There aren't really moral victories in the NFL, it’s very much a win or lose league. Still, for Dallas Cowboys fans, Thursday night’s game proved that this bunch can play with anybody. They took the defending champs down to the wire, in Tampa’s house, and came within a missed offensive pass interference penalty from beating them.
So even with the loss, there was a lot to like about the game the Cowboys played, Well, at least much of the game. There was the disaster that was the special teams that probably accounted for the loss more than anything. And the defense still has some work to do, especially in their pass rush and at one of the corner positions. But there was also a lot to work with coming out of the game.
One thing that stands out is the play of Dak Prescott. For his performance after a comeback from the ankle injury and the strained lat that caused him to miss the preseason, he gets the game ball. Prescott was 42 for 58 and 403 yards with three touchdowns and one interception that was more CeeDee Lamb’s fault than his. It was an impressive performance and he laid to rest any issues about his ankle or not being 100% for the season. He is going to be just fine.
But there were others who also deserve recognition. One of them is offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. He resisted the temptation to run the ball into the Buccaneers punishing run defense. Instead, he dialed up the passing game and attacked Tampa Bay’s secondary. The ‘establish the run’ mantra was totally discarded and Prescott set a record for attempts. It’s probably not the script they want to follow every week, but Moore realized what would work this week and stuck with it.
Let’s also give a shoutout to Connor McGovern. We were worried about Prescott’s health with Zack Martin out of the game, but Prescott had plenty of time to throw the ball on most downs. McGovern stepped in and helped to handle Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh for most of the evening. In fact, it was Connor Williams who got hit with a couple of holding penalties, not McGovern. You almost have to wonder with Martin due back next week, if McGovern could be a better option than Williams on the left side.
Others deserve some love, too. Amari Cooper was a beast all game long. He had 139 yards on 13 receptions and two touchdowns. Stellar. Ezekiel Elliott may not have handled the ball much, but his pass protection was key in picking up blitzes and giving Prescott time. It was a clinic for running backs to follow.
Finally, the hands-on-the-ball/turnover portion of the Cowboys defense deserves praise. They had four turnovers and six passes defensed. That is being playmakers. They still need to shore up other parts of their game, but at least they are making plays, and that is something to build on.