FRISCO, Texas – I was honestly at a loss for what to do without an opponent to preview in the coming week. I spend the majority of my week watching tape of the next team on the Cowboys' schedule, so the bye week is a kink in my routine.
While I wait for the season to kick back into gear, I figured it might be fun to look back at this impressive start to the year. The Cowboys have won five games in a row, making some outstanding plays on both sides of the ball.
Here are five of my top plays from the Cowboys' offense so far this season, and later I'll come back with five from the defense.
Hopefully this tides us all over until the games start up again.
- Jason Garrett took an aggressive approach in a 3-0 game in Washington. He passed up a sure field goal from Dan Bailey to go for it on fourth down – going against his typical decision-making. In the game, the Cowboys had some early success running the ball at the Redskins, so that had to be in the back of defensive coordinator Joe Barry's mind. Scott Linehan sent "13" personnel in, and the Redskins countered with a "double eagle" look, covering the Cowboys' interior three blockers. The strength of the formation was to the right with Geoff Swaim playing a wing to that side. Pre-snap, Swaim motioned from right to left, then set. At the snap, the offensive line went full flow to their left along with Ezekiel Elliott in an attempt to draw the defense to their right. Dak Prescott flashed the ball to Elliott, then pulls it away turning to his right. Swaim, running behind the line, sprinted in the opposite direction. The Redskins sold with a blitz by linebackers Will Compton and Terence Garvin, right in Prescott's face. Somehow Prescott was able to get the ball off to Swaim over the top of Compton and Garvin before he was knocked to the ground. Swaim secured the ball and advanced it 27 yards before being knocked out of bounds. It was a perfect call and execution for the situation.
- Dak Prescott's first career touchdown pass was a 17-yard strike to Dez Bryant against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football. What was special about this play was the way Prescott was able to hold safety Chris Prosinski in the middle of the field with his eyes -- which allowed Bryant to win against Tracy Porter inside. Bryant lined up far right and turned Porter completely around on the route, which bought him the separation that he needed. Sitting in the middle of the pocket, Prescott was able to put the ball on Bryant in plenty enough time to allow him to secure it in his hands and then prepare for the blow from Prosinski. In typical Bryant fashion, especially around the goal line, he was able to split the tackles of the two Bears defenders and dive into the end zone to finish the play.
- I wish I had a dollar for every time I've seen Jason Witten practice a stiff arm against air when catching a pass in space. It is something that I always expect to see him execute, and against the Cincinnati Bengals he was able to do just that. Dak Prescott pre-snap saw linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga line up in the "A" gaps on a blitz look. At the snap, Burfict and Maualuga dropped out of there in coverage, as Witten sprinted past them toward the middle of the field. Nickel corner Josh Shaw was left in coverage one-on-one with Witten -- but in a trailing position. Prescott pumped the ball in Ezekiel Elliott's direction, which drove Burfict and Maualuga to him and out the middle the field. With space in the middle, Prescott was able to lead Witten inside and then up the field away from Shaw. Safety Derron Smith tried to come up and tackle Witten, but instead of getting him on the ground, he took a shot to the chest as Witten gained 12 more yards.
- Of the many traits that Ezekiel Elliott has as running back, my favorite one is his ability to finish runs. Whether that run is six or 60 yards, he is going to find a way to get everything he can out of it. His long touchdown run against the Bengals reminded me of those runs while he was at Ohio State where he just exploded through the hole and left everyone in his wake. First off, I loved the play design. From the trap block by Geoff Swaim, to the arc release by Jason Witten to take Vontaze Burfict and George IIoka out of the box. When Zack Martin and Doug Free were able to secure their down blocks, there was a perfect lane for Elliott to hit and he did just that untouched.
- Brice Butler is capable of making big plays down the field, and it was a shame that he was only able to convert one of those two long throws in Green Bay. His 20-yard reception for a touchdown against the Packers was really more difficult than it appeared when I saw it the first time. Like his touchdown reception in San Francisco, he didn't have much room to work with. For him to adjust to the ball in flight and get both feet down, all before going out of bounds, is a credit to him. Dak Prescott was going his direction the entire time and Butler rewarded him for the pass he threw. What was also impressive about the play was that Prescott let the ball fly before Butler was able to gain separation on cornerback LaDarius Gunter. They were shoulder to shoulder off the ball, then the final 10 yards Butler was able to gain two yards of separation and that was the difference in the play.