The Athletic’s Cowboys reporters weigh in on how Dallas can turn last week’s loss in Arizona into a positive.
Machota: That loss reminded me of two others, last season in Week 18 at Washington (26-6) and two seasons ago against Denver (30-16). The Cowboys responded to the Broncos’ loss by defeating the Falcons, 43-3, the following week. They responded to the Commanders’ loss by defeating the Buccaneers in Tampa, 31-14, in the wild-card round. The Cowboys have also won eight of their last nine following a loss, dating back to 2021. If that stunning performance turns into some type of wake-up call and Dallas’ defense never plays that poorly again, maybe that loss will end up being a positive. I’m not sure why they would need a wake-up call in Week 3, but that’s all I got for you. I’m still struggling to understand how that could happen in the first place.
Yousuf: Only three weeks into the season, the Cowboys shouldn’t have needed a “wake-up call,” as DeMarcus Lawrence called it after the Cardinals’ game. The fallout of that performance has been largely mental, meaning the Cowboys have expressed how it sharpened their focus and poked a bear within them.
What to watch as the Dallas Cowboys face the Patriots: Fixing the red zone woes - Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The red zone performance has been a talking point all week. Is CeeDee Lamb the answer?
McCarthy called it a blinking light that the Cowboys addressed with extra work in practice.
“Clearly, the stat we’re all talking about is the touchdown conversions, the efficiency,” McCarthy said. “We need to clearly be better in that. We have to score more touchdowns.”
Another stat that stands out is that a Cowboys receiver has yet to catch a touchdown pass this season. And for the first time in his career, Prescott has gone three games without throwing a touchdown pass to a receiver.
Receiver CeeDee Lamb has volunteered to be a problem solver in the red zone.
“We got to score it’s no secret,” Lamb said. “We’ve been 3-11 on last two games if I’m not mistaken. Let me touch the rock and we’ll get into the end zone.”
How will the Patriots deal with Lamb?
It stands to reason Belichick will devote extra attention to limiting the Cowboys’ top wide receiver. Such is his reputation; he often schemes double teams and bracket coverage to take away an offense’s greatest threat, forcing secondary weapons to beat his defense.
That is especially true in critical situations like third down and red zone.
“It’s bittersweet to get doubled,” Lamb said. “Bittersweet. Very bittersweet. It means you’re doing something right but also they’re trying to take you away from being productive in the game. Obviously, we have a plan for it, but yeah, I’m expected to see a double team.”
Lamb makes himself difficult to take away.
He can line up in the slot or on the outside. Before the snap, he can shift or motion from one area of the field to another. He has a complex route tree and large variety of releases off the line of scrimmage, creating a sense of unpredictability.
“I’m not necessarily a one-dimensional receiver,” Lamb said. “I’m going to be anywhere, everywhere, line up and run every route.”
Patriots starters OG Cole Strange, CB Jonathan Jones downgraded to out for Week 4 - Oliver Thomas, Pats Pulpit
The Patriots will be short two starters today.
Guard Cole Strange and cornerback Jonathan Jones have been downgraded to out for the road matchup at AT&T Stadium, the organization announced Saturday.
Both had been listed as questionable on the final injury report after beginning and ending the week as limited participants.
Three remain questionable for New England. Defensive tackles Davon Godchaux (ankle) and Christian Barmore (knee) as well as corner Shaun Wade (shoulder) traveled with the team to Texas.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys must dominate Patriots after Week 4 injury report release - Jerry Trotta, The Landry Hat
Following a disappointing performance last week, quarterback Dak Prescott has a prime opportunity to take advantage of the New England Patriots defense and have a big day. The Patriots secondary is at less than ideal strength.
Jonathan Jones is the Patriots’ primary nickel corner, which means McCarthy should get creative with CeeDee Lamb, akin to what we saw against the Jets in Week 2 when No. 88 posted 11 catches for 143 yards on a whopping 13 targets.
Of course, New England being down three of its top four cornerbacks should allow Dallas’ other receivers — namely Brandin Cooks — to get open. Whereas Michael Gallup erupted in the Week 3 loss to the tune of 92 yards on six catches, Cooks managed just two catches for 17 yards on seven targets.
Whether or not Cooks breaks out, CeeDee Lamb should eat and that should open up the entire passing game.
The Saturday transaction news for the Cowboys bears paying attention to as they make their final preparations before Sunday’s showdown with the Patriots.
Dallas spent Week 3 with a depleted offensive line, a culmination of the short season’s biggest health issue. Dallas gambled with their intial 53-man roster in 2023, carrying just one center on their roster and therefore used up Brock Hoffman’s three elevations in the season’s first three weeks. Hoffman had to start in Week 3 with Tyler Biadasz out, and therefore to be active again, had to be brought up to the main roster.
That happened on Saturday, with Hoffman filling the void created when the club released second-year linebacker Devin Harper. That move left only three linebackers on the team’s roster, with one of those being edge rusher Micah Parsons. So along with signing Hoffman, the team decided to use one of their two elevations on linebacker Malik Jefferson. The other elevation was tight end Sean McKeon, which is likely related to the late-week injury suffered by second-year man Peyton Hendershot.
It’s always the ones you expect. Blogging the Boys’ Tony Catalina has you covered with today’s ex-factors. Plus, a familiar friend turned foe.
The Cowboys’ run defense was a problem last year, and once again it looks to be a problem this year. The Cowboys made it a point of emphasis this offseason to try and shore up the one real weakness on their otherwise strong defensive group, but through three weeks, it looks like a lot of the same for them. Leighton Vander Esch needs to step up, be a leader, and make a concerted effort to get his team ready to fight in the trenches versus a team this unafraid to attack weaknesses.
The Cowboys only have two true linebackers on the roster in Vander Esch and Damone Clark, and as the elder statesman, Vander Esch is going to have to take it upon himself to find a way to shore things up at his level. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is going to have to be better and help put this team in better positions to make plays, but it comes down to the guys on the field stepping up and locking in.
There is a saying around the pass rush of this team that goes “earn the right to pass rush,” meaning do the work on the early downs, defend the run, be consistent in getting the opponent to distance situations, then to pin your ears back and rush. All that sounds good, it just needs to be executed on Sunday.
It won’t be all on Vander Esch, this isn’t a one-man fix. However, if he is able to secure the second level, be a leader for that group, and play the run relentlessly against this Patriots team, it could go a long way in getting this team back on track.
‘Wanna Bet?’ Dallas Cowboys at 49ers Odds Set for Week 5; Too Early? - Mike Fisher, Sports Illustrated
Leave it to the Las Vegas to get carried away perhaps a bit too soon. While the team is focused on Sunday’s games, oddsmakers are already looking ahead to Dallas’ primetime clash with the San Francisco 49ers.
With sportsbooks already deciding that the 49ers currently deserve to be favored in that game by 3.5 points. Due to the fact that the Niners are at home at Levi’s Stadium in Week 5, that would be an indication that the oddsmakers view the two old rivals as being fairly evenly matched.
Of course, all of that Week 5 stuff is dependent in large part on the outcomes of the Week 4 games. ... with 2-1 Dallas hoping to Band-Aid over some exposed flaws from last week’s upset loss at Arizona while playing host to Ezekiel Elliott’s Patriots ... and with the 3-0 Niners coming off a win while prepping for a meeting with the Cardinals. The 49ers have not lost a regular-season game since then-unheralded rookie QB Brock Purdy made his debut a year ago. And San Francisco has had the Cowboys’ number all too often in recent matchups. To the Niners, they likely think they are simply superior to Dallas.
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