Winners of four straight, the Cowboys are in firm position to make this year’s playoffs. During this winning streak, they have scored just over 37 points per contest on average whereas their opponents score just over 16 points. Having a 21-point scoring differential has been quite impressive. It seemed to be a forgone conclusion that America’s Team would continue to play well and blow out the Texans as they were coming into the Week 14 contest with just one victory. Then the great equalizer happened. That great equalizer was giving up three turnovers during the game. Those turnovers made for a much more interesting game than most had thought it would be going into the weekend.
It was an ugly performance, but a winning performance nonetheless. That sort of win is the kind of win that the franchise needed as they have squandered games like this in the past. Could this be a positive sign of things to come down the line? It certainly seems like the Cowboys have the right mentality to win games when playing so bad, and that could make things interesting come playoff time. Nevertheless, a win is a win. With wins, there is a positive side as to how the team made it happen. With how ugly they won, there is also a negative side as well. Let’s start off with the stock up and finish up with the stock down as we put a bow on the nail-biting performance against the Houston Texans.
Stock up: The defense stepped up when it mattered most
Looking at the final box score and seeing the awful one-win Houston Texans putting up 23 points certainly doesn’t scream elite defensive play. The defense also did not tally a single sack on the afternoon, which was very surprising due to how great the pass rush has been all season long. Given those two facts, it sounds like this unit didn’t play up to snuff. When taking a deeper dive into their performance you see they only gave up one drive of over 50 yards. That is quite impressive. The two touchdowns scored by Houston were a result of having a short field, as their first touchdown drive was for 24 yards. Their second touchdown drive was for just 27 yards. The short field on these two drives occurred due two miscues. The first of those miscues came way of a muffed punt by the normally reliable KaVontae Turpin. The second came via a Dak Prescott interception.
Speaking of Prescott throwing an interception, he had two on the day. His second pick happened with just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter and provided the Texans with field position at the Cowboys four-yard line. At this stage of the game with Houston possessing a three-point lead, things most certainly looked bleak for Dallas’ chances to scrape by with a victory. Four downs later, the Cowboys defense held up and gave up zero points which kept the Texans lead to just three. Regardless of the opponent, having the defense give up zero points from their own four-yard line is quite impressive and might go down as one of the pinnacle moments in the 2022 season for America’s Team.
Stock down: Better balance on offense with a greater emphasis on the ground
No matter who the opponent is, the key to success on offense is to have a balanced attack. The previous three games, Dallas had more attempts on the ground than they did in the air. With a duo like Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, there are zero excuses for not running the ball at a higher clip. Typically when Dak Prescott is closer to 30 passing attempts in a game, the success rate is much higher. In the Cowboys last loss against the Green Bay Packers, Prescott threw nearly 50 passes. Most recently, in a nail-biter victory against a one-win team, Prescott threw for nearly 40 passes. Throwing that much simply isn’t a recipe for success. Keeping the opposing defenses guessing by possessing great balance on offense is how playoff contenders turn into Super Bowl contenders. At over four yards per carry versus the Texans, the ground attack wasn’t flashy but effective and again, there was no reason to abandon something that was getting the job done. Even if it stalled for a bit, the Cowboys need the conviction to stick with it.
The offense needs to be more balanced with a higher focus on the ground game. The proof is in the numbers as the duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard on the year are averaging just under five yards a carry. That average ranks inside the top ten in the NFL currently. Even with the occasional dip in usage, both Elliott and Pollard are each on pace to rush for 1,000 yards this year. If both players can achieve this, it would be only the eighth time in NFL history to have happened. That is how historically good the Cowboys ground attack has been this year. Run the ball first and often, then pass as needed. It is a recipe for success given how talented both the defense and special teams units are.