The Dallas Cowboys came to life on Sunday when they made the Los Angeles Rams look like a team that was in rebuilding mode. With a convincing 43-20 win, it has many of us feeling a lot better about the state of this football team. It was great to see the defense wreak havoc, but that’s not an unfamiliar site for us. It was super fantastic to see the special teams absolutely kill it at several different moments, but again, not a big shocker. However, the real surprise came from the Cowboys offense. The offense found the end zone four times in this game, a season-high. The most impressive part is that Dak Prescott carved up the Rams' defense in one of the best games of his career. When Dak plays well, the Cowboys are unbeatable. That’s a statistical fact.
The Dallas Cowboys are 30-0 when Prescott has a passer rating greater than 114.
That’s insane to think about. The secret to success is to help Prescott put together good games and everything else comes together. The problem, however, is that Prescott has only eclipsed that mark once this season and that was on Sunday. This speaks to the Cowboys' unimpressive offensive outings throughout the season even though they’ve been winning football games.
But against the Rams, the passing game was clicking. So why was it so different? Here are some reasons that jumped out after re-watching the tape.
REASON #1: DAK WAS DECISIVE
When Prescott hit the turf on three of the first four plays of the game, it looked like it was going to be a long day for this offense. Surprisingly, things got better in a hurry. And by better, we mean quicker. As mentioned by the broadcast crew, Prescott was chattering quite a bit at the line of scrimmage. He was constantly making adjustments. You could see that he looked really comfortable and for the most part, knew where he wanted to go with the ball before the ball was even snapped. Prescott would employ quick, two-step drops and then fire away. There were very few moments of hesitation and his quick thinking led to a slew of nice gains in the passing game.
Passing game success, REASON #1:— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) October 30, 2023
There was a lot of pre-snap talk going on from Dak Prescott. He had a good sense of where he wanted to go with the ball before it was even snapped. Quick decisions will mask poor protection and Prescott was sharp in this one. pic.twitter.com/ixqfMsOQ39
REASON #2: DAK WAS ON THE MOVE
If we learned anything from last week’s game against the Chargers, it’s that Prescott is pretty darn good on the run. Now, you don’t want to game plan for your quarterback to be running for his life, but that doesn’t mean they can’t put a few designed rollouts in the offense to allow Prescott more time to operate. In this game, the Cowboys had several designed plays where Dak would break contain and look to throw on the run. Sometimes he found a receiver, and other times he didn’t and just took off running. Whatever he chose, oftentimes times it produced positive results. Prescott doesn’t pose a major threat as a runner, but his mobility is an asset and the Cowboys should use every ounce of his skillset.
Passing game success, REASON #2:— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) October 30, 2023
Prescott's mobility is a true weapon for this offense. Forget the designed runs, but keep the designed rollouts, and let him take off running when he sees fit. Dak was cooking in this one, inside the pocket, and outside. pic.twitter.com/NwfJfDZ3IS
REASON #3: DAK GOT SOME HELP
Sometimes you have to hang in the pocket and allow the routes to develop. The Rams’ defense came after Prescott, blitzing multiple times, but credit the Cowboys’ running backs for doing an excellent job picking up the blocks. Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle embraced their roles in pass protection and gave Prescott just enough time to make some nice throws down the field.
Passing game success, REASON #3:— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) October 30, 2023
Quick passes and a QB on the move will hide some of your pass protection deficiencies. So will tough RBs who are able to step up and block. Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle were key in giving Dak just enough time to make some big throws in this one. pic.twitter.com/7ryZzZIxuZ
REASON #4: PLAY DESIGN WAS MUCH BETTER
It’s hard to tell if it was the play-calling or if the Rams’ defense was just giving up too much cushion, but the number of times that Prescott found receivers wide-open was a stark contrast to what we’ve seen in previous weeks. The coaching staff did a much better job developing route concepts that created space between the targets and forced the Rams’ defenders to pick where the coverage was going. It resulted in favorable matchups with linebackers covering tight ends down the seam or some nice single-coverage matchups that Prescott took advantage of.
The spacing on the Cowboys' pass routes was a lot better than in previous weeks. It gave Dak Prescott some good options and he did a great job finding the seams and identifying favorable single-coverage matchups. pic.twitter.com/vPslQ8T3Kt— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) October 31, 2023
The play-calling has faced a lot of scrutiny in previous weeks, so this type of effectiveness was a big step forward.
REASON #5: MITIGATING THE RUNNING GAME ISSUES
The Cowboys still had some issues running the ball. There was some improvement as the team had far fewer stuffs at the line of scrimmage, but when they did get some hats on hats between the hash marks, it only resulted in short gains. While the offensive line did fine in run blocking, they weren’t able to lean heavily on the running game even in a favorable game script for most of the game.
It’s not good that this is still an issue, but at least the coaching staff recognizes it and doesn’t just run themselves into a crowd of defenders again and again. Instead, the Cowboys found more creative ways to mitigate their running game issues. Bubble screens with blockers out in front, jet sweeps, or whatever it takes to get their playmakers out in space, the Cowboys did a little bit of everything.
The Cowboys are having issues running the ball between the hash marks, but props to McCarthy for exploring all options. Jet sweeps, reverses, and quick pitches are a great way to get your playmakers going around the edge. Some work better than others, but I appreciate the effort. pic.twitter.com/ZcvkMSimOH— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) October 30, 2023
COULD’VE SCORED MORE
The Cowboys scored four touchdowns in this game, but it could’ve very easily been six. Prescott threw an interception near the goal line and later had a ball bounce off a Pollard that slowed down a screen play that had a high probability of working. You can be your own judge of who’s at fault, but here is how I see it.
Even on Dak's "mistake," I don't actually hate it. The play design had defenders going in the opposite direction. If the ball isn't tipped, Sean McKeon has a good chance of scoring here. pic.twitter.com/5MgTZ4Fbkn— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) October 30, 2023
If Prescott is just a bit softer with this throw, I think Tony Pollard scores here. Tyler Biadasz absolutely flattens the Rams' linebacker. pic.twitter.com/aFlEQqsjGx— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) October 30, 2023
For a complete breakdown of how the Cowboys' offense performed against the Rams, check out this film study by The Football Scout.