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After further review: Cowboys beat Lions with strong run defense, and keeping Dak Prescott in rhythm

Last week was a very weird game.

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys held on to win a close one on Saturday beating the Detroit Lions 20-19. There were moments to be happy on both sides of the battle, but then there were also times when we were hoping for just a smidge more. In the end, Dallas pulled out the win and are now in control of their fate in winning the NFC East, so we should able be in good spirits, right? Let’s get a better sense of how we should feel after re-watching the game film.

DAK IN RHTHYM

Whether it’s Amari Cooper’s route running skills or CeeDee Lamb’s cutting ability on the Hellas Matrix turf of AT&T Stadium, Dak Prescott is really good when his receivers are where they are supposed to be. The only thing that can slow him down is a sour receiving group or playing on a slick playing surface.

However, there is another thing that causes him problems and that’s having time to throw the ball. The Cowboys' offensive line has been shaky this season and Prescott's internal clock is clicking loudly. He’s quick to bail when he senses pressure and unfortunately, that’s more common than we’d like. On Saturday, Prescott was either on the move or sacked on 35% of his dropbacks. That’s not good.

Now, don’t get us wrong, he had some nice skadoosh pass-play completions, including the scramble that led to the 92-yard touchdown to Lamb, but when he has time, Prescott is right on the money. Check out all the collection of plays to Lamb and look how comfortable and on target Prescott is when he’s in rhythm.

There were even a few needle-threaded throws that were almost completed and a couple of blatant drops, but when Prescott can operate coming out of his drop, the guy is precision sharp.

And it’s not just Lamb who benefits. Jake Ferguson on the short over-the-middle routes are money and these corner routes by Brandin Cooks are becoming a thing of beauty. The chemistry between Dak and Cooks continues to grow.

THE NEGATIVE EFFECT RUSHING ATTACK

The Lions have one of the top run defenses in the league, so we weren’t expecting the Cowboys to resolve their ground game woes in this one, but man was it bad. Tony Pollard will take the brunt of the criticism, but honestly, there wasn’t much room to run regardless of who was getting the ball.

The issue for Dallas was that they were not executing their blocks. Many times in this game, defenders came from the edge unblocked or poorly blocked. The Lions got pushback in the trenches obstructing the running lanes, and linebackers had free shots at the running backs all day long.

One might ask, what was with so many first-down runs, especially since the Lions were salivating at the mouth waiting to attack? That’s a fair question. The Cowboys wanted to show the ability to run the ball or else the Lions' defense could just pin their ears back and come after Dak. Poor run blocking was not part of their plan. If you look at the times there was an inkling of room to run, Pollard ran hard and gained some yards (although one of those runs was called back from a phantom tripping penalty), but you can count those moments on one hand. For the most part, the Cowboys running attack went backward.

RUN DEFENSE BOUNCE BACK

The Cowboys' offense wasn’t the only one getting tackled for losses in the backfield. Surprisingly, the Lions’ offense had some problems as well. On the surface, one might expect it to be a nightmare stopping David Montgomery and Jamyr Gibbs, and sure, both of them did have some nice runs. But there were also many instances where the Cowboys defense made huge run-stopping plays.

DeMarcus Lawrence was an absolute beast. He was so quick off the snap that it looked as if the Lions decided never mind, what’s the point of blocking him. Tank shot through the holes and feasted. Micah Parsons powered his way through and finessed his way around would-be blockers.

The Lions are typically a good run-blocking unit, but on this day they weren’t ready for the Cowboys' quickness. Their timing was off, they were slightly out of position, and the result was a Cowboys’ run defense that looked unstoppable at certain points in the game.

DONO AND JLEW

Donovan Wilson and Jourdan Lewis are splash playmakers, but they can also get caught between a rock and a hard spot at times. They aren’t the quickest defensive backs by any means, but when they get going downhill, they can be fantastic. And both are pound-for-pound two of the most physical players on this team.

Both Wilson and Lewis sold out against the run sacrificing themselves to make plays. They read the play well, hit the gas, and boom! They also both came away with an interception where they saw what was coming and went for it!

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