Texas Tech football alums: Terence Steele handles Joey Bosa in Dallas Cowboys victory - Matthew Conner, Wreck’Em Red
More attention should be paid to the efforts of Terence Steele.
Now, Steele wasn’t perfect. He did allow three QB pressures on the afternoon. What’s more, he benefitted from playing next to perennial All-Pro right guard Zach Martin. Additionally, the Cowboys’ game plan was run-heavy as Dallas threw the ball only 27 times while running it 31.
But Steele was a huge part of the last-second victory that saw kicker Greg Zuerlein boot a 56-yard FG to win the game as time expired. And if we are going to note that the Dallas passing attack was upstaged by the ground game, we have to give Steele credit for being part of an offensive line that paved the way for a huge day for the Dallas running backs.
For the game, Steele and his fellow linemen helped open up holes that allowed Dallas to run for 198 yards and two touchdowns. That included 109 yards for Tony Pollard who averaged 8.4 yards per carry and who found the endzone as well.
But back to Steele, stepping up in a pinch is nothing new for him. Having to be the next man up on Sunday because Dallas’ starting right tackle, La’el Collins, has been suspended for five games for a substance abuse violation, Steele made his 15 career start after being an undrafted free agent who signed with Dallas in the 2020 offseason.
Steele was never expected to play so much right away. But last year, he was tossed into the fire when Collins failed to play a single snap for Dallas due to a preseason hip injury.
While the going wasn’t always smooth during Steele’s rookie season, he made strides as the year progressed and he finished with 14 invaluable starts to help him get his NFL sea legs. But this year, he was expected to assume a backup role for Dallas with Collins returning to full health.
Graziano takes a look at the NFC East.
This week, we wanted to look at the silly, sloppy NFC East — football’s most consistently unpredictable division. When I lived in Florida, they used to say, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.” The NFC East is the Florida weather of NFL divisions.
The Cowboys are once again NFC East favorites
When Sunday began, the Cowboys were 0-1 but were already favored by ESPN’s Football Power Index with a 43.2% chance to win the division. (The Eagles, the only team in the division that won in Week 1, were second at 30.9%.) The Cowboys won Sunday, the Eagles lost and the other two teams didn’t play, so you have to figure the FPI likes Dallas’ chances even better now.
The point is, if you thought before the season that the Cowboys would win the division, and you’ve watched their first two games, you probably still think that. The DeMarcus Lawrence injury and the La’el Collins suspension are both damaging and likely will cost them games. But they didn’t cost them Sunday’s game, and the Cowboys are 1-0 without those guys. Tread water until they get back, steal another game here or there, beat the other teams in the division, and they could be in strong position for a big finish come December and January.
Some team has to win this thing, and Dallas does have the best quarterback. If you want to crown ‘em, as Dennis Green once said, then crown ‘em. Just be prepared to change your mind eight or 10 times before the season’s over.
Chadiha explains why the Cowboys defense is more than hot garbage this year.
The Cowboys' defense is good enough: There's always the inherent danger of becoming too enamored with Dallas at this early stage of the season. There's often a confounding mix of drama and dysfunction that eventually infiltrates the team. However, the Cowboys do look much better on defense these days. They produced four takeaways in a season-opening loss to Tampa Bay. They snatched another two in a 20-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Skeptics can point to the 400-plus total yards Dallas has allowed in each of its first two games -- and the fact that Los Angeles had two touchdowns waved off because of penalties -- but it's also worth noting that their defense doesn't need to be exceptional. It just needs to be good enough. So far, we've seen that this unit is opportunistic and it has some pride, especially since rookie linebacker Micah Parsons had to move to defensive end to compensate for both DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory not being available on Sunday. This unit should look even better if the Cowboys are able to run the ball as effectively as they did against the Chargers, with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard proving to be a lethal 1-2 punch. Yes, it's still early, but this defense already has been a refreshing change from the hot garbage Dallas was putting on the field last season.
Sturm offers his annual "winning talk."
The “winning talk” is pretty simple and yet pretty disappointing to the part of the Cowboys’ fandom group that enjoys being mad at this team. They want wins, but they want them to be nice and neat with no mud on the clothing. They want utter annihilation and an enemy that taps out before the fight has begun. They don’t like the grind, the street fight, nor the grueling feeling of being stretched and contorted for three hours of internal struggle. They don’t like how long it takes to clean off the blood and dirt from the uniforms.
They don’t like how hard it is to become good.
The “winning talk” is short and sweet, and it pretty much goes like this:
There is no such thing as a bad win in the NFL. We don’t apologize for wins in the NFL, and we sure won’t apologize for road wins against projected playoff teams when things were a little untidy. We hunt for wins and treasure the spoils. We are proud of them and accept them with open arms. And given how difficult it is to get them, if you want to fill your postgame hours and even the next couple of days calling for firings and benchings and wish to wallow in the general malaise of Cowboys post-1995 misery, then the tone of my general Morning After pieces might not be for you.
Dallas Cowboys: Top 3 stars of Week 2 victory over Los Angeles Chargers - Jarrett Prendergast, The Landry Hat
Some Cowboys players who stepped up and got the job done.
Dallas Cowboys Offensive Star: Tony Pollard
With all the star power on the Cowboys’ offense, seeing backup running back Tony Pollard as the star of the game is definitely not something I thought I would be typing. But, Pollard was awesome for Dallas on Sunday.
