A week ago, it was a very different story for the New York Jets. Obviously, the biggest story centered on Aaron Rodgers being lost for the season, but a lot of ink was being spilled over the defense for Gang Green. Rightfully so, too, since the defense had just flustered a very talented Bills offense and forced Josh Allen into four turnovers.
During that game, there was a renewed discussion around quarterbacks and their interceptions, with much of it framed around Allen and Dak Prescott. Allen has generally been prone to turnovers throughout his career - throwing double digit interceptions in four his five years in the NFL and losing 14 fumbles in the last three years alone - while Prescott led the league in interceptions a year ago after generally being very turnover-averse throughout his career.
In a way, that set the tone for this game. Allen threw three picks and also had a costly fumble in his own territory against the Jets in a game where Zach Wilson played all but four snaps as the quarterback. The Cowboys were taking on virtually the same Jets team that had just shut down Allen and the Bills and done enough on offense to win in overtime.
With Prescott now playing in the new-look Texas Coast offense, the name given to the offense being called by Mike McCarthy and coordinated by Brian Schottenheimer, much of the focus has been on getting the ball out of Prescott’s hands quicker. That not only helps improve the pass protection but, in theory, allows for higher completion rates for the quarterback, thereby limiting turnovers. This Jets defense served as a first real test for both Prescott and McCarthy.
To put things simply, they passed with flying colors. Not only did Prescott not turn the ball over once, he completed nearly 82% of his passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Pending results from Monday night’s double header, Prescott had the highest QBR of any starting quarterback in Week 2. Put another way, he was on fire against a Jets defense that had just completely stymied one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
That’s the power of the Texas Coast offense. McCarthy and Schottenheimer have crafted an offense that fully caters to their quarterback’s strengths, and it was evident in this game. The Jets have a really good pass rush, headlined by Quinnen Williams, and a stingy secondary featuring Sauce Gardner. But their zone-heavy, blitz-averse scheme also had holes to exploit. The Bills were unable to do it, but McCarthy and Prescott did so with relative ease.
Prescott was pressured 13 times in this game, more than double what he saw last week, but only took one sack all day; that sack was also squarely on Prescott, who held the ball way too long on a rollout, and not the offensive line. Other than that one play, Prescott was once again getting the ball out quickly, a feature of the West Coast principles McCarthy has introduced.
Not only was he getting the ball out quick, but Prescott was delivering the ball to open receivers. The Jets run a zone-heavy coverage scheme, often with two-deep safeties, and do not ask their cornerbacks to follow certain receivers. As a result, McCarthy moved CeeDee Lamb all over the field to give him favorable matchups against the Jets’ lesser defenders. There were five Jets defenders with at least two targets when covering Lamb on Sunday, making it difficult for any one defender to get a feel for how to best guard Lamb.
As a result, Lamb had one of the best games of his career, catching 11 passes for 143 yards. McCarthy also made the most of the fact that the Jets often give up easy completions underneath. Nearly three fourths of Prescott’s attempts traveled less than 10 yards down the field, but he had just two incompletions on these throws and ultimately picked up 143 yards, 10 first downs, and two touchdowns. McCarthy understood the weaknesses of an otherwise very stout defense and knew exactly how to exploit them.
It also can’t be overstated that Dallas did all of this without Brandin Cooks, the veteran speedster that was brought in this offseason specifically to stretch the field against talented defenses like this one. Obviously, the Cowboys will happily take Cooks back as soon as he’s healthy, but it’s got to be very encouraging that McCarthy and Prescott were able to churn out this much production against such a vaunted defense without their number two receiver.
It’s still early, and there’s an awful lot of football to be played this year, but the Cowboys offense has looked much better than they were a year ago. McCarthy’s influence as the play-caller has been felt in quite a few areas. The Jets were the first real test of the year, defensively speaking, and it turned out to be a big A+ grade.