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GLENDALE, Ariz. — The NFL is a week-to-week league, and that means there is simply no overlooking any opponent. One week, a team can be humiliated by an opponent on their home field and, the very next week, can go toe-to-toe with one of the best in the league; and it was the latter that occurred between the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys.
In the first loss of the season for the Cowboys, there were several who did all they could to try and lead the team to a 3-0 start in the wake of losing three starting offensive linemen and Trevon Diggs (for the season).
Brandon Aubrey, K
For the second consecutive week, Aubrey was clean as a whistle. In a game that saw the Cowboys struggle yet again in the red zone, the rookie kicker made each of his attempts and saw only one of his kickoffs returned — the others having been touchbacks. Aubrey accounted for 10 of the 16 points scored by the Cowboys, again delivering the majority of the production with his right foot.
Tony Pollard, RB
It was a slow start for the Cowboys offense and especially their rushing attack, but not having three starting offensive linemen might have something to do with it (spoiler: it did). Pollard was able to get going in the second quarter, however, and he helped put the Cowboys in position to score their first touchdown of the game — handled by Rico Dowdle.
Rico Dowdle, RB
It's been a long time coming, but Dowdle has found pay dirt in the NFL. The veteran running back has long played third back behind Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, and it's led to Dowdle having not scored an NFL touchdown in his career. That changed in the desert, when he took a short pass in the flat from Prescott and turned it into a 15-yard touchdown.
Dak Prescott, QB
Prescott was under siege, to say the least. The absence of Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Tyler Biadasz was evident as Prescott was taken down twice in the first half — a season–high in sacks allowed by the Cowboys (they had allowed none through the first two weeks, as the sack on Prescott against the Jets was a free blitzer). He fought through the pressure time and again, finding Dowdle for a touchdown, Ferguson for several targets and getting Cooks and Lamb involved as well; and he used his legs to move the chains, too.
CeeDee Lamb, WR
The first half was mostly quiet for Lamb, one week after exploding for 143 receiving yards against the Jets. Things woke up for him in a big way to start the second half, though, a 32-yard catch on third-and-7 helping to get the Cowboys in position for a 27-yard field goal that he'd successfully boot through the uprights. A 32-yard catch to open the second half showed he had awakened, but the Cardinals defense forced the ball in other directions from there.
Michael Gallup, WR
It felt like there was a conscious effort to get Gallup involved against the Cardinals, or the Cardinals were simply not keyed in on him but, either way, he made an impact early. He logged two catches in the first half and moved the chains on both, one being a 19-yard grab that saw him outmuscle his defender and at least one would-be tackler. That's the physicality and violence that makes Gallup valuable to the roster, on full display in his biggest day of the young season.
Jake Ferguson, TE
If ever there was a time for Dak Prescott to need a security blanket, it was against the Cardinals, in a contest that saw three starting offensive linemen ruled out of the game. That blanket was Ferguson who, time and again, made good on his targets and showed plenty of physicality in fighting through and/or going around would-be tacklers for yards after the carry.
Hunter Luepke, FB
Luepke looked crisp in his offensive reps, also showing his versatility when asked to do so. He went from catching a pass in the flat and speeding forward for a 12-yard gain to being the lead blocker carving lanes for Pollard, to carrying the ball himself on handoffs. The fullba-..er … um… flexback movement is now in full effect for the Cowboys.
Damone Clark, LB
Clark's speed was on full display in the first half, and that included making a crucial chasedown tackle on James Conner in an area vacated by a blitzing LVE. Clark forced the play to halt after an eight-yard gain and the Cardinals would then suffer a one-yard loss on third down — forcing a field goal. Clark looked great in Arizona, and his needle is pointing due north in 2023.