For the second straight season, the Cowboys are 0-1 after a loss to the Buccaneers, with a tough AFC opponent standing in their way to avoid 0-2. There are many differences in how the Cowboys will go into this Sunday’s home game against the Bengals compared to last year’s last-second win at the Chargers, but none bigger than the loss of starting QB Dak Prescott.
The Cowboys will have Cooper Rush at quarterback against the reigning AFC champions and Joe Burrow, a sharp contrast from their last meeting with the Bengals - a win for Andy Dalton in Week 14 of the 2020 season, against a Bengals team quarterbacked by Brandon Allen.
The Cowboys have won their last four against the Bengals, with Prescott beating them as a rookie, 28-14, in 2016. Cincinnati comes into AT&T Stadium as a desperate team too this week, starting 0-1 after a home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime.
Dallas sort of abandoned their run game after a time against Tampa Bay, but before the season this was a team that made it clear they wanted to get back to running the ball. With Tyler Smith at left tackle and their tight ends involved in the blocking scheme, the Cowboys run looks were their best offense from Sunday night. The Bengals did well against the Steelers run game last week, but haven’t fared as well against Ezekiel Elliott in his career.
Elliott went off for 134 yards and two scores including a sixty-yarder in the Cowboys 28-14 win back in 2016, a game they led 28-0 after three quarters. Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley were the Cowboys leading receivers that day, reminiscent of how the Cowboys asked Prescott to win with CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown in the season opener to no avail.
To support a run game they hope can carry them through the next 4-6 weeks with Rush, the Cowboys have the makings of a strong defense that held the Bucs to three red zone field goal attempts. Micah Parsons sacked Tom Brady twice, and Donovan Wilson gave the offense an extra possession with an interception.
Dan Quinn’s defense will have the chance to build off of this against Joe Burrow, who was sacked seven times while throwing four interceptions Sunday. Burrow’s first pass attempt of the season went the other way for a Minkah Fitzpatrick pick six.
Getting the ball back for the Cowboys offense was a huge part of how the Cowboys defense helped the team win in 2021, and it needs to remain a focus if they have any chance of staying in games without Prescott.
In the Cowboys most recent win against the Bengals with Dalton, they lost out in almost every statistical category, but came up with a defensive score in the first quarter to build a 17-0 lead in the second.
Most Cowboys fans certainly don’t want to hear this right now, but there is a path for the team to claw their way to 1-1, even going up against a Super Bowl participant from last year. The Cowboys narrow path to victory they’re counting on all year leaves them exposed to the big-play potential from guys like Jamarr Chase and Joe Mixon though, who could quickly change the course of this game by putting pressure on the Cowboys offense.
The Cowboys haven’t had much success with backup quarterbacks anytime recently, but Rush’s win at the Vikings last year has gone a long way for Dallas, and now he’ll have a chance to do what Andy Dalton did in 2020 and level the Cowboys record.
Much like their offseason decisions stared them in the face against the Bucs, this game will also be a homecoming for Bengals right tackle La’el Collins. The Cowboys chose to move on from Collins this offseason, with Jerry Jones saying Tuesday he watched every snap from his former tackle against the Steelers. Jerry also suggested that Jason Peters could be a right side player, a potential replacement for Terence Steele who had four penalties in week one. Steele could see plenty of Bengals pass rusher Trey Hendrickson, who has 14 sacks in each of his last two seasons and came up with one against Pittsburgh.