While it is not a good idea to read too much into the Dallas Cowboys’ 49-17 demolition of the New York Giants, there may be some things that can point the way forward for Dallas as they now are in the meat of their drive to get into the playoffs. They could perhaps even overtake the Philadelphia Eagles and surprising Detroit Lions in the race for the number one seed. One thing that we may have finally gotten a full view of is Mike McCarthy’s Texas Coast offense. Ever since training camp, we have been hearing about this evolution of the scheme, but for the first third of the season, it was very much a work in progress.
The Giants’ contest may have been the game where things finally came together as the Cowboys were virtually unstoppable outside of a nagging issue with slow starts each half and a couple of interceptions. The record-setting performance came in a game that was almost more of a preseason warm-up than a regular season game. New York was a clearly crippled team, and we cannot expect Dallas to replicate that. But if they can play the way they did, they can certainly be good enough to beat any team they face, with the defense also flexing their muscles. Those are always big ifs, but the signs are certainly there. And this is not just this game. The full emergence of the Texas Coast has been going on since just before the bye. Here is one indicator.
Mike McCarthy is settling in as #Cowboys play-caller in 2023. I remember wondering when pre-snap motion would be featured in Texas Coast.— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) November 13, 2023
vs. SF: 19 (39%)
That time is now.
vs. LAC: 38 (62%)
vs. LAR: 35 (56%)
vs. PHI: 38 (54%)
vs. NYG: 47 (61%)
3-1 in this stretch and very… pic.twitter.com/y08kdPLJkl
Motion is a very effective way to both read and manipulate the defense to get the situations you want to move down the field and score. Note how the production of Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb has ballooned over that stretch of games.
Dak Prescott's last four games:— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) November 13, 2023
TD - 12
INT - 2
Comp - 72.1%
YPA - 9.7
Passer rating - 125.1
CeeDee Lamb the last four games:— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) November 13, 2023
⭐️ 7 REC, 117 YDS
⭐️ 12 REC, 158 YDS, 2 TDs
⭐️ 11 REC, 191 YDS
⭐️ 11 REC, 151 YDS, 1 TD
Is CeeDee a top-5 WR? pic.twitter.com/mtVFNAtOsx
This is key. It includes the loss to the Eagles as well as wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams, who are hardly in the same shape as the Giants. This indicates a consistency that is going to be needed as Dallas plays the final eight games.
There were also some things that were a bit new last Sunday. An obvious one is that Lamb is no longer the one receiver that teams can focus on. Brandin Cooks broke out in a huge way, and it is not just the massive yards and two touchdowns the duo of wideouts accumulated. Look at their passing charts:
The offense is not just using the short and intermediate throws to sustain drives. Prescott took multiple deep shots in the game. Note the location of some completions. He hit multiple times past 25 air yards, and you can include the 41-yard touchdown to Michael Gallup in that category. Opponents now have to defend the entire field or the Cowboys will burn them deep.
This also helps open up the running game, and the 168 yards was a sign of needed balance, even if somewhat dwarfed by the 472 yards passing. It adds to the complexity of stopping Dallas, especially if the team keeps increasing the touches for Rico Dowdle. We are seeing why the team kept him on the roster through his injury issues to start his career, as he was more explosive in the game than Tony Pollard. As with Lamb and Cooks, McCarthy now has a one-two punch he can throw at defenses, and that is another good sign of how the Texas Coast is maturing.
More subtly, we saw absolutely zero sign of conservative play calls as the lead increased and was by halftime basically insurmountable. The head coach kept calling passes and fourth down tries despite the win being well in hand. That continued once Cooper Rush came onto the field to protect Prescott for the entire fourth quarter. The backup QB led a touchdown drive late and his first series looked like it was cruising along to the end zone before he threw a pick. Part of this was using this game to get valuable work for Rush and the rest of the offensive backups, but the attitude of not taking their foot off the throat of the opponent is a nice development. The Cowboys now have the second highest points differential behind the San Francisco 49ers, which could conceivably be important if they wind up tied with the Eagles at the end of the season.
Dallas has an opportunity to put up another big score against the 1-8 Carolina Panthers. The signs are that the Texas Coast offense has hit its stride, and while dominating struggling teams is not seen as a real measure of things, that kind of victory is still very useful in honing the edge for the more formidable tests down the road. While things may be easier than we anticipated with the Buffalo Bills in a slump, the Eagles, Lions, Seattle Seahawks, and Miami Dolphins all will require a strong effort to get wins. The Washington Commanders cannot be overlooked as a possible spoiler, either. The way the Cowboys did not look past the Giants at all is one more sign that this team is headed in a very good direction.
This is about being consistent, which is why the last four games are important. The offense has been exactly that. It has come at a great time for the drive to the postseason. Let’s hope it remains this way.