The NFL season is a marathon that requires title contenders to have enough toughness, grit and stamina to play great football down the stretch. The Cowboys have shown glimpses of putting it together for a title run, but the teams need to show the consistency and focus that are hallmarks of championship teams. After an impressive 43-3 drubbing of the Falcons, the Cowboys are in a great position to make a run at the No.1 seed in the NFC.
Here are some other thoughts and observations from the Cowboys' week 10 performance:
Dak knocks off the rust
After missing the mark against the Broncos while looking out of sorts as a rhythm passer, Prescott put on a show against the Falcons that re-affirmed his position as a top 5 quarterback in the league.
The veteran completed 24 of 31 passes for 296 yards with a pair of touchdowns in a performance that reminded the football that he is a viable MVP candidate. Prescott's accuracy and precision as a passer enabled the Cowboys to dominate an overmatched Falcons' defense. With a trio of explosive pass catchers winning against man coverage and finding holes in the zone, the Cowboys' QB1 made it look easy on Sunday as the offense bounced back from a disappointing effort in Week 9.
Looking ahead to a tough match-up against the Chiefs, the nearly flawless tune-up against the Falcons should help Prescott play fast and free next weekend.
Cowboys' star power shows up in the passing game
The Cowboys' three-receiver package is arguably the most lethal personnel grouping in football with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup flashing the capacity to dominate their individual matchups on the perimeter.
The unit reunited for the first time since Week 1 with Gallup coming off the injured reserve list following a lengthy rehab of a calf injury. And the potential of the group is downright scary with the trio lightly carving up the Falcons in a 43-3 blowout win. Cooper, Lamb, and Gallup combined for 13 catches, 187 yards, and two touchdowns while taking turns acting as the No.1 option in the passing game.
The production from the trio certainly jumps off the page when reviewing the stat sheet but it is how each member of the group complements others with their talent and playmaking ability. From Cooper's superb route-running ability to Lamb's knack for making acrobatic catches to Gallup's vertical playmaking skills, the Cowboys can punish opponents in the passing game if their talent is not up to par or if the scheme is flawed.
With Tony Pollard or Ezekiel Elliott adding some spice to the aerial attack as electric
check-down options from the backfield, the Cowboys' passing game is as good as it gets in today's NFL.
Who is No.92?
Perhaps it is the old scout in me that leads me to reference players by their jersey number, but it did not take long for me to consult my flip card to see who was wearing the No.92 jersey after seeing the energetic defender flash big-play ability against the Falcons. The fourth-year pro finished the night with three tackles and a sack while harassing Matt Ryan all over the field. In addition, Dorrance blocked a punt that was recovered for a touchdown.
The standout performance not only announced arrival to the football world, but it gave observers an opportunity to see why the Cowboys were not overly concerned about their perceived lack of frontline playmakers with Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence sidelined with injuries. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder has flashed as a disruptive defender in the past, but he had not seen regular playing time within the rotation. With more opportunities to showcase his talents as a playmaker on defense and special teams, Dorrance could become a key contributor to a defense that is surging down the stretch.
*The secondary is full of pickpockets *
The Cowboys have placed a greater emphasis on generating more turnovers this season. The off-season work and training camp featured countless drills designed to help defenders improve their ball skills and punch-out techniques. The commitment to drill work has paid off with the Cowboys emerging one of the top takeaway teams in 2021 with 17 turnovers forced in nine games.
Against the Falcons, the secondary showed up and showed out as ball hawks on the perimeter. Each of the starting cornerbacks (Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Jourdain Lewis) came up with an interception as the Cowboys made a living picking off tipped passes and overthrows in their areas. The three-interception effort gives the Cowboys the second-most interceptions (14) in the league while also spotlighting the dramatic improvement of a secondary that struggled for most of last season.
Dan Quinn, Joe Whitt, Jr., and Al Harris deserve credit for cleaning up the miscommunications and technical flaws that previously plagued the unit while also helping the group become a band of thieves.
** Mike McCarthy knows how to push the right buttons to get the Cowboys back on track**
Motivating the team is certainly in the head coach's job description. That's why McCarthy's clever utilization of "Monkey Butt" as a motivational tactic earns him a few points in the locker room as an effective leader.
While some might find it weird for a coach to bring up an anti-chafing powder in a team meeting, the utilization of a visual aid to support his "RAW" (Red A** Week) emphasis certainly enabled the team to refocus on making amends for an embarrassing loss to the Broncos that led to a lot of outside criticism and scrutiny.
By linking the humiliation from Week 9 to having a few uncomfortable, itchy personal moments resonated with his team and they responded in splendid fashion with their best effort against the Falcons. The renewed focus resulted in better performance and let the football world know that the poor showing against the Broncos was a hiccup that has quickly been resolved by a team that is rounding into form as a title contender.