Scout's Eye: Breaking Down The Passing Game; Grading The Defense

FRISCO, Texas – Make all the comments you want about the Bears, but it doesn't change the fact that Sunday was one of the most complete performances we've seen from the Cowboys in a while.

Yes, the Bears are now in an 0-3 hole and were without many key players in that Week 3 matchup. Despite that, give some credit to the Cowboys for overpowering an outmatched opponent. Led by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys moved the ball almost at will – both on the ground and through the air.

While not exactly dominant, the defense held its opponent to 17 points and is only surrendering an average of 20 points so far this season. They also forced two takeaways to give them four on the year – already a marked improvement from a year ago.

Here are some more detailed notes on the win – good, bad and ugly:

  • If Dak Prescott has a best friend on this offense, it has to be Cole Beasley. Prescott has thrown the ball in Beasley's direction 25 times, with 20 of those resulting in completions. One of my favorite plays of the game was when Beasley came across the formation and set up just inside Jason Witten. In their previous game against the Redskins, Beasley did the same thing but sprinted into the flat to take a pass from Prescott for a first down. On this particular play, instead of sprinting into the flat, Beasley ran behind Witten who was able to create a moving screen for him on Jacoby Glenn -- who was late to get in position. Prescott saw Chris Prosinski hanging in the middle of the field, not paying attention to Beasley -- who by then had a good three yards on Glenn. Prescott let the ball fly, but not far enough up the field in order for Beasley to just run under it and score. Beasley instead turned his back to the goal line and had to wait for the ball to get to him – which it finally did. Beasley made the adjustment on the ball -- but unfortunately came down a yard short of the end zone.
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  • The Bears went "Empty" formation with bunch receivers on the right side. They flexed Jeremy Langford wide to the left, which put Barry Church in coverage to that side. Church, upon realizing that he might get picked by Cameron Meredith on the play, lined up at nine yards to prevent that. Meredith tried to run inside, but Brandon Carr jammed him along the line and Church was easily able to clear and sprint downhill into the flat.  He hit Langford just as the ball arrived from Brian Hoyer, and forcing the Chicago offense off the field on third down.
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  • If you are going to play Dez Bryant with no safety help in the red zone -- you had better get ready for an in-breaking route. It was a really nice job by a physically disabled Bryant to swat Tracy Porter off the line and present himself as a target for Dak Prescott. Bryant knew it wasn't going to be an easy catch, but he was able to elevate off his left foot to get into the air to cradle a ball that was right on top of his face mask. Once he had the ball secure, his next movement was to split Porter and Chris Prosinski and launch himself into the end zone.
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  • I loved the fake "toss" to Ezekiel Elliott that resulted in a 12-yard pass play to Terrance Williams, dragging across the field. Prescott was able to completely fool the Bears defense by throwing his right hand in Elliott's direction -- all while transferring the ball to his left. Prescott had three options on the play, and by throwing to Williams he took the one with the highest risk. That's not to mention that the Bears sent Cre'von LeBlanc on a slot blitz from his backside. There wasn't much of a window to fit the ball in to Williams, but he managed to pull it off with Williams extending his hands to make the reception and dragging both feet in bounds.
  • I thought it was a nice start for Maliek Collins, who has improved with each opportunity he has received. He is likely playing out of position as the nose tackle, but there were not many snaps where he was completely overmatched. I thought he played with power at the point, and when he had to chase the ball, he was working to free himself. He had a really nice play in the second half where he beat fellow rookie Cody Whitehair up the field and trapped Jordan Howard in the backfield for a three-yard loss. The next play, the defense was able to create a turnover when Cameron Meredith fumbled after a reception.
  • I had a feeling that Scott Linehan was going to take a shot down the field with Brice Butler. With the ball on the Chicago 31-yard line, he did just that. Linehan got what he wanted with both the safeties focusing on Dez Bryant and Jason Witten inside and Butler lined up one-on-one with Jacoby Glenn. Linehan went max protection and kept Jason Witten in to block in order to allow Prescott to get rid the ball. Butler never could fully separate from Glenn, so that meant that the throw would have to be perfect -- and it was close to that. What was surprising is that Glenn never turned his head for the ball and he was able to crowd Butler the way he was without a call. I have seen calls made in these games where there was far less contact.
  •  After what I saw from Ryan Davis during his time in the second half, I would expect that he will receive more opportunities in the coming weeks. I think his rush was due more to skill than just being a fresh body late in the game. Davis rushed from both sides, but it appeared that his better work came off the right side. He put Charles Leno in some terrible blocking positions with his rush and should have been rewarded with a holding call on Leno, but the official missed it. Davis was explosive and technique-sound, which was noticeable from my seat in the press box and even more impressive when I got to study the game later. He has a little juice to his rush.
  • I wish Scott Linehan wouldn't have tried the misdirection flip to Ezekiel Elliott in the fourth quarter. That was no time to get cute. You're grinding clock, plus making the Bears use their timeouts along the way. Run the ball behind Keith Smith and this offensive line to get the one yard that you need to kill the game. Smith had been digging linebackers out all day, and with the way that Elliott was finishing runs, I would take my chance against the nine-man box. The way the Bears played their scheme on the play, they were ready for the ball to go to the outside --which it did. I liked what Linehan had done the majority of the day but that wasn't one of his better calls.
  • I thought, for the most part, that the defense was outstanding in defending the run. I really did worry about the Bears just lining up and trying to pound the ball. There were two bad plays where the defense was out of position and it resulted in chunk gains. Jordan Howard ripped of a 36-yard run where Dallas had enough men in position to handle the play, but five defenders were all blocked.  Sean Lee was handled by Logan Paulson on the edge. Tyrone Crawford was driven wide and Terrell McClain was hooked inside. To make matters worse, Barry Church tried to fill the alley, but he was too wide as well and Zach Miller was able to wash him out of the play. J.J. Wilcox had to come from the middle of the field in order to drive Howard out of bounds. It was a well-blocked play at the point of attack, but it was nothing that they had not handled all day. This time they just didn't get off the blocks.
  • On Jason Witten's near-touchdown in the red zone, it appeared that Dak Prescott wanted to throw the ball to Dez Bryant on the shallow cross, but he got knocked down by Jerrell Freeman as he came across the field. As Prescott moved forward in the pocket, he saw Witten breaking to the outside while Terrance Williams cleared space. Prescott was able to get rid of the ball just before Willie Young beat Chaz Green around the corner and took a swipe at the ball. At first I thought Witten managed to sneak into the end zone, but his right foot went out of bounds as he was stretching the ball out.  It was an outstanding read by Prescott but an even better job by Witten to run his route hard knowing that there was a good chance Bryant was going to get the ball.
  • This defense didn't have a sack in the game, but they did force a turnover in the pocket when David Irving managed to get home and force Brian Hoyer to scramble. Hoyer tripped himself and while going to the ground lost his handle on the ball. Benson Mayowa, trailing the play was able to alertly get over to Hoyer and rip the ball away from him. The defense also had a chance with a turnover on the final play of the game when Barry Church and Brandon Carr drove on Alshon Jeffery, knocking the ball into the air. David Irving had a chance to bring it down but just couldn't quite get both hands on the ball to secure the interception.  
  • The Cowboys used four rookies in the game on Sunday and all were starters if you include Anthony Brown in the nickel. Ezekiel Elliott, Maliek Collins, and Dak Prescott all played significant roles in the victory. There was once a time where we couldn't have said that here.      

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