His explosiveness was quite evident as he recorded 13 rushes for 109 yards and a touchdown, while also chipping in three catches for 31 yards. He provided the Cowboys with many runs outside the tackles that resulted in big plays while Ezekiel Elliott did most of his running between the tackles.
The change of pace that Pollard presents allows the offense to be more creative with their formations. As seen on the first touchdown of the game for Dallas.
The defense had no chance of stopping Pollard on this play because by the time the defensive end realized he had the ball Pollard was already past him and on his way to the endzone. The Cowboys’ offense is better when both Zeke Elliott and Pollard can be utilized so look for him to continue to get touches in space with hopes of busting a big play.
Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy blames stadium clock gaffe in LA for inexplicable clock management in Week 2 - Patrik Walker, CBSSports
This excuse for the time-management issue is interesting.
Standing at the Chargers 41-yard line with 33 seconds remaining in regulation following a three-yard gain by running back Tony Pollard, the Cowboys allowed 29 critical seconds to run off of the clock on third down before finally stopping it with a timeout.
But why? Considering Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott had already racked up 180 combined rushing yards with two touchdowns on the day, it only makes sense Dallas would use that time and down to run one more play and hopefully get a previously struggling (Week 1) Greg Zuerlein closer for a potential game-winning attempt. Well, as McCarthy explains it, the clock at SoFi Stadium went blank, so the Cowboys had no idea how much time was left as the timer rapidly approached zero — nearly forcing overtime in the process.
“One of our players came off who shouldn’t have come off, just communication there. Then we were just going to run it down, but the clock I was watching went off the board,” McCarthy explained following the game, via the team’s website. “And the clock Kellen had, he said he got blocked by a camera guy.”
It ultimately took the coaches in the booth screaming down to the headsets on the sideline to call timeout.
“The communication was great from up top,” said McCarthy.
Dynamic Duo: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard Eat Against the Chargers Defense in Week 2 Win - Matthew Lenix, Inside The Star
The Cowboys running backs put on a show.
It was a more balanced effort from the Cowboys with 27 pass plays and 31 runs plays in Week 2 as opposed to 58 passes to 18 runs in Week 1. Elliott spoke after the game about how the Cowboys can be effective on offense no matter what the situation is.
“I think we showed that today that we will have different game plans and we’re going to take what the defense gives us,” Elliott said. “And if they load the box up, we are going to throw it on you. If you play coverage, we’re going to run it. So you can pick your poison.”
As good as Elliott was the star of the game for the Cowboys was Pollard. He was involved in the game plan early and took full advantage with 109 yards rushing on 13 carries and added 31 yards on three receptions and a touchdown. Pollard’s speed and explosiveness make him a threat to score every time he gets the ball and he’s a nice change of pace from Elliott who is more of a body puncher to use a boxing analogy, meaning he wears you down slowly.
This was the third 100-yard game of Pollard’s career and his first since his rookie season in 2019. He averaged 8.8 yards per touch on Sunday and for the season, albeit two games, he’s averaging 7.7 yards per carry.
Pollard’s running mate, Elliott, had nothing but praise for the performance of the former Memphis Tiger.
NFC East Roundup: Week 2 Proves Late-Game Execution Will Win Division - Mike DePrisco, NBC Washington
One week at a time, one game at a time.
Dallas Cowboys (1-1, T-1st)
The Cowboys may have come out with a win on the road thanks to a game-winning field goal, but their clock management late in the game wasn’t all that inspiring. Mike McCarthy cited various on-field issues that forced him to let the clock wind down and settle for a 56-yard try for the win, but if Zuerlein didn’t drill the kick, the head coach would’ve been feeling the heat in Dallas with his 0-2 football team.
All that aside, a win is a win, and the Cowboys have plenty to feel good about as they try to improve to 2-1 against Philadelphia in Week 3. Their defense looks to be improved from last season and they found a way to move the ball on the ground against Los Angeles, which they couldn’t do in their season opener.
It’s still a new thing to Cowboy fans, coaching actually making adjustments.
Dallas Cowboys Pass-Rush
Micah Parsons, EDGE
The Dallas Cowboys sustained two enormous blows to their pass rush this week. First, Randy Gregory (RDE) popped positive for COVID and was placed on the RESERVE/COVID list, then DeMarcus Lawrence broke his foot, ruling him out for the next two months.
With both starting edge players out and only rotational reserves behind them, the Cowboys were in quite the predicament against the Chargers. Do they live by the “next man up” mantra or do they adapt to the situation at hand and find a work-around?
I think you know the answer to that one.
To the glee of many, the Dallas Cowboys immediately started working their rookie linebacker into the defensive end drills in practice. The uber-athletic linebacker out of Penn State has top edge player traits, but virtually no training (please don’t call high school snaps as experience).
The move to DE was understandable, but hardly a no-brainer. Yet it was a risk the Dallas Cowboys appeared to fully commit to. Instead of hedging and bouncing Parsons between DE and MIKE like many of us expected them to, they jumped both feet in. And it’s safe to say the move paid off.
Parsons finished the day with eight pressures, four hurries, one sack, and one hit. His 40% pass-rush win-rate was elite by NFL standards and made him top-5 in the NFL on Sunday. His pressures are the most the league has seen from a rookie since Nick Bosa. It’s safe to say he feasted in the new role.
Micah Parsons didn’t pull from the deepest arsenal of pass rush moves, he accomplished this on mostly natural ability. It’s crazy to think about how good he can be if he dedicates to the craft and actually learns more technique and strategy, isn’t it?
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