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Grading the Cowboys 35-point victory over the Indianapolis Colts

Cowboys vs Colts: Time to hand out the grades on this week’s report card.

NFL: DEC 04 Colts at Cowboys Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cowboys currently have won five out of their last six games, and three of those in a row. The only loss during this stretch was the overtime defeat from the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers. Since the Packers game, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has thrown the ball no more than 30 times, and the ground attack has carried the ball close to 38 times during the last three contests. The prior nine games, Dallas averaged just over 28 carries per game. With a nearly 10 carries per game increase, the Cowboys have become more balanced on offense and lean on the run much more than they did prior to the Packers’ loss.

It’s never good to see a team lose games. However, sometimes losses, especially to a bad Packers team, is exactly the kick in the rear the team needs. It appears that this loss has made the Cowboys make a change on offense, and the change to focus more on the ground game seems to be the kick in the rear that this team needed. Finding balance on offense to pair with an elite defense, and a solid special teams group, makes this Cowboys team even more dangerous. Speaking of the three units for America’s Team, it’s time to grade each units performance from the Week 13 demolition of the Indianapolis Colts.

A well-balanced offensive attack paid dividends in a rout

Grade: A-

Another week down, and yet another quality performance from quarterback Dak Prescott as he completed nearly 67% of his passes and threw for three touchdowns. Prescott, did have an interception as well, but it felt more like Colts cornerback Stephon Gilmore played the ball more physically than Michael Gallup did. On the return, Gilmore brought back to the Cowboys 19-yard line which ended up only costing Dallas three points. It could’ve been much worse, but the defense did what they’ve done all season, and that’s play elite football.

Aside from the interception, Prescott was very efficient, and although the passing statistics weren’t mind-blowing, it was still a solid game from the franchise quarterback. With passing attempts not as high in Week 13, the receiving yard totals weren’t as high but the pass-catching group did a solid job when called upon.

Cowboys unquestioned number one wide out, CeeDee Lamb, had another quality performance as he caught five balls for 71 yards and a touchdown. Even though earlier in the game a Prescott pass intended for Michael Gallup went the other way for an interception, Gallup was not deterred. He ended up getting the last laugh as he scored two touchdowns on the night.

Sliding over the ground attack, the elite duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard performed well once again. They combined for 168 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The duo also carried the ball 29 times for an average of nearly six yards a tote. Undrafted rookie Malik Davis was able to join the parade of touchdowns as he scored on a 23-yard scamper with 2:25 left in the game. The entire offensive unit played well, regardless of the statistics they put up. It was a great collective performance by this group.

A turnover filled evening was the catalyst for another elite performance on defense

Grade: A

Another game in the books, and another great performance from this group. They only allowed 19 points on Sunday night and shut the Colts out in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter alone, after a Prescott interception which gave the Colts the ball inside the 20, this elite defense gave up only three yards on that drive which forced Indy to kick a field goal. How demoralizing for Indianapolis to be given such great field position, only to come away with a field goal. This series alone is the Cowboys defense in a nutshell as they have bailed out the offense on many occasions this year.

The Cowboys wouldn’t be 9-3 without the play of this unit. In addition to their normal prowess, the defense forced five total turnovers as they picked off Colts quarterback Matt Ryan three times, and forced two fumbles as well. One of those fumbles ended up in the hands of former Colt first-rounder, Malik Hooker, where he scooped and scored against his former team. That had to have been a great feeling for him.

Fifth-round rookie DaRon Bland played one heck of a game as he had two picks and finished second on the defense in total tackles for the game as he tallied eight. Bland’s play was certainly not bland and he will need to continue to play well as the secondary took a hit via the injury bug when Anthony Brown tore his Achilles and will be out for the remainder of the season.

Given the situation in the secondary currently, the Cowboys elite pass rush will need to continue to play at a high level. Thankfully the unit as a whole is great, and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn should be able to move pieces around to keep this defense as good as they have been all year thus far.

The steadiness on special teams continues as it has been all season long

Grade: B

Once again this unit wasn’t extremely busy but were par for the course in Week 13. Kicker Brett Maher didn’t have any field goal attempts, but did make six of his seven extra points. On the year, he has made 94.7% of his extra points as he as only missed two on the year. Both misses have been blocked. Maher has been a revelation in 2022 considering how things ended in his first two years in Dallas. A year away and eight games with the New Orleans Saints apparently was exactly what he needed and is a very important part of this Dallas Cowboys roster.

Punter Bryan Anger, also has performed well and did so against the Colts. Anger had four punts in the game for a total of 198 yards for an average of 49.5 per boot. One of the four landed inside the 20 as well. Anger, who came off of his first ever Pro Bowl in 2021, has continued to play at a Pro Bowl level in 2022.

Return specialist KaVontae Turpin wasn’t very busy as he had no opportunities to return any punts. He did however, return three kicks for a total of 64 yards. At times, he could’ve just taken the touch-back, but he brought it out instead which cost the Cowboys starting field position on multiple occasions on Sunday night. Turpin, on those returns that resulted in less than stellar field position was frustrated in himself for the effort. His competitiveness on each return is a welcome sight, and regardless of the starting field position at times for the offense, it’s better to give him as many chances as possible. The more chances he gets, the better chances we see him break a big one for six because of how electric he is with the ball in his hands. It’s not a matter of if he scores on a return, it’s a matter of when.

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