You could argue that the Dallas Cowboys’ 27-13 win versus the Tennessee Titans was a bit too close for comfort. After all, the Titans had nothing to lose or gain from this game and were immensely outclassed in terms of talent on paper. Titans’ starting quarterback Josh Dobbs was signed a week ago and has limited playing experience. A dominating performance from the Cowboys was practically expected.
Yet, Dallas didn’t take total control. They’re not world-beaters, and they aren’t the imposing team on the ground that they were earlier in the season. Also, the defense has gone through a transition in the secondary and must smooth down those rough edges.
For most of the game, the Cowboys were banging their heads against a brick wall, in trying to run the ball on first down with poor results. They had 19 first-down carries for a total of 33 yards. Thankfully, the team learned to take what the defense was giving them and to rely on one of their most proven commodities, Dalton Schultz, who takes this week’s game ball.
Dalton’s dirty work
If there is one issue forDalton Schultz, it is his inconsistencies as a blocker. The critique is valid. Many still hold the memory of Schultz struggling to block as an in-line tight end last year late in the regular season and the postseason. Breakdowns would happen at the worst possible times. This season has been a different story.
Perhaps playing under the franchise tag and playing in a deep tight end group has lit a fire under Schultz. In the game against Tennessee, he delivered a key block, in an interesting spot that a lot of people likely overlooked. The Cowboys were facing a 3rd and 11 on their 22-yard line. Schultz moved into the backfield before the snap to flank Dak Prescott.
Tennessee sent a blitz right up the middle to get pressure on Prescott. Schultz, from his halfback spot, stepped up and stonewalls a blitzing Kevin Byard. Schultz’s block gave Prescott the time he needs to find CeeDee Lamb to keep the drive alive. A great job by Schultz to impact the game in more ways than one.
Seizing the moment
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but Dalton Schultz has seen a spike in his production since the return of Dak Prescott to the starting lineup. Schultz tied a season-high in receptions with seven, which is most most since Week 1. Schultz has always been that safety valve underneath and able to find the soft spot zone coverages.
As noted, the Cowboys struggled mightily on first down, largely due to insisting on unsuccessful first down runs. Out of Schultz’s seven catches, three of them came on second down after a minimal gain on a first down. Luckily, the Cowboys were able to get away from making things more difficult for themselves and take what was available to them. What was available to them was Dalton Schultz.
Entering the game, Tennessee had allowed the second most yards per game to tight ends at 68.3 with a total of 1,024 on the season, and third-most receptions at 5.6 per game. Schultz’s numbers were about that much at seven catches for 56 yards and two scores.
Play fake makes it a nice, simple touchdown completion from @dak + #WPMOYChallenge to @BinghamBaller9!— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) December 30, 2022
: #DALvsTEN on @NFLonPrime pic.twitter.com/ZBiOnutWX7
Thursday was the fourth multi-touchdown game of Schultz’s career and both touchdowns came at important times. The first of his touchdowns came after Michael Gallup had drawn a pass interference penalty for 51 yards to set up Dallas deep in the red zone. On the very next play, Prescott faked the handoff and found Schultz wide open in the flat for a score to give the Cowboys a two-score lead.
Dak and Schultz connect in the end zone again! #DALvsTEN on Prime Video— NFL (@NFL) December 30, 2022
Also available on NFL+ https://t.co/745fAOdlLT pic.twitter.com/jjG036EfOQ
Schultz’s next score was a thing of beauty. Following a Robert Woods score to bring the Titans within four points, the Cowboys engineered a drive deep into the Tennessee territory. Prescott. with time in the pocket, scanned the field before launching a pass to Schultz in the back corner of the end zone. The defender was there to make a play on the ball, but Schultz skies over Andrew Adams to snatch the ball away and once again give Dallas a two-score lead.