening this was playing with fire at the end of the first half.
It didn’t end up “mattering” but this was a really reckless decision by Fassel. We know that he has a long history with Greg Zuerlein, but the trust seems to be misplaced right now.
If you look at the game’s box score it will show you that the team’s defense had four interceptions against the Buccaneers. That is obviously literally true.
What’s important to note though is that only two of these were legitimate and authentic: DeMarcus Lawrence’s forced fumble and Damontae Kazee’s forced fumble.
The Kazee fumble that Jourdan Lewis recovered was a bit fortuitous in how Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin ran into Kazee. However, that’s football.
Trevon Diggs walked away with an interception as did Jourdan Lewis, but the former’s was off of a tipped pass that Bucs running back Leonard Fournette mishandled and the latter’s was on a last-second Hail Mary at the end of the first half.
This is important to remember. We can’t allow ourselves to only focus on the number.
Honorable Mention: Michael Gallup
It was a so-so game for Gallup, but he had a handful of big plays that moved chains and kept drives alive. Shining as a Dallas Cowboys receiver isn’t exactly an easy thing, but Michael Gallup always finds a way to do it.
He remains clutch.
Honorable Mention: Jourdan Lewis
His interception was a bit fluky and the fumble recovery came off of a small bit of luck, the reality is that Jourdan Lewis was in the right place at the right time twice. He struggled early on in this game, but his effort improved as things moved along.
There is no question that Lewis was the better veteran Cowboys cornerback on Thursday night.
Honorable Mention: Trevon Diggs
The interception was nice, but the play he had near the end of the game when he batted down Tom Brady’s pass was a better play. Diggs showed the flashes that we saw throughout his rookie season on Thursday night and it is exciting to consider what he is going to do throughout the rest of this season.
Honorable Mention: Damontae Kazee
Damontae Kazee forced a turnover. That deserves some kind of love.
Honorable Mention: Mike McCarthy
This will be a hard point for some to realize while the sting of a loss is still fresh, but the reality is that the Cowboys were well-prepared for a very tough football team. They almost won. They should have won.
Mike McCarthy had his team ready for this challenge. Again, it wasn’t a perfect performance. There is a lot to be worked on before the Cowboys visit the Los Angeles Chargers.
But what we saw on Thursday night was very positive with regards to the rest of the season.