And just like that, football is back.
The Dallas Cowboys kicked off their 2022 season on Sunday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These two teams were the two highest-scoring teams in the NFL a year ago, but the offensive firepower wasn’t on display in this one, especially for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned and Dallas was put to a slow death with a 19-3 defeat. Here are ten thoughts on this opening night letdown. We’ll get to the Dak injury, but will look at some other things first.
1. Micah is as good as advertised
The Cowboys struck gold last year when they selected the Penn State star linebacker Micah Parsons with the 12th overall pick. He finished with 84 tackles and 13 sacks en route to winning the defensive rookie of the year honor.
On Sunday night, he picked up right where he left off. He sacked Tom Brady not once, but twice on key third-down plays, forcing the Bucs into field goal attempts. Parsons was quick around the edge, spinning around and going straight for Brady. The guy is arguably one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, despite being just one week into his sophomore season.
2. Dak looked uncomfortable
The game started promising as Dak Prescott looked good on the first drive of the game. Even getting behind the chains after a couple of negative plays, Dak connected on some third-and-long plays to keep the drive going. They had to settle for a field goal, but it was the only good drive the Cowboys had the entire game.
Prescott just didn’t look comfortable. His timing was off as he really couldn’t get into a rhythm. At times he held the ball too long as he didn’t like what he was seeing. Prescott wasn’t making good reads and throwing behind his receivers. There were times he threw into coverage, once resulting in an interception and a couple of others came close to being picked as well.
3. CeeDee was flat
After the team traded away Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns, CeeDee Lamb is now the team’s no. 1 wideout; however, it wasn’t the greatest debut in his new role. Lamb finished the game with two catches for 29 yards on 10 targets. He wasn’t creating separation and when he did, he got flagged for it as he got called for an offensive pass interference penalty when he shoved his left forearm into the head of Winfield Jr.
Overall, the Cowboys receiving group just didn’t look up to the task. With no help for Lamb, the team’s primary receiver wasn’t able to shoulder the load. This is a little concerning.
4. Defense keeping them in it early
Brady and company were moving the ball against the Cowboys defense as Tampa Bay didn’t punt the entire first half. On the surface that seems like a complete disaster, but the Cowboys' defense never allowed them to find the end zone until late in the third quarter.
Holding the Bucs to field goals early kept the Cowboys in the game despite Dallas spinning their wheels on offense. Unfortunately, there was only so long the defense could hold them off, and eventually, the Bucs scored a touchdown. 19 points were all Tampa Bay needed as the Cowboys' offense never found the end zone the entire game.
5. Protection was solid
All eyes were on first-round pick Tyler Smith who was making his NFL debut at the left tackle position after a training camp injury to Tyron Smith pushed him into the starter's spot. The rookie did a decent job as he held up in pass protection and didn’t get flagged for holding, something that plagued him in college. He did get flagged for a false start, but outside of that, it was a good showing.
The team did have to rely on backup guard Matt Farniok after starting left guard Connor McGovern left the game early with a foot injury. There were times when Farniok whiffed or Smith forgot to block the guy on the edge, but overall it wasn’t as bad as some expected as Prescott was only sacked twice.
6. What’s up with all the false starts?
Penalties were an issue for the Cowboys last year as they finished with the most in the NFL, and things weren’t looking all that great in the preseason as the flag-fest continued. In the game, the Cowboys committed 10 penalties for 73 yards.
But why were they committing so many false starts? The rookie Smith got flagged once for it, but third-year right tackle Terence Steele got hit three times. That is just inexcusable and it’s hard to put drives together when you keep moving your team backward. Overall, it was not a very good game for Steele as he was also flagged for holding which negated a good run from Tony Pollard.
7. Fournette was grinding
The last time these two teams met, Ezekiel Elliott had only 33 yards rushing and Leonard Fournette only had 32 yards. Both teams knew that they needed to establish a running game to have an effective offense.
Unfortunately, it was the Bucs who were successful at running the ball, led by Fournette. The veteran running back finished the game with 21 carries for 127 yards for a 6.0 yards per carry average.
8. Dak’s hand
As if losing the opener wasn’t bad enough, Cowboys fans will have to deal with the late-game injury to Prescott. Late in the fourth quarter, Dak’s hand got hit after colliding with Bucs pass rusher Shaq Barrett. The Cowboys’ prized quarterback left the game and didn’t return, forcing Cooper Rush to see action.
It’s already being reported that he will need surgery and will miss at minimum a few weeks, but it could be more.
9. Just can’t beat Brady
The Cowboys have never beaten Tom Brady over his NFL career as they are now 0-6 against the future Hall of Famer. Considering Brady was contemplating retirement, this was probably the Cowboys' last chance to beat him.
Last year, Dallas finally beat Bill Belichick in an overtime thriller, but it looks like they’ll never get a W against one of the game’s best quarterbacks.
10. Last place in the NFC East
Last season, the Cowboys won the NFC East title and are trying to repeat for the first time since 1995. But to do that, they’re going to have to dig themselves out of an early hole as they were the only team from the division to lose on Sunday. The Philadelphia Eagles held off the Detroit Lions 38-35. The Washington Commanders beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 28-22, and even the New York Giants came back to beat the Tennessee Titans 21-20 with a big two-point conversation late in the game.
It’s only week 1, so there is still time, but it’s weird seeing the Cowboys trailing all three of their divisional foes in the standings.