After a frustrating loss at Philadelphia, the Dallas Cowboys needed to bounce back and make a statement. The statement came in the form of of six points allowed, to what was at the time the third highest scoring offense. The return of Dak Prescott saw a slow start, but as confidence and comfortability grew, so did the performance from the Cowboys starting quarterback.
This week Prescott will look to continue his progression back to elite play as the Cowboys take on the Chicago Bears in Week 8. The Bears are coming off a strong win against New England, and got their first ever win at Foxborough.
So how does each offensive position on both teams fare in a head-to-head battle?
Dak Prescott vs Justin Fields
It was great to see the “Dak Attack” back in action last week, and what was even greater to see was his in-game development. The first drive was a little shaky, but what was also true was the running game failing to keep the drive alive. But as the game developed so did running the ball. Dak started his return to the regular season in Week 7 with a passing stat line completing 19/25 passes, 207 passing yards, one passing touchdown, and a rating of 113.3. But what was most important was not turning over the ball, and Dak accomplished that task with zero interceptions. As Dak builds on his return to form, the hope will also be that we get to see some of that scramble and rush ability that can be morale-busting to the opposition’s defense.
At Chicago, the enigmatic signal-caller from Ohio State, Justin Fields, continues to piece his early NFL career together. As much as the Bears struggles have been since drafting Fields, what can be said is that the Heisman runner up has improved in the last three games, with each of those games getting incrementally better. What has helped Fields win has been the coaches finally implementing designed runs into the playbook, letting the shifty quarterback add a full dimension to the offense, and using Fields best ability, his rushing ability.
In the Bears last game, Fields had 55 rush yards by halftime and a rushing touchdown. Watching him work his progressions and allowing his receivers get open, along with his ground game, all looked very reminiscent of Russell Wilson’s early days. If Mike McCarthy allows Dak to unleash his running ability in the same way, both these quarterbacks game would be a close mirror image of each other. And an added note, both these quarterbacks are on the rise at the same time, one returning back to health, one into NFL form.
Elliott/Pollard vs Montgomery/Herbert
Ezekiel Elliott had himself another good game. He scored touchdowns twice from the one-yard line, rushed for 57 yards, and averaged 3.8 yards per carry. But what you do feel on the field with Zeke is the defense change in stance as they get ready for the collision that is about to ensue, and those collisions can be heard across the stadium. This leads to the next point - Tony Pollard. What Pollard is doing is amazing work, but that is in part thanks to the sledge hammer that is laid down by Zeke. The double-punch of these two running backs is having success, and they complement each other well. Over the last three games the efforts of Zeke and Pollard have averaged 145 rush yards per game, and that ranks eleventh best in the league. Look for the trend to keep inclining as the Bears allow 150 rush yards per game and have ten rushing touchdowns allowed, that ranks 29th worst in both categories.
Meanwhile for the Bears, they are coming off a game against New England having rushed for 243 yards as a team. While the Cowboys can boast their double-punch at running back, so can the Bears. David Montgomery had a nice day last week with 62 yards on the ground, and added a touchdown. And the second running back, Khalil Herbert, is having an extraordinary season as well. Herbert, like Pollard, is coming onto the field after Montgomery’s work, and he caught a pass for a touchdown against New England. The Bears right now are averaging 181 rush yards per game, which is the most in the NFL, and granted, that’s down to Fields’ addition. But they have scored only seven rushing touchdowns with all that production, that’s only one more than Dallas.
Lamb/Gallup/Brown vs Pettis/St. Brown/Mooney
With a game under their belts with Dak, the Cowboys wide receiver corps will now have a little more cohesion and unity together. But for a team that is relying on its running game, and playing a team that is near the bottom in rush yards allowed, this receiver group will look to help Dak gain a level of comfortability when called upon. They should find a stronger connection with their quarterback, making them ready for later in the season when that chemistry will be tested against stronger opposition. The Bears defense has one of the fewest pass attempts against them, 193 attempts, which ranks the third fewest. With so few attempts, and there only being one ball to go round, this receiver corps will need to make as much use out of their targets as possible. CeeDee Lamb made use on his last week, having four receptions off six targets, managing to get seventy yards in the process. Dak also targeted Noah Brown, which was good to see, who added another fifty yards of receiving to the offense.
For everything the Bears do so well on running the ball, they do very little in the passing game. They currently rank last in passing yards, last in completion percentage, and their five receiving touchdowns ranks last as well. What’s more, the team has allowed 27 sacks, which is the most in the league, and currently have more interceptions than receiving touchdowns. Their leading receiver, Darnell Mooney, has fewer receiving yards than Noah Brown, but looking at the Patriots game, they don’t need huge yards from these guys due to the effectiveness of their run game. More quick passes, RPO’s, and moving their receivers in position pre-snap is enough for these receivers to get the first down. And this slight change in offensive approach is an interesting development this Bears offense has shown recently, and the Cowboys defense will need to respond appropriately.
What better way for Dak to throw his first passing touchdown on the season than to open Peyton Hendershot’s NFL touchdown account at the same time. It’s very true that Dalton Schultz is Dak’s safety blanket, and we saw it last week very quickly. But with Schultz having yet another scare in the game, the coaching staff will want to limit how much Schultz is on the field. That means more time for the rookie tight ends, Jake Ferguson and Hendershot. Both are still raw, especially in pass blocking. Let’s see what comes from them now that Dak is back in the mix and taking practice reps during the week. Pay close attention to Schultz’s practice report, recovery time is what he needs.
Cole Kmet to Fields, is what Schultz is to Dak. Kmet has eighteen receptions on the year so far, but has yet to get into the endzone. But for a team that runs the ball so well, Kmet isn’t a huge factor in that movement. He does enough to get it done, but not a huge man-mover.
Last week there was some errors from the Cowboys offensive line, and this is coming from a unit that was steadily improving through the season so far. The offensive tackles this week, Tyler Smith and Terence Steele, both gave up sacks, and gave up the most pressures. But looking back, Smith did have a better day than Steele in the run game. Overall, the Cowboys line still ranks in the middle in pressures allowed with 63, but have allowed only six sacks, which puts them near the top. They have allowed only two sacks more than the best offensive line statistically, the Philadelphia Eagles. The one thing that does need to be addressed is the pre-snap and blocking penalties. Of the seven penalties called during the Lions game, four of them were on the offense on blocking assignments or the offensive line. Nothing is more frustrating than a good run play called back, or the offense moving backwards on a false start, Cowboys fans have had their fill of these recently.
The Bears have injuries on the offensive line that hasn’t helped this year. Their center Cody Whitehair went to IR last week, their other center Doug Kramer went out in preseason. Tackle Alex Leatherwood needs to be watched on the practice report this week after missing their last game, and guard Lucas Patrick left the game with a toe injury, so needs to be watched on the practice report also. All this doesn’t help the most ineffective offensive line this season, and one reason the Bears passing game is avoided is really down to the line’s inability to protect their most valuable asset in Justin Fields. Even the Patriots managed four sacks and four tackles for loss in the last game, and facing the Cowboys pass rush this week will be giving Matt Eberflus headaches.
Which team has the better offense?
This poll is closed