ARLINGTON, Texas — After laying an egg in Glendale last week, the Dallas Cowboys rebounded with a huge 38-3 victory over the New England Patriots back on their home field. In what was a domination from start-to-finish, there was a lot to take away from the big performance.
Here are the 5 Takes, presented by Take 5 Oil Change.
1. The Arizona atrocity was an exception.
Easy to say now, right? After one of the worst performances that the Cowboys have had under Mike McCarthy in Arizona last week, both sides of the ball rebounded for a win that looked very similar to the club's victory over the Jets in week two. The defense set the tone and helped get out to a big lead, and the offense moved down the field with ease before settling for field goals in the red zone. Sure, there are negatives to draw from that sentence, but it's refreshing to know that week three was the exception and not weeks one and two.
2. DaRon Bland is ready for the spotlight this season.
The NFL leader in interceptions since 2022 is none other than former fifth-round pick DaRon Bland with seven picks. After two interceptions on the boundary, including one that he returned for a huge back-breaking touchdown in the third quarter, it's safe to say that Bland is ready to step into his role as CB2 the rest of the way and shine when needed, not that he wasn't already. After a couple of early penalties against Arizona last week, he mostly rebounded to finish that game off as strong as he could, but the breakout performance came against the Patriots. In case he hadn't already, Bland will walk out of AT&T Stadium today saying, "Throw it at me."
3. Mike McCarthy outcoached Bill Belichick from the word go.
Offensively, Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys offense took the ball to start the game and dominated in moving the ball down the field. Bill Belichick tried to throw a variety of zone concepts with his safety group at Dak Prescott, and QB1 sliced and diced everything like he was playing Fruit Ninja. McCarthy and Prescott got a multitude of different weapons involved, they kept Matthew Judon mostly out of the backfield, and they dominated when Christian Gonzalez exited the game. The offense had its stutters in the red zone once again, but McCarthy's offensive success in the open field couldn't be solved by one of the best to ever coach the game.
4. There's a lack of aggressiveness in the red zone that's causing the big problems inside the 20.
Let's try and figure this out from my initial watch. The red zone offense just doesn't have any juice, I talked about that last week. Why is that the case? The offense excels at being conservative in the open field: quick gains, getting guys open in space, carving running lanes when the defense is spread out. Well, when things get inside the 20, that same conservativeness isn't quite as effective. The box is loaded up, the defense is not forced to spread out as wide, and running lanes are narrowed to a sliver. As a result, there has to be a certain aggression with this offense inside the 20. Prescott was able to show that when he went deep to CeeDee Lamb from the 20-yard line and converted. Show that aggression each time, and this offense may finally see some consistent red zone success.
5. If Rico Dowdle misses extended time, there will need to be a solution in the pass protection effort.
Rico Dowdle exited the game in the second half with a hip injury, and that's of specific concern considering a hip injury kept him out of all of the 2022 season. If Dowdle is set to miss extended time, his presence in the pass protection game will be sorely missed. Deuce Vaughn had his opportunities to show his skills in the second half and allowed a good amount of pressure. Hunter Luepke proved more valuable with those same opportunities, but an added speed weapon that can also get wide in pass protection may be more of use. Ronald Jones circle back? Test the Leonard Fournette waters? We'll see. First thing's first, we'll have to see just how bad Dowdle's injury is.