The Dallas Cowboys won on Sunday and did so for the 10th time this season. In capturing their 10th win of this year’s campaign, the Cowboys assured a second straight season with double-digit victories marking 2021-2022 the first time that the franchise has accomplished the feat (if you want to call it that) since 1995-1996. That is definitely notable.
While we make no apologies for having more points than the other team, the manner in which the Cowboys played on Sunday afternoon was disappointing in some particular ways. It seemed as if Dallas played down to their opponent (saying they “played with their food” is en vogue) and for 58 minutes of game time that rang true. Those final two minutes though, well, they were of the variety that we prefer.
We discussed everything from Sunday’s victory on the latest episode of The Postgame on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
This week will test the idea that multiple things can be true because so many will want to live purely in the extremes. It is just as true that the Cowboys were outplayed by the lowly Houston Texans for a majority of Sunday’s game as much as it is that Dak Prescott and his talented friends heroically snatched victory from the jaws of the feat in the game’s final moments.
There are four games left in this regular season and the Cowboys are all but assured to be playing beyond them. For now, though, we will focus on performances that came against the Houston Texans by way of our weekly stock report. Needless to say this was an interesting exercise given how unique the game was.
Stock Up: Tony Pollard
During our live postgame show here in the BTB universe I asked the audience who they thought was a more explosive player (non-quarterback) in the NFL than Tony Pollard. Answers like Tyreek Hill, Deebo Samuel (hope he’s alright), Christian McCaffrey, and Justin Jefferson were pretty common, but the point is that the list of players ahead of Pollard is rather small.
Pollard had the only Cowboys touchdowns prior to the game-winner and made them look relatively easy. We can sit here and bicker about how he should be used at an even higher rate than he is but the team does seem to understand that he needs to touch the ball with some regularity.
At the beginning of this year it felt inevitable for Pollard to leave in free agency when this whole season is over. Now it seems undeniable that the team could consider placing the franchise tag on him. He is so important to what they do on offense.
Stock Up: Leighton Vander Esch
Leighton Vander Esch played the best game of any Dallas Cowboys defender on Sunday afternoon. He was everywhere. Truth be told, Vander Esch has been more than reliable all season long. Sunday was a day that required a lot of dirty work in the middle of the Cowboys defense and the Wolf Hunter answered the call in pronounced fashion.
Stock Up: Noah Brown
This felt like the best game that Noah Brown has played this season with Dak Prescott as his quarterback which is a weird sentence, but that is just sort of the way this season has gone.
Brown finished with an appropriate 85 yards and had a tough catch on the game-winning drive that helped make it possible. He continues to perform in the limited touches that he gets within the offense which is something that nobody saw coming.
Stock Up: Ezekiel Elliott
There is no question that the usage of Tony Pollard, and therefore the rest given to Ezekiel Elliott, has done the latter well. Sunday was a fine performance that in the tiniest of ways felt like vintage Zeke.
Obviously Elliott had the game-winner, but he also had the rough and tough 25-yard gain early on. When we say that Pollard needs to touch the ball more it is in no way an indictment on Elliott because in his own right he is also moving things along.
Ultimately the Cowboys can run the ball almost at will which is why abandoning it is suspect.
Stock Up: Jason Peters
That Jason Peters was asked to play right tackle for a hopefully game-winning drive and did so as if he had been doing it at a high level all game long is one of the most impressive things that we have seen in a while from a Dallas Cowboys player. Peters has been so valuable for his mentorship of Tyler Smith, but you can argue that he won this game for the Cowboys with his presence on the right side in the final moments. It is unlikely that they move so effectively if Josh Ball is still manning that post.
Stock Down: KaVontae Turpin
You cannot give the ball away inside of your own 25-yard line.
The sample size was small, but the Cowboys were absolutely rolling early on against the Texans. Dallas scored on their opening possession and then pitched a three and out on defense only for Turpin to give it away and allow the Texans to tie it up. If you believe that momentum plays a large role in football, then Turpin served it up on a silver platter for Houston. Things were never as good for the Cowboys until the very end. It feels unfair to place the blame for the entire game on Turpin’s shoulders, but he pushed the first domino down.
Stock Down: Dak Prescott
Looking back on the last four weeks it feels like Dak Prescott has played a little bit less great (trying to be nice) as they have gone along. Like everybody he dominated the Minnesota Vikings from start to finish and while things were rough in the first half against the New York Giants he willed the team to victory in the second half.
Last week’s performance against Indianapolis was a bit of a poor showing but the fourth quarter sort of covered all of the mistakes. We can sit here and talk about the way that the first interception happened on a tip, or how he was bumped on the second one, but you cannot throw the game away and he almost did with that second pick.
Simply put, Dak Prescott has to be better. And we have seen him be and play that way. The final drive was incredible and deserving of applause, but hopefully the lesson of everything that preceded it is learned moving forward.
Stock Down: Dalton Schultz
His performance felt very similar to Dak’s in the sense that it was mostly disappointing save for the final moments where he made some key plays. Consider that he finished the day with six receptions for 87 yards but caught three passes for 52 yards on the key final drive. Additionally, the game could have even been a lot less stressful if Schultz had not dropped what appeared to be an easy touchdown earlier in the contest.
This season has been a bit of a rough go for Dalton Schultz in his franchise tag season. He is still a generally reliable weapon, but that certainly wasn’t the case for most of Sunday afternoon.
Stock Down: Josh Ball
Josh Ball was benched in this game, specifically in the game’s most important moment. The fact that he was benched and that he didn’t even start makes it worse.
A lot of decisions that the Cowboys made throughout the offseason have aged well and given them a benefit of the doubt that they otherwise did not have; however, their belief in Josh Ball always felt misplaced and we found out why over and over and over against the Texans. Time will tell what comes of Terence Steele’s injury, but it seems reckless to consider playing Josh Ball at right tackle full time.
Stock Down: Mike McCarthy
We have spoken before about how Mike McCarthy deserves credit for establishing a winning football culture with the Cowboys and that is evidenced by their ability to simply win games. Consider that the Cowboys are currently riding their fourth winning streak of at least four games just since last season began. Now consider that Jason Garrett oversaw five total winning streaks of at least four games over the course of nine years.
Being better than his predecessor does not make Mike McCarthy worthy of a statue, but for the most part he has been a good head coach for this team; however, he has said many times that the Cowboys do not have an issue with starting slow and we all saw what happened on Sunday afternoon.
The frustrating thing isn’t that McCarthy won’t acknowledge the slow starts, but that they are happening. Obviously not everything is his fault but the proverbial buck stops with him and there is no excuse for Dallas playing down to their opponent the way that they did on Sunday.