What an utter surprise! A 20-17 Cowboys win over the Bengals with a last-minute field goal from Brett Maher felt nostalgic, but welcomed by all of Cowboys Nation en route to the team’s first victory Monday of the season. There was much to be pleased about, but like just about every other game, enough to still take issue with. We will discuss all that here. Sit back and enjoy your coffee.
It would be a disservice to this elite defense not to showcase just how special they were. Burrow threw for less than 200 yards and averaged just 5.5 yards per completion. After Leonard Fournette’s six yards per carry last Sunday, they held Mixon to half that, running for 57 yards on 19 carries. Micah Parsons, Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler, and Leighton Vander Esch all played well throughout the game. Parsons just seems to be on a different level than the rest, though. The guy is special, plain and simple, as he glares down the barrel of a Defensive Player of the Year outing.
As for the offensive side of the ball, Cooper Rush played good enough. There was never some grandiose expectation for him to come in and have a box score filled with huge yardage and stats. He is what he is, but that was enough on Sunday. Noah Brown had another fine night receiving, clocking a touchdown and only nine yards shy of a 100-yard outing. The pass blocking was also sound as Rush got sacked just once all game. To cap off the offensive positives, Tony Pollard rebounded nicely and had chunk plays that resembled last year. Brett Maher is perhaps the brightest positive of the afternoon, ultimately winning the game for the Cowboys.
On the flip side, there were a few things to take issue with. First and foremost, complacency and play-calling would be atop that list. After a creative first-half filled with riskier play-calls, the second half was ugly, scoring just three points all half. Dalton Schultz fumbling on one of his only touches was ugly, too.
To cap the short list of negatives in hopes of a more optimistic Monday morning coffee, Ezekiel Elliott just is not the one of old, but this isn’t anything new. The burst of Pollard compared to Zeke is a mismatch and this offense is better on run downs with 20 on the field. Pollard owned both the longest reception and rush of any player on either team. That type of statistic holds weight, and more opportunities will just increase the probability of that becoming a repeat statistic.
Beating the Bengals as touchdown underdogs gives fans some sort of hope. The Buccaneers and Bengals to open the season is not an easy bill and is by far their toughest set of back-to-back games all season. Starting 1-1 seems like a win, with or without Dak Prescott. Their next two games are both divisional with the Giants and Commanders, respectively. Although their records may say otherwise, neither of those teams are tougher opponents than the Buccaneers or the Bengals. Winning this game gives them hope in the division and the weak NFC as a whole.