3 & Out

3 & Out: Buckle Up The Rest Of The Way

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FRISCO, Texas – Back with three quick topics as the Cowboys hope to pull back to .500 at home Sunday against Cleveland:

  • Record Pace?
  • Balance For Dak
  • The Secondary

I Know…

we might see a franchise record for Cowboys points in a season, and here's why.

So far the Cowboys are tied for eighth in the NFL at 29.3 points per game (88 points). They're on a very-early pace for 469 points. The club record: 479 points in 1983.

It's early, but this seems sustainable. Points are up across the league. With limited/no fans in stadiums due to the COVID-19 pandemic, road offenses aren't hindered by crowd noise as much or at all right now. Like the NBA Bubble, it's probably leveling the playing field a little bit, though the NFL recently passed new measures allowing artificial noise up to 80 decibels.

I'd give anything for normal life and packed stadiums again. The game is beyond better with fans present, and maybe attendance will continue to rise. But this is the current reality, and it does create a unique situation for talented offenses like the Cowboys.

Do they score 31 points at Seattle, with a compromised offensive line, if CenturyLink is at its usual deafening pitch? Maybe not. Dallas could have more big days ahead on the road. For now, they've got to take care of business at home Sunday against Cleveland.

(Side note: Games are tighter so far, too. The Cowboys are 1-2 in three games decided by 11 total points. The last time they opened the season with three straight one-score results: 2011. In fact, it has happened only four other times in franchise history: 2011, 2005, 1988 and 1979.)

I Think…

we may never see Dak throw that many times in a game again, especially behind an offensive line with so many musical chairs.

Prescott's 57 pass attempts against Seattle weren't just a career high. He tied Troy Aikman (1998 at Minnesota) for the third most in franchise history in a single game. Only Tony Romo (62 vs. Washington and the Giants in 2012) had more.

The Cowboys lost all four of those games, by the way.

To be clear, I don't believe offensive coordinator Kellen Moore got to CenturyLink Field thinking Dak might chuck it 60 times. But the passing game definitely seemed like an emphasis. Prescott opened the game with passes on six straight plays and nine of the first 13 plays. Seattle devoted a lot of defenders to the box to stop Ezekiel Elliott, and clearly the Cowboys felt they had favorable matchups on the outside, especially if Seattle wanted to risk man coverage by blitzing safety Jamal Adams and others.

Double turnovers bridging the first and second half changed the equation. A Prescott interception and strip-sack fumble led to 14 Seattle points and a 15-point Cowboys deficit. Suddenly the offense was in pass-first, catch-up mode.

Both plays hurt, and the Cowboys now rank near the bottom of the league with a minus-4 turnover differential. That's also the risk that comes with so many dropbacks. Expect better balance going forward.

I Have No Idea…

if there's a tougher opening three-game stretch of matchups for a rookie cornerback, and Trevon Diggs should be better for it.

Julio Jones is arguably the league's most imposing cover assignment. Tyler Lockett is arguably the fastest. Calvin Ridley and Metcalf are going to be stars. The Rams' wideouts -- Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds and Van Jefferson – really challenge you stylistically.

With so many injuries at corner, Diggs – turning 23 years old last week with all of three starts to his career -- has been the one constant at the position. That's a lot to shoulder. Jared Goff, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson are Super Bowl quarterbacks who have thrown Diggs' way quite a bit, and they've won a good amount.

Diggs' best (and most encouraging) play against Seattle wasn't the poke-out on D.K. Metcalf to force a touchback and prevent a touchdown. It was the way he responded against Metcalf later in the game. With 10 minutes remaining, Seattle dialed up another vertical route to Metcalf down the right sideline. This time, Diggs stayed with the second-year receiver stride for stride, won the jump ball and nearly picked it off, forcing a punt.

More than size and instincts and range and ball skills -- all traits Diggs has -- a short memory can separate a great corner from a good one. Losing on routes is inevitable, especially in this era. How you respond is critical.

The Cowboys secondary's issues against Seattle are well documented. A first half on defense/special teams like the Seattle game, just like the first quarter offensively against Atlanta, can't happen if you expect to be competitive week to week.

The backline communication did seem better after halftime Sunday. Wilson found the end zone twice more, but Seattle gained only 144 total yards and the Cowboys' coverage busts declined. Some of the defense's pressure on Wilson was directly attributed to tighter coverage downfield.

That must continue going forward. So must Diggs' development. Week 4 presents another challenge from Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and the Cleveland Browns.

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Details on all of the health and safety procedures you can expect at AT&T Stadium this season can be viewed at www.DallasCowboys.com/safestadium.

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