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Cowboys news: High expectations for rest of season after 4-1 start fueled by defense

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Dallas Cowboys defeated the Los Angeles Rams 22-10 during a NFL football game. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

Is it OK to believe in these Dallas Cowboys? - Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas Morning News

After a 12-5 record led to a first-round playoff exit last year, how soon is too soon to buy in to this year’s Cowboys?

The records speak loudly enough. The 5-0 Eagles remain the NFL’s only unbeaten team. Hurts has gone from erratic to brutally efficient as a passer, not to mention those six rushing touchdowns in the first five games. Philadelphia’s defense has been overhauled. The Eagles lead the NFL in turnover margin. A team that won free agency and the draft is reaping immediate benefits.

Now what about the Eagles’ opponents?

It’s not really even about Rush although his 5-0 record as a starter the last two seasons is record setting and remarkable. While the Cowboys need him to continue his steady play — this is assuming Dak Prescott isn’t ready to come off the top rope and leap back into battle — it’s not the Dallas offense that has elevated the team to its lofty perch.

In his four games, Rush has thrown for fewer yards than the 49ers’ designated handoff man Jimmy G has in his four. Because of the time share in the backfield with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, the Cowboys do not have a top 15 rusher. Zeke’s 3.8 yards per carry behind a rebuilt offensive line is his career low.

The Cowboys do not grace the top 15 in receiving yards, either. Thoughts that CeeDee Lamb would instantly spring into the elite category with Amari Cooper shuffled off to Cleveland have been placed on hold. Lamb has been good, not great.

It is the defense that sets Dallas apart from its NFC competitors. It is the presence of Micah Parsons that feels as though it has changed everything about this franchise, almost erasing its recent history of playoff stumbles and absences. And, admittedly, even Parsons is 0-1 in the postseason until further notice.

Some of us questioned how Dallas could get as much out of its defense as it did in 2021 when the Cowboys led the NFL in takeaways. Those things are fluid and few teams are good enough to repeat year after year. Indeed, the Cowboys are outside the top 12 in takeaways after five weeks, but they are tied for second in turnover margin because the offense, behind a backup quarterback, has been so careful with the football. Just two turnovers in five games. That’s the real offensive contribution to this 4-1 record.

3 Takeaways from Cowboys’ Week 5 Win vs. Rams - Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report

Tony Pollard has proven he can make big plays every time he touches the ball this season.

Tony Pollard Has Become Dallas’ Most Dangerous Back

The sun hasn’t set on Ezekiel Elliott’s time as a Cowboys standout. However, the three-time Pro Bowler isn’t the same explosive playmaker he once was. The 27-year-old has become more of a grinder, while Tony Pollard has emerged as the Cowboys’ home run hitter.

Pollard showed this once again Sunday, rallying 86 yards on only eight carries—including one for a 57-yard score. Elliott was effective in his role, carrying 22 times for 78 yards, but he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry.

Sunday’s game followed a similar formula to what we’ve seen all season. Elliott led the team in carries (59) through the first four weeks but averaged 3.8 yards per carry with a long of 27 yards. Pollard saw less ground work (36 carries) but averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

It’s clear that Pollard and Elliott work well as a tandem, as they combined for 164 rushing yards against the Rams and complemented each other well.

“Zeke and TP did what we know they can do,” Prescott said after the win, per the team’s official website.

It’s also clear that the younger (25) and less heavily utilized Pollard is the more eruptive runner. Don’t be surprised if Pollard’s role continues to grow as the season wears on.

Rain or shine, the Cowboys’ commitment to the run is working - Shane Taylor, Inside The Star

The Cowboys run game should only get better when Dak Prescott is back under center.

In a matchup that pitted a reeling Los Angeles Rams offense and a dominant Cowboys defense against one another, the duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, combined with tremendous offensive line play, helped the Cowboys seal the victory yesterday.

Combining for 164 rushing yards and a touchdown, Elliott and Pollard, or thunder and lightning as I like to call them, fed off one another all game long. Zeke ran the ball 22 times for 78 yards, while Pollard had eight carries for 86 yards, including a game-changing run that helped the Cowboys regain the lead.

After falling behind early in the second quarter, the 57-yard touchdown run by Pollard gave the Cowboys a 16-10 lead in a game in which they would never trail again.

When the Cowboys have that much success on the ground, it’s not just about the guys carrying the rock. There are plenty of kudos to hand out, and Pollard did that after the game crediting those up front who did a phenomenal job opening running lanes all game for the two backs.

DeMarcus Lawrence swears Cowboys defense is NFL’s best: ‘We came out here and partied’ - Todd Brock, The Cowboys Wire

DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys front four dominated the Rams on Sunday.

The statistics- at least in several key categories- say the Cowboys defense is hovering right around the top of the NFL.

In points allowed, Dallas ranks third through five games. Sacks: tied for second. Turnover differential: tied for second. Passing yards allowed per attempt: tied for second. Rushing touchdowns allowed: tied for first.

ut ask edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, and he’ll give a much simpler- and far more colorful- answer.

“We’re the best [expletive] defense in the league,” Lawrence said following Sunday’s 22-10 thumping of the Super Bowl champion Rams. “Point-blank, period.”

“Absolutely,” Dorance Armstrong agreed.

It’s hard to argue the point. The Cowboys have now held all five of their opponents to under 20 points each, something that hadn’t been accomplished in Dallas since the 1972 Doomsday squad.

Over this 4-1 stretch against the daunting offenses of Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles, plus divisional rivals in New York and Washington, the Cowboys have let each foe find the end zone just once.

So what does that say about this unit?

“That we’re for real,” said linebacker Micah Parsons.

NFC Beast: Dallas Cowboys Playoff Path Could Still Be Bumpy Road - Art Garcia,

It is crucial for the Cowboys to draw even with the Eagles at 5-1 on Sunday night, with Philadelphia being the last unbeaten team in the NFL.

But could these Cowboys be better and miss the playoffs?

Unlikely, but possible, considering what the success of last season means and the schedule ahead.

“We got a lot of football left to play,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re 4-1, we’ve got 12 regular-season games, but this group has come together quickly and they’re accountable, they keep things in perspective.

“We know that we haven’t played our best game yet this year. But it’s exciting to be at 4-1 in that position.”

Despite the record, the Cowboys are looking up the undefeated Eagles (5-0) in the NFC East going into Sunday night’s showdown at Philadelphia. Dallas has a better record than only one team in the division – the Washington Commanders (1-4). The surprising New York Giants, which rallied Sunday in London to beat the Green Bay Packers, are also 4-1. (Dallas won at New York in Week 3.)

The playoffs in each conference are made up of three division winners and three Wild Card teams. While the Cowboys are sitting pretty, they also have the toughest remaining schedule of any of the NFC postseason contenders.

Dallas’ 12 remaining opponents own a .567 winning percentage, which is the fourth-toughest schedule, according to the website Tankathon. Only the Commanders, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans face stiffer competition.

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