If you’re still looking for winners and losers from the Cowboys 31-29 loss to the reigning Super Bowl champions, and Kellen Moore isn’t at the top of the “winners list” there’s something wrong.
Outside of Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore may be the biggest winner of the week one loss, and Cowboy fans should be excited for what Moore will bring to the table in 2021. We must remember, Moore hasn’t had a ton of time with a healthy offense to install and run the plays he wants to run. Since taking over as the offensive coordinator in 2019, Moore has had to put up with Jason Garrett’s tight leash on his aggressiveness, his starting quarterback missing most of the season in 2020, and multiple injuries along the offensive line and wide receiver room. But with some of those same things cropping up in week one of 2021, Moore showed how much of a positive he is in this coaching staff.
One of the most impressive things about the play-calling in week one was how the Cowboys used the quick passing game (screens, RPO’s, and designed throws to the running backs) in place of a running game that was going to go nowhere. How many times over the last decade have we been frustrated with the same inside running plays that go absolutely nowhere to start off drives or on first downs? It was such a breath of fresh air to see the quick passing-game take place of the stubborn running game, against one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Moore had all of his weapons involved in the quick passing game, and the schemed plays for Pollard out of the backfield and lined up out wide were super fun.
One of the biggest issues with Kellen Moore and his offense, is their lack of success in the red-zone. While that issue cropped up yet again, it wasn’t due to a lack of creativity from the play-caller. On their first red zone trip of the game, after a failed third-down conversion where Dak and CeeDee didn’t quite look on the same page, Mike McCarthy elected to kick a 31-yard field goal on 4th-and-three, hard to blame Kellen Moore there.
The red-zone trip getting the most attention from fans is the series that stalled into a field goal, after a Elliott completion, and option play that did not gain a yard. On both of those plays, it came down to execution. On second down, Dak completed a pass to Elliott, but was late checking it down, and that forced Elliott too close to the boundary. If Dak gets the ball out to Elliott quicker, it looks to be an easy touchdown, but his eyes were in the end zone on the receivers working across the field. On the next play, Blake Jarwin whiffs on a block attempt, putting Elliott in a one-on-one situation with a Tampa Bay practice squadder in the open field. Unfortunately, Elliott was not able to make the defensive back miss, and was brought down for no gain. The field goal unit would come on to kick a field goal. Again, if Dak gets it to Elliott earlier, or Jarwin just halfway blocks the DB, Zeke walks in easy, or if the Cowboys $90 million dollar makes him miss it’s and easy touchdown. Tough to place blame on Moore there.
At the end of the day, Kellen Moore was tremendous on Thursday night. While many will complain about Prescott’s 58 attempts, many of them were designed quick passes to take place of the running game that was going to be stuffed all night long. The creativity was there, the efficiency was there, and this all came against one of the better defensive units in the NFL, while the Cowboys were without their best offensive linemen, Michael Gallup missing a big chunk of the second half, their quarterback playing his first snaps in nearly a year.
In Kellen we trust.