After dropping their first game of the season, the Cowboys welcome a familiar foe in Week 4.
New England not only brings in one of the greatest NFL coaches ever in Bill Belichick, but a familiar face in Ezekiel Elliott, who signed with the Pats before the season.
As we get ready for Sunday’s game at AT&T Stadium (3:25 p.m. kickoff), here are the 10 big storylines for the week, with five for the Patriots and five for the Cowboys.
Patriots avoid 0-3 start – After two losses to begin the season, the Patriots were able to control the Jets for most of the game, and then hold on to a dramatic 15-10 win over their AFC East rivals on the road. The game was ugly, not just with the rainy conditions, but sloppy play that resulted in a lot of mistakes. The Patriots were able to get the win, heading into Dallas with a chance to get back to. 500.
Zeke’s return – One of the more polarizing players in Cowboys history – Ezekiel Elliott – returns to face his former team this Sunday. Not only will it be the first meeting for Zeke against the Cowboys, but he comes back fresh off his best game of the season. Against the Jets, the Patriots found some room to run, led by Zeke’s 80 yards on 16 carries. That was against a Jets defense that allowed 134 yards to the Cowboys, but held Tony Pollard to 72 yards on 25 carries.
Bill O’Brien on Patriots getting information from ex-Cowboys: Happens every week in the NFL - Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk.com
Ezekiel Elliott isn’t the only former Cowboy on the Patriots.
Cowboys offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said this week that former Cowboys quarterback Will Grier, who now plays for the Patriots, “is definitely being interrogated” this week as the Patriots and Cowboys prepare to play on Sunday. Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said that’s just the way business is done in the NFL.
O’Brien took issue with Schottenheimer’s suggestion that the Patriots were interrogating ex-Cowboys, but he did say NFL teams routinely seek information about their opponents, any way they can get it.
“Interrogating?” O’Brien said. “Schotty is a good guy. I’ve known Schotty for a long time. I think that’s the way it is every week in this league, every year in this league. There’s gonna be guys that come into your organization off teams that you’re about to play, and it goes both ways. It’s always going to happen. At the end of the day, you’ve got to study film. Everybody’s going to be on the same page with what we’re doing. I’ve never thought in my years in the league that any of that was a real overriding factor in a win or a loss. It comes down to the players on the field and the coaches putting the players in the right positions to make plays, and that’s what we’re trying to do. I don’t think we’re trying to hold a light over anybody and say, ‘Tell me what you did on July 20 of 2023.’ We’re not doing that. We’re not interrogating anybody. We’re just trying to put together the best game plan we possibly can.”
Elliott looks forward to returning the city where he spent his first seven NFL seasons.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott knows what’s next, and he’s looking forward to it.
It was shortly after his best performance of the 2023 season, totaling 80 yards on 16 carries in the New England Patriots’ 15-10 win over the New York Jets on Sunday, when Elliott was surrounded by reporters in the cramped visitors locker room.
His thoughts on facing his former team, the Dallas Cowboys?
“It’s going to be fun. I’m excited to go back to Dallas, a place where I have so much history, my home in the offseason,” he said. “It will be cool to get back in AT&T [Stadium].”
Fixing redzone efficiency is critical, but the Cowboys seem to think it will happen.
After scoring touchdowns on three of four red zone trips in Week 1, the Cowboys have cratered the past two weeks, going 2 of 6 in Week 2 and 1 of 5 in Week 3’s loss to Arizona. Dallas’ 15 red-zone possessions are tops in the NFL, but it’s scored TDs on just six of those drives. The Cowboys’ 40% conversion rate is tied for the fourth-worst in the NFL through three weeks.
Speaking Wednesday on 105.3 The Fan, owner Jerry Jones alluded to the small sample size early in the season but noted it’s an area the Cowboys must improve after their first loss of the season.
“I think the thing we need to zero in on is when we get that ball down in there close, we’ve got to get touchdowns,” he said. “And that’s probably across the board over these last three ball games. We got a long time to go in this season. We got a lot of room to really adjust and correct these things. While it is something to note, it’s not a long-range concern.”
Cowboys say red zone woes are ‘not a personnel issue,’ which isn’t entirely true - Saad Yousuf, The Athletic
Ezekiel Elliott and Dalton Schultz can't bail out the Cowboys' red zone woes. But Dallas is confident it has the players to improve.
McCarthy, when asked about Schultz and Elliott’s prowess previously in the red zone, did chalk it up to “a good point” and gave “those guys the credit for what they accomplished in their time here” but quickly followed it up by praising their replacements, Pollard and Jake Ferguson, respectively. Again, regardless of merit, that’s expected.
The Cowboys do have a lot of talent; it just looks different than it has, both in recent years and the past decade or so. A big body receiver like Dez Bryant, who the team could routinely fade up in the red zone, doesn’t exist. Gallup may be a version of that but he certainly is not that. A veteran tight end who knows how to mentally and physically work that area, like Jason Witten or Schultz, isn’t on the roster.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t talented players available and it doesn’t excuse the Cowboys not being much better in the red zone. The players must adjust and grow into these new roles but the onus is on the coaches, too. Maybe you don’t have a Bryant-like receiver or a Schultz-like tight end, but you have a lot of players, such as Pollard, KaVontae Turpin and Deuce Vaughn, who are excellent in space. And though Gallup may not be Bryant, he still is a big-bodied receiver who should be getting more opportunities to win battles for the ball in the air than he is.
Whether the Cowboys want to verbalize publicly or not, they do have a personnel issue in the red zone. It’s not that they don’t have the players to have success; they just haven’t figured out yet how to put those players in the best position to have success.
More depth for the O-line.
The team announced on Wednesday morning that they have signed center Billy Price. Center Tyler Biadasz missed last Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals with a hamstring injury.
Price was a 2018 Bengals first-round pick and has also played for the Giants and Cardinals. He has started 45 of the 69 games he’s played over the course of his career.
The Cowboys first injury report for their Week 4 matchup against the Patriots.
#Cowboys first injury report vs. #Patriots:— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) September 27, 2023
Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin worked with the rehab group, as expected.
CeeDee Lamb, DeMarcus Lawrence (Tyron Smith?) received veteran rest day.
***** No new injuries reported on Wednesday***
On to ... *gulp*.... Thursday... pic.twitter.com/9XMPvyACEf
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