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Bucky Brooks: 10 Takeaways From Sunday's Loss 


Here are my thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' performance against the Los Angeles Rams in a 20-17 loss on Sunday night:

  • Dak is in total control. Mike McCarthy's decision to keep Kellen Moore in place as the offensive coordinator appeared to pay huge dividends in the opener. The fifth-year pro was distributing the ball to his playmakers like a Blackjack dealer dispensing cards at the table. Prescott completed 25 of 39 passes for 266 yards and one touchdown while connecting to seven different receivers. The efficiency, accuracy, and decisiveness displayed by the veteran passer suggest that he and Moore are in sync as a play-caller/playmaker combination.
  • Zeke looks like he's regained his All-Pro form. After slogging through a disappointing 2019 campaign (by his standards), Elliott looks like an all-star performer with the rock in his hands. He ripped off 96 yards on the ground on 22 attempts with a touchdown while also adding 31 receiving yards and a score. Most impressive, Elliott looked fit and trim while displaying the balance, body control, vision, and stop-start quickness that makes him arguably the best RB1 in the game.
  • The lack of O-Line depth could be a problem going forward. The Cowboys entered the game with issues at right tackle with La'el Collins on short-term injured reserve. That depth was further compromised with Cam Erving suffering an injury on a missed field goal attempt in the second quarter. Terrence Steele held up well as a surprise starter at right tackle. The UDFA didn't look out of place in the starting lineup but he gave a critical sack to Leonard Floyd and struggled against the Rams' isolation tactics late in the game.
  • The fourth-down gamble backfires. Mike McCarthy's decision to bypass a field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter. The gamble came up short when CeeDee Lamb was tackled a yard short of the first down. If the Cowboys knot the score up at 20 at that point, the pressure falls back onto the shoulders of Jared Goff to make plays down the stretch.
  • The loss of LVE changes the defensive outlook. The one-time Pro Bowler was expected to play a huge role in Mike Nolan's revamped defense as the MIKE linebacker. Vander Esch was off to a solid start until a collarbone injury sent him to the sidelines in the opening quarter. Without No.55 on the field, the Cowboys had to reshuffle the deck with Jaylon Smith returning to the middle and Joe Thomas playing on the weak-side. The alterations prevented Mike Nolan from tapping into Smith's talents as a pass rusher while exposing him to more snaps in coverage.
  • Aldon Smith is as good as advertised. The former All-Pro defender played like an all-star in his debut performance for the Cowboys. He tallied 11 tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, and two QB hits as a disruptive force on the edge. Smith's heavy hands and relentless energy were impressive for a player who hasn't suited up in a game since 2015. If he can continue to give the Cowboys this kind of effort off the edge, the defensive line should emerge as one of the NFL's top units by the end of the season.
  • Defense has to improve on the money down. The Cowboys' inability to get off of the field on third down was a critical factor in the game. The Rams converted nine of 17 on third down with the majority of those conversions falling within the short (three yards or fewer) or medium (four to six yards). Without getting the Rams into obvious passing downs, Mike Nolan couldn't unleash the pass rush in advantageous situations to generate negative plays and/or turnovers.
  • Questionable OPI call kills a potential comeback. The suspect call on Michael Gallup against Jalen Ramsey killed the Cowboys' comeback chances. The ticky-tack call not only robbed the team of a chance to score points but it put the team in a desperate long-yardage situation with only a few ticks remaining on the clock.
  • Blake Jarwin's injury leaves a void in the passing game. The athletic pass-catching tight end looked like the perfect complement to the team's three-receiver package. Jarwin was on his way towards making his mark as a playmaker between the hashes (one catch for 12 yards) before suffering a knee injury while running a route. Dalton Schultz was a disappointment as a replacement with a couple of drops and a sloppy route that contributed to Lamb's inability to get the first down on the failed fourth-down gamble. Without a consistent threat in the middle, the Rams were able to sit in a soft two-deep zone that took away deep throws and minimized the impact of Cooper and Gallup on the outside. If the Cowboys are unable to find a legitimate weapon at tight end, McCarthy could consider utilizing more "10" (one back, four wide receivers) or "20" (two backs, three receivers) personnel packages in the future.
  • The secondary comes up with a takeaway. Mike Nolan's emphasis on turnovers has already had a positive effect on a secondary that generated only seven interceptions a season ago. The veteran defensive coordinator wants to put defenders in a better position to get turnovers by playing more zone and off coverage to keep their eyes on the quarterback to get better breaks on throws. Chidobe* Awuzie snagged an errant Jared Goff pass for the first team's interception of the season. The scrappy cover corner made a great break on the throw and displayed surprising ball skills coming down with the catch.

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