We’re taking one final look back at the Week 10 debacle at Lambeau Field, where the Cowboys took a very bad loss to a then 3-6 Packers squad. The team as a whole left a lot to be desired with their collective play against a team they are more talented than. Being more talented or not, the execution in all facets of the game needs to be up to snuff. Mere talent can only get a team so far, and given the Cowboys performance, that talent was enough to at least force overtime.
In overtime, however, some of those mental miscues ended up being the nail in the coffin as Dallas suffered its third loss of the season. Given that the game was still close, even in defeat, there were some positives to take away and some negatives. The main focus after Week 10 is on the run game. Offensively for the Cowboys it has been good. Defensively, not so much.
Stock up: Even without the franchise’s number one running back, the Cowboys rushing attack was very effective
For a second straight game, Ezekiel Elliott was unable to go due to a knee injury that he had suffered in the Week 7 game vs the Detroit Lions. With the bye week just around the corner, the Cowboys star running back was able to get some much needed rest and to heal up for the stretch run. With the bye week occurring for Dallas in Week 9, it was one less game Zeke would have to miss while having extra time to get his knee healthy. While injuries are always unfortunate, the one positive in this case was having it occur close to the bye week. Elliott is trending in the right direction to be back in the lineup this week. Without Zeke in the lineup the past two contests, the running game hasn’t missed a beat.
Tony Pollard, in Elliott’s absence, has played very well and has had back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. Another player who has stepped up when his number is called is undrafted rookie Malik Davis. Davis hasn’t stuffed the stat sheet like Pollard has, but when he is in the game he is playing well. In Week 10, Davis carried the ball only five times but for an average of 7.6 yards per carry. It’s a small sample size, but early returns suggest that he has plenty of talent to play at this level. Speaking of talent, Malik Davis also showed out in pass protection as well. Davis is a player that can run, catch, and block which is key to being on the field in the NFL. If he can continue to build on this momentum when his number is called, the Cowboys may have found an unexpected new playmaker in the backfield.
This is something to keep an eye on, especially in the upcoming offseason. With the combination of Pollard and Davis averaging close to six yards a carry, there certainly was no need for Dak Prescott to throw the ball 46 times. Sure, the five to six yards per run play isn’t flashy, but it is very effective and a successful way to approach the game. This also would’ve helped Prescott to alleviate those mistakes, and also would’ve have given Dak easier throws when the defense is anticipating the run. With a more balanced approach on offense given how well they were running the ball, the chances of a much better outcome increases dramatically.
Stock down: Can the defense figure out a way to stop the run?
Another week down, and another 200 plus yards given up on the ground. In the last three games alone, the Cowboys have given up the third most rushing yards. Based on rush yards per game, Dallas ranks 29th out 32 teams. That is not a good look whatsoever, considering that the Cowboys rank 12th overall in opponent yards allowed in total each game. You could argue, especially after a three touchdown outing from Packers rookie wideout Christian Watson, that pass defense was the main issue, and that’s a fair point. However, the stats will tell you a totally different story.
For example, Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdowns but only had 224 yards in the air. Rodgers, also only threw the ball 20 times. The dynamic combination of Aaron Jones, and A.J. Dillon chopped up the Cowboys poor run defense and gained over 200 yards with an average of 5.3 a carry. The other stat that was telling was the total of 37 carries between the duo. It was clear that the Packers coaching staff knew exactly what to attack on offense, and that was the Cowboys run defense which has been trending in the wrong direction. Credit to the Green Bay coaching staff for coming up with a solid game plan and to attack the weakness of the defense by running it down their throats.
Dallas knows they needed help in this department which is why they acquired veteran run-stuffer Johnathan Hankins prior to the trade deadline. Even with his acquisition, the run defense as a whole has been under-performing. The NFL is a copycat league, and with teams seeing how the Packers attacked the Cowboys defense, you know the other teams will make note of this and run a similar game plan until Dallas proves it can stop it. If the Cowboys do not correct this soon, the stretch run more than likely will be a bumpy one.