Dak Prescott was surgical
Dak Prescott completed 17 of his 20 pass attempts for about 200 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for another score to power the Cowboys to a crucial victory. The biggest score, however, came with the game knotted at 21 with about six minutes to play. Despite only two punts on the day, separated by three consecutive touchdown drives, the Cowboys found themselves in danger of blowing a big lead. Prescott not only delivered yet another game-winning drive, he did it near flawlessly.
On the decisive score, Prescott scrambled on a third-and-short situation out to his right. He could have simply run for a first down and a chunk more of yardage. Instead, he noticed his tight end Dalton Schultz singled up in the endzone and heaved one deep where only his security blanket could make a play on the ball. Schultz came down with it and the Cowboys defense used the second chance to close out the game with a big stop moments later.
Trevon Diggs isn’t the only ballhawk on this defense
The Cowboys raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first half thanks in no small part to two Kyler Murray interceptions. The first came when Kelvin Joseph undercut a receiver in zone coverage, setting up the offense inside the Cardinal 30 to setup the first score of the game. The second came on Arizona’s following possession when Micah Parsons deflected a pass into the air and both Diggs and Jourdan Lewis went up for ball. Lewis came down with the ball and once more gave the ball to the Cowboys offense, this time at midfield, helping to establish a commanding lead.
Field position was key throughout this game for Dallas, and to the Cowboys’ credit, they made a habit of capitalizing on the short field by punching the ball into the endzone—first behind Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, and then later on strikes to CeeDee Lamb and Schultz. The defense might’ve struggled between Arizona’s last possession of the first half and then through much of the second half, but by then the lead was so commanding that the Cardinals simply ran out of time.
The fact that Dallas then forced a turnover on downs on Arizona’s final drive near the Cowboy 30-yard line was a nice exclamation point, though. Back-to-back stops by Randy Gregory on 2nd-and-3 (a five-yard sack) and Parsons (a one-yard gain on a Murray scramble) set the stage for the secondary to break up the desperation 4th-and-7 pass attempt to ice the game. While it wasn’t entirely a thing of beauty, the defense nevertheless came up big when it had to.
Neville Gallimore is an often overlooked game-changer in the heart of an already stacked defensive line
After Dallas had turned a Kyler Murray interception into seven points the drive before, the Cardinals needed a response. Neville Gallimore had other plans, putting an end to Arizona’s second possession with a determined sack of Murray. The Sooner-on-Sooner violence derailed the Cardinal threat before it could even find its footing and helped flip the field position to lead to a 14-0 lead.
Even beyond Gallimore’s early stop, the defensive tackle was able to disrupt the ground game for the visiting team by eating up space on multiple runs and either forcing James Conner or Chase Edmonds to try and bounce runs out wide where Gregory and Lawrence or, sometimes, Parsons was waiting. Not all of that shows up in the stat sheet but considering the weakness the heart of this defense has been in years past, it was noticeable how much more difficult it was for a team who wants to run the ball struggling to get anything done between the tackles.
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