Cowboys looking to make a statement against Arizona.
FRISCO, Texas – It’s always fun when the line between football and the philosophical blurs a bit, and what better time than now?
This matchup against the Arizona Cardinals presents a rare opportunity for the Cowboys – a chance to prove themselves against a playoff contender, without risking their own status as the NFC East champion or a playoff team.
Focused as they might be on the present, it’s the type of circumstance that prompts one to wonder about the future, and just how hard it is to be the last team standing in the NFL.
Amari Cooper: Playing With Tempo
“I know how special of a team we have and I know how special of a moment this is. I’ve been in the league long enough to know how fleeting it is, as well,” said Amari Cooper. “So I think that’s just me wanting to make sure we take full advantage of this moment and I feel like I’m a huge part of that.”
Cooper’s quote was in response to the news cycle surrounding him over the last week. Prior to the Dec. 26 win against Washington, Cooper acknowledged that he was less than thrilled with his role in the offense, as he caught just two passes for eight yards in the previous week’s win at New York.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s not something I can control,” Cooper said at the time. “I do think there’s a benefit in me getting the ball in those important situations like red zone and third down. …Like I said, I’m just going to stay ready for when that time comes.”
Which Cowboys defenders would you say are under-rated?
3. Carlos Watkins, DT
The Cowboys were at the bottom of the league in terms of run defense in 2020. With defensive tackle Trysten Hill coming off ACL surgery, Dallas needed bodies to fill the interior of their line. Owner/General Manager Jerry Jones was not going to commit a significant investment into the position a year removed from the Gerald McCoy deal, which never panned out.
Enter in defensive tackle Carlos Watkins. The former Clemson Tiger was previously with the Houston Texans before signing a one-year deal with the Cowboys this season. This signing smelled of “rotational depth.” Before 2021, Watkins had only four career sacks. There were no more than four tackles for loss in a single season, and he played defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.
Quinn had a clear vision for Watkins and shifted him inside to play the one technique on the defensive line. His vision worked as Watkins has been exceeding expectations all season. He currently has one sack and five tackles for loss on the season. However, his most impressive play is his pick-six off New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill.
Watkins’s biggest asset to the team has been his availability. When fellow defensive tackle Neville Gallimore injured his elbow in the preseason, it was up to No. 91 to step up and fill the void. The run defense for Dallas sits at 12th in the league in large part due to the consistent play of Watkins.
Each week, it seems his production on the field is getting better and better. Maybe the combination of him and Gallimore is starting to click. If he’s willing to stick around on another one-year deal in 2022, it might be beneficial for Mr. Jones to look at resigning Watkins at the end of the season.
Cowboys’ Bidding for Top Playoff Slot; Will Vikings QB Kirk Cousins’ COVID Hurt Dallas? - Mike Fisher, Cowboys Maven
Bad news in the hunt for the top seed.
FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys’ pursuit of the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed just hit a roadblock in Minnesota.
Dallas, presently in the No. 2 slot, can firm up that position on Sunday afternoon against visiting Arizona. And then Cowboys Nation’s plan was to hope Dallas would then have a 12-4 record and settle in for Sunday night’s showdown between the Packers and Vikings … hoping the Packers might lose to drop to 12-4.
On Friday morning, though, the Vikings revealed that quarterback Kirk Cousins has tested positive for COVID-19.
ESPN says that Cousins in an unvaccinated player and is therefore out vs. the Packers.
Cousins is the second quarterback on the Vikings to test positive in the past week. Last Sunday, the Vikings put backup quarterback Sean Mannion on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Mannion could be cleared before Sunday’s must-win game against the Packers, but for now the Vikings QBs of record could be Texas A&M rookie Kellen Mond and just-signed emergency helper Kyle Sloter.
Keanu Neal heads to Covid-19 list for the second time this year.
Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News has announced that Neal will miss this weekend’s game due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Unfortunately, this is the second time this season Neal has tested positive.
“Cowboys LB Keanu Neal has tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time this season,” Gehlken tweeted. “He’s been placed on Reserve/COVID-19, which means for a third time he will miss a game because of the virus this season (once as close contact). Neal wasn’t fully vaccinated to begin season.”
Neal signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Cowboys back in April. He switched his position from safety to linebacker.
In 13 games this season, Neal has 67 total tackles and a sack.
With Neal out for Sunday’s game, the Cowboys will need Leighton Vander Esch and Micah Parsons to step up and contain Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.
Cowboys are getting hot at the right time!
By the time the Cowboys kicked off their Sunday night home game against the Washington Football Team, we already knew that they had won their division and would also be unable to move into the NFC’s top seed this week. That didn’t matter to the Cowboys, who absolutely throttled last year’s division champion to the tune of 56-14 in front of a nationally televised audience.
Lost in the insanity of the lopsided score was the fact that Dallas notched their fourth consecutive victory and went undefeated in December for the first time since the 2014 season. Three of their four December victories came on the road, with two of them in cold weather and the other in the notoriously rowdy Superdome against a defense that shut out Tom Brady a week ago.
That game, a loss for the Buccaneers, was part of what set the Cowboys up in great position to claim the top seed in the conference and earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. Coupled with the Cardinals’ loss to the Lions that same week, it dropped the Cowboys into a three-way tie for second-best record in the conference, at which point the Cowboys’ superior conference record (now 9-1) gave them a tiebreaker despite a head-to-head loss to the Buccaneers.
When the Cardinals again lost this past week, it threatened to break up the three-way tie, but the Rams’ win over the Vikings kept it in place while the Bucs throttled the Panthers. That meant the Cowboys’ huge win over the Football Team kept them in position for the two seed. And if Dallas can win their two remaining games against NFC teams while the Packers lose one of their last two games, it would put the Cowboys in the top spot based on their conference record.
Long story short: it’s possible, but not probable. The Cowboys host the Cardinals, who are looking to break their current free-fall, before traveling to Philadelphia to play the Eagles. Both teams are currently on track for the playoffs but have plenty to play for. Meanwhile, the Packers host the Vikings - who beat them in Minnesota earlier this year and are just outside of the playoff bubble - before traveling to Detroit to take on a Lions team that’s upset both the Vikings and Cardinals in Ford Field already.
Micah Parsons: Cowboys Will Need “Pack of Lions” to Slow Down QB Kyler Murray - Sean Martin, Inside the Star
Lions >>> all other animals.
Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, a Texas native, has never lost a game at AT&T Stadium. His 8-0 record dating back to high school is the latest challenge standing in front of a red hot Cowboys defense, and the team’s pursuit of a top two seed in the NFC. Murray’s lone win against the Cowboys came against a historically bad Dallas defense last season, 38-10 on Monday Night Football.
Rookie LB MIcah Parsons is the biggest reason the Cowboys defense has turned around completely from a year ago. His lion-like demeanor on the field has fueled a ferocious pass rush, while his coverage skills at linebacker already make him one of the most unique defenders in the NFL.
Parsons knows he’ll be a huge part of Dan Quinn’s game plan against Kyler Murray, with the closing speed to contain one of the quickest QBs in the game. He acknowledged that defending Murray can’t be an individual effort though, telling the Dallas media it takes “a pack of lions”.
Murray boasts a 68.7% completion percentage in games where he’s been sacked at least twice, compared to an even more gaudy 72.8% in the three games he’s been kept clean or only sacked once. Parsons is only two sacks away from the all-time rookie record.
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