It felt like the Dallas Cowboys were limping into Week 11, considering how the Green Bay Packers’ game ended the week prior. What a difference a week makes, as Dallas found their swagger and put up a monster performance against a then 8-1 Minnesota Vikings squad. The 40-3 road victory marks a franchise record for the largest win. The best part about that new franchise record is that it was done against an 8-1 team. Dallas has put the league on notice with that performance as they stake their claim to being a Super Bowl contender in 2022. With such a great performance by the team as a whole, the grading this week will certainly be much better than what it was in Week 10.
From inefficient last week, to a well-oiled machine on offense this week
The Cowboys offense was firing on all cylinders in Week 11 and put on a show. Starting with quarterback Dak Prescott, games like this one are the ones where his big contract can be justified. Prescott took tremendous care of the football and completed 88% of his attempts. Speaking of the passing attempts, he threw the ball only 25 times this week which is almost half of what he had attempted in Week 10. Keeping Dak to around a maximum of 35 pass attempts per game should be a big emphasis in the weekly game plans.
What the Cowboys also need to continue is pounding the rock with one of the league’s best one-two rushing duos, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Both players carried the mail 15 times on the afternoon. Pollard was obviously the more flashy of the two, but Zeke did reach the endzone on the ground twice in Week 11. Pollard would also have two scores of his own, but in his case, it was in the air. Tony Pollard was the most electric player on the field for both sides this week, and the stats back it up. Pollard rushed for 80 yards with an average yards per carry of 5.3, and also caught six balls for 109 yards. Nearly 200 yards of the offensive output was from Pollard, and at this rate, it seems like Tony Pollard’s contract for next season is getting larger and larger.
Guess who’s back? It’s the elite Cowboys defense we’ve been accustomed to seeing in 2022
The previous two contests prior to the Vikings matchup in Week 11, featured a Cowboys defense that continually was getting gashed, primarily in the run game. The Chicago Bears ran for 240 yards in Week 8, and even after the bye week in Week 9, Dallas allowed the Packers to run for 207 yards. Giving up back to back 200-yard rushing games on defense is not a recipe for success.
Thankfully in Week 11, those tides seemed to shift in the right direction even with this unit facing one of the better backs in the league today, Dalvin Cook. Cook did average 6.5 yards a carry which obviously isn’t a good look, but the Vikings continually fell behind the chains which caused Dalvin Cook to only carry the ball 11 times during the game.
The Dallas pass rush group sacked Kirk Cousins seven times and were constantly putting Cousins under pressure all game long. The Vikings’ offensive line was simply outmatched by the talented and deep assortment of pass rushers the Cowboys possess. In order for Dallas’ defense to protect themselves from getting gashed in the run game, the best remedy seems to be the pass rush. If the Cowboys pass rush can put opposing offenses behind the chains, it will force them to abandon the run which is something the Cowboys want given how poorly that area of the game has been defended.
The pass rush also had a major impact on the wide receiver group of the Vikings, as superstar wideout Justin Jefferson was held to three catches for just 33 yards. Even with the pass rush being as dominant as it was, kudos to the Cowboys secondary for shutting down a top level pass catching group of Minnesota.
The special teams unit was much busier in Week 11, and once again proved how elite they are
There have been some instances throughout the 2022 season where this group has had a light workload. Cowboys punter Bryan Anger certainly had a light workload with only two punts on the day, but both of those punts were a thing a beauty as both boots landed inside the 20.
Return specialist KaVontae Turpin also had a light afternoon and didn’t do anything that would put the Cowboys in harm’s way, although he did bobble one punt that was recovered. Even though he hasn’t returned one to the house yet, he has been a steady force in the return game all season.
Kicker Brett Maher has been a revelation this season. He’s made over 90% of his field goal tries and also over 96% of his extra points. It truly does not get much better than that from a kicking perspective. Maher, to his credit. made not one, but two 60-yard kicks to end the half this week. One of those didn’t count after an odd review situation, but Money Maher made the second attempt from 60 yards look like a piece of cake. It’s one thing to be an accurate kicker, it’s another thing to be an accurate kicker with arguably one of the biggest leg’s in league history. Maher has become a weapon that head coach Mike McCarthy has no hesitation in calling into action. It’s a nice feeling knowing that the special teams unit as a whole is if not the best, at least one of the best in the league today.