The Good, the Bad, and the Dak at the Arizona Cardinals (9-24-2023)

As with last week, the game was not in TV in my area... my region had the Bears and Chiefs... so, most of what I have is based on following the game here: Dallas at Arizona Cardinals (9-24-23), and thus I cannot fully make any mention on anything related to injuries in the game or things related to "accuracy" or things that I would need to be able to see the game for.

The Good:

1. Gallup and Lamb: Both lead the way in the passing game... Gallup had more yards and Lamb averaged more yards per play, and they both did a lot to try and keep the offense in the game.

2. Running Game: Despite losing a good portion of the starters on the offensive line, the running game worked out fairly well. Pollard ran for over 100 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry, and the other rushers also did fairly well in this aspect... though, they got overtaken by other aspects of this game.

3. Second Half Defense: On the whole, the defense had a very bad day... but through a good portion of the second half, the defense did seem to wake up again and for a time that made a possible comeback, if only by field goals possible.

The Bad:

1. Rush Defense: If any one thing took the win from us, this was it. The defense started the game ugly, with Dobbs running for 44 yards on the first drive of the game. Moore had a 45-yard TD run. And while Connor finished the day with fewer yards than Pollard, Connor also averaged 7 yards per rush, and through the first half, that average was likely higher as the Cardinals as a team ran for around 200 yards in the first two quarters of play. This kept our offense off the field and thus limited our ability to score... it also in turn gave the Cardinals ample opportunity to score.

2. Penalties: This closely followed the poor play in the rush defense. 13 penalties for more than 100 penalty yards is not good. Particularly when they also extended Cardinals drives and put a defense that was clearly struggling... especially in the first half... in a tight position. They gave the Cardinals first downs and that in turn helped them score points. And the penalties weren't great for the offense, either... and to some degree, one could argue that they especially hurt the offense, which seemed to struggle consistently in ways throughout the game. One of those 3rd quarter drives, with the score 21-13 ended up getting derailed when a holding penalty took the team from 3rd and 3 to 3rd and 13. We got the penalty yards back, but then only had one play left.. (see later points).

3. Big Play Defense: This happened a lot through the game, where it wasn't just that Cardinals had a lot of drives that lasted for over five minutes per drive on a bunch of 3-to-5-yard gains. There were a fair number of big plays that hit... many of them on the ground. Dobbs with a 44-yard run on the first drive of the game. Moore with a 45-yard TD run, and then in the fourth quarter with the score 21-16 in the Cardinals favor, the first play of that following Cardinals drive, was a 69-yard pass play that set the Cardinals up for the last score of the game.

4. Play Calling: The offense did struggle a bit today, and at times the penalties were a part of it. But at the same time, there were other points where the decision making on the plays to run were off. This includes a lot of the running plays on the last offensive drive of the game, when trailing 28-16, but the biggest of these might have been the decision to go for it while the score was still 21-13. Sure, the score was narrow, and a TD would have made it closer... but given that the offense was struggling, points were at a premium and one could argue needed to maintain some momentum in the game and work on the comeback. Particularly when after that failure to convert on fourth down, Dallas would force a punt and then kick a field goal to make it 21-16... In this, had we taken the points on the drive where the ball was turned over on downs and still gotten the subsequent results the score would have been 21-19 and perhaps there would have been the energy or will to push and prevent the huge play that set the Cardinals up for their last score... and would have in turn allowed the last offensive drive to at least set up a tie rather than trying to force a TD. But instead, McCarthy went for it, the play wasn't converted, and momentum was lost.

5. Red Zone Offense: In many ways, the offense between the 20s wasn't too bad. The problem was ultimately that once we got inside the red-zone, that went away. It's where the team's issues with penalties was worse. It's where many of the larger gains that Pollard or others made on the ground went away and where Dak had the vast majority of his incompletions... and that took points away from the team as well. Now, given how bad the defense played, this may not have saved things in this game... BUT the fact that the offense struggled in the red zone made things worse.

The Dak:

A lot of Dak's game is going to be a bit hit and miss... with some things that were good and some not so good. In a way, completing 25 of 40 passes for 249 yards isn't bad and it was for more yards than Dobbs threw for... But at the same time, Dak also threw most of his incompletions in the red zone, along with his INT. Those things took points of the board, and one took possession away. And while Dak did have one TD, and that technically balances out the INT, that was also in the first half. He had plenty of chances in the second half... and largely failed. In this, while Dak didn't have a truly ugly game... neither did he really have a truly good game, either. And while I wouldn't hold his as responsible for the loss as the defense's performance... the parts where Dak struggled, particularly in the red zone were why the team wasn't scoring as much as they could have...

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