FRISCO, Texas – From my vantage point in our television studios at The Star, here are some quick reactions to the Cowboys' dominant 42-21 win against the Lions on Monday night:
- I will need to watch the tape, but it appeared that Dez Bryant was tracking the ball much better in this game. His one-handed catch for his first touchdown was a great example of this. Even with Johnson Bademosi pulling on him the entire route, you could see where his eyes were and it allowed him to stick his hand out in order to get the ball up so he had a chance to secure it. There have been games where I have felt like this has been a problem for him.
- The Lions came into the game as the best in the league at converting on 3rd-and-long situations, at 35 percent. In the two opportunities they had during the game, the Cowboys stopped them. On the first, J.J. Wilcox missed an interception of Matthew Stafford in the dime package. There was pressure from Sean Lee that forced Stafford to try and fit the ball in a tight window. The next one was stopped when Benson Mayowa overpowered Taylor Decker for a sack and a nine-yard loss.
- The Lions defensively were making progress in the previous eight games when it came to not allowing plays of 20 or more yards. They were ranked 10th in the league, and it was a large part of the reason why they were in position to clinch a playoff spot. The Cowboys hit them for five plays of 20-plus yards, with the long one a 55-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott for their second touchdown.
- How big is it for the defense to have such a versatile player in Byron Jones? Not many teams can lose their starting cornerback, shift the nickel to the outside and walk a safety inside on the slot. I thought as a group the entire secondary was there to pick each other up throughout this game in limiting the Lions' passing game.
- I had no problem with the coaches playing Randy Gregory the number of snaps they did. I had a pretty strong feeling during the week that they were going to give him extensive work, especially with the injury to DeMarcus Lawrence. It was a rough start to the game for Gregory, but as the game wore on you started to see him more around Stafford in the pocket. What I am worried about now is what Jerry Jones said after the game -- which is that there might be some issues from the league in him playing in the playoffs. So stay tuned.
- Dallas receivers were 13-of-15 catching the football on the day. When this offense is really humming, it's when Prescott is spreading the ball around. Tip of the cap to the way that Terrance Williams played. He was rewarded for his quality route running with targets that he was able to convert.
- With Terrell McClain suffering an ankle injury early in the game, someone was going to have to step up at defensive tackle and that was Maliek Collins. I am not surprised in the way he has played as a rookie, but what has surprised me is how often he is able to win one-on-one in these pass rushing situations. His sack of Stafford came on a three-man rush where he destroyed Graham Glasgow off the snap. There was never a question of his power but his quickness has been giving blockers fits this entire season.
- As bad as the run defense appeared to play, the great equalizer is with the offense's ability to score points off drives. As long as this offense makes the opponents have to play catch-up, then it will take them out of running the ball. Once Dallas went up 28-21, the Lions only ran the ball seven more times the remainder of the game.
- I continue to love the ball handling of Dak Prescott. The fake toss to Ezekiel Elliott is such a deceptive play that's executed perfectly. For them to get receivers so open off the play action is a credit to Prescott and the design of the play. You also have to give credit to Scott Linehan for the way that he's made it a part of the game plan each week with different scheme designs.
- The only Lions sack of the day came from Ziggy Ansah, who is a quality pass rusher. It appeared that Tyron Smith never really got his hands on him and Ansah took advantage of that. There also appeared to be some inside pressure from Ronald Leary inside which didn't help the situation where Prescott could have had an escape route. Other than that one play – I thought as a group the line was on top of their game protection-wise, especially from Travis Frederick and Zack Martin.
- For a guy that doesn't get much playing time with the exception of special teams – the ball seems to find its way into Kyle Wilber's hands. This is the second time in four games that he has been in the right place at the right time for a fumble recovery. His recovery in the Minnesota game was a game changing-play, and the one this evening on the David Irving sack ended a Lions drive inside the Cowboys 5-yard line to end the game.
- I was not surprised that Tony Romo didn't play in this game, even with the score the way it was. If Romo is going to play in a game, he is going to get more than 8-to-10 snaps in an entire practice with the first offense to make sure he is completely ready for real action and not some mop up job.