FRISCO, Texas – Atlanta is where all momentum was lost last November.
This Sunday it's where the Cowboys can get it back.
As another critical matchup with the Falcons looms, let's talk about a new dimension on offense and reliable fixture on defense:
the Cowboys moved on from Dez Bryant and went in a different direction at wide receiver, but in some ways new No. 1 wideout Amari Cooper reminds me of … you got it: Dez Bryant.
Two Dez-like plays stand out in Cooper's first two games as a Cowboy:
Against Tennessee, his 15-yard catch and run in the second quarter where he dragged two Titans defenders three extra yards to set up the Cowboys' second and final touchdown of the game.
Against Philadelphia, the drag route in the first quarter where he bounced off cornerback Ronald Darby, stayed on his feet and rumbled three more yards for a first down.
At 6-1, 210 pounds, Cooper isn't built like Megatron. But he's an explosive, physical wideout who will make tough catches over the middle of the field, find another gear for extra yardage and challenge defenders trying to bring him down.
Bryant did that for so many years in Dallas. (Hate to see him get injured just two days after signing with the Saints last week.)
In Cooper's two games with the Cowboys, here's how the numbers break down:
- vs. TEN: 50 of 66 offensive snaps, team-high 8 targets, team-high 5 catches for 58 yards and a touchdown
- at PHI: 55 of 69 offensive snaps, team-high 10 targets, team-high tying 6 catches for 75 yards
It's an excellent start, and there's little reason to think he won't improve with more time in the system.
Tyrone Crawford doesn't get enough credit for being a valuable chess piece on the defensive line.
Think about how much the seven-year veteran has moved around the front. He opened training camp at right defensive end with a noticeably trimmer frame. Then he started the first seven regular-season games back at his old spot, defensive tackle, due to depth issues there: Maliek Collins working back from a foot injury, David Irving missing the first four games due to suspension.
Crawford has shuffled back and forth some more these past two games. He primarily played defensive end against Tennessee because of injuries to Taco Charlton (shoulder) and Randy Gregory (knee scope). He drew another start at right end against the Eagles but moved back to tackle in the second half for a stretch when Maliek Collins and Daniel Ross got banged up.
Crawford got a sack on Carson Wentz playing the under tackle. He defeated guard Brandon Brooks with a bull rush that collapsed the pocket, followed by a spin move to the inside.
The defensive captain continues to do a lot of the dirty work for this seventh-ranked defense.
"You know what I do, man," Crawford said. "I'm there for them whenever they need me, wherever they need me."
I Have No Idea…
how many of y'all expected the offense to drive 73 yards to the house after Dak Prescott got sacked for a 13-yard loss with 1:12 left in the first half.
The Eagles didn't, or they wouldn't have used two timeouts afterward. What followed was arguably the best sequence by Prescott this season. (I might lean toward the winning drive against Detroit, but it's close.)
Before the sack, Prescott started that drive with a 15-yard completion to Cooper. After the sack, he went 4-of-4 for 64 yards – with gains of 25, 21 and 17 to Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley and Allen Hurns – plus the one-yard sneak for the touchdown. Ezekiel Elliott added an 8-yard run in between.
It's no secret we haven't seen that type of efficiency and explosiveness from the offense on a consistent basis. But they're capable of it – and they carried it over to the second half. They'll need it in the final seven games, too.