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Scout's Notebook: Coach Miscues; Credit To Dak


FRISCO, Texas – A handful of notes and observations from another ugly loss.

  • I am generally a big believer in a balanced attack, but even I can't defend Kellen Moore for his willingness to stick with the run in this game. Mike Zimmer was not going to let Ezekiel Elliott beat him and he gambled that Dak Prescott wouldn't. Zimmer's plan only worked due to Moore's stubbornness. Zimmer continued to dare Moore to run the ball and he fell for the trap by doing so. Moore ran the ball three times on two red zone trips for a total of -1 yard. There was nothing I saw from Elliott or this offensive line blocking that led me to believe they were going to have any success running at all the entire game.
  • What a rough night for the Dallas defense. Missed tackles, third down conversions and just getting their butts handed to them by the Vikings. The plan should have been to make Kirk Cousins have to make plays in this game -- but none of that happened. Cousins tends to make mistakes and poor decisions, but Richard's crew allowed the Vikings -- with a banged up offensive line and an old school fullback – to control the line of scrimmage. I lost track of how many times there was a white jersey wiping out a blue one. Cousins didn't have to make plays in this game because no one stepped up to make him do so.
  • Flat pass to Ezekiel Elliott on fourth down? Why not something inside to Amari Cooper or Randall Cobb? If you're going to throw that pass to Elliott, why wouldn't you run some type of rub in order to give him a little separation? With the design, you're creating less space for Prescott and Elliott to operate. Eric Kendricks made a heck of a play to knock the ball away, but the call helped him cover the necessary ground in order to make the play.
  • What a huge false start by Riley Reiff to even give the Cowboys a chance to come back. Dalvin Cook got a big first down with a seven-yard run -- and on the very next play Reiff got caught. The Vikings gained eight yards on two Cook carries, and Cousins facing a third down made his worst throw of the game trying to hit Stefon Diggs up the field. The ball wasn't even close. If Reiff doesn't commit that penalty, the Cowboys might not have gotten the ball back with a chance for the victory. Didn't take advantage of a big break.
  • Heck of an effort by Dak Prescott. Maybe I was wrong about the number of times he needs to throw in a game. I always felt like when he was around 28 or 29 passes that things tend to work about better for him, but tonight he was in command of his game. I was amazed at the number of situations where he was put in poor down and distance situations by Kellen Moore and he was able to pull the offense out of the ditch. It was impressive. Prescott doesn't need to be held back in these games like I once believed. Shame on me for thinking that.
  • Brett Maher is a blessing and a curse as a kicker. Just because a guy can make a kick from 50-plus doesn't mean you need it try it every chance you get. Then, to make matters worse, you drive the ball to almost the same spot and then elect to send the punt team onto the field. So now it's okay for Jason Garrett to do what he should have done in the first place by punting the ball or keeping the offense on the field to try and convert the first down.
  • The Cowboys' continued struggles against screen passes are baffling. There comes a time where a linebacker or defensive back needs to get off a block and get over to make a stop. The only time I saw Dalvin Cook get stopped on one was DeMarcus Lawrence hustling over and tripping Cook up before he was able to get started. Other than that one, all I noticed were defenders getting driven off the field or missing tackles. From my experience in the league, opponents are going to study this film and it's only going to get worse until they figure out how to defend them.
  • Jourdan Lewis or Anthony Brown needs to start in place of Chidobe Awuzie. I don't know if it's a lack of confidence or just plain poor technique, but he's a shell of what he once was. He no longer covers well, which has made him a liability -- especially when opponents need to convert on third down. He doesn't find the ball, nor does he do anything to affect the receiver in order to make it a contested catch. There are penalties, and quarterbacks and receivers have it far too easy when they work in his direction. In the league, they will find you if you don't make plays and we're starting to see that in his game.
  • How many passes did Kirk Cousins complete in the middle of the defense? It appeared that every snap, when he needed six or seven yards, he was throwing the ball between Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. It was their plan to get the ball out of his hand quickly to avoid the rush, but I didn't see any type of an adjustment defensively to make those passes contested. Cousins just wore them out, especially on the two-minute drive right before the half that led to a go-ahead field goal.
  • Ezekiel Elliott might not have been able to do anything on the ground, but he had a nice blitz pickup on Harrison Smith to allow Prescott enough time to find Michael Gallup for a touchdown. Mike Zimmer was struggling to get his front four home and was forced to put Smith near the line of scrimmage and blitz him. Elliott was able to steer Smith wide, which was all Prescott needed. Gallup did a great job of running off an Amari Cooper pick in order to get the necessary separation on the play.
  • Bad over coaching on the final Tavon Austin punt return. From the end zone, it appeared that Austin had an alley on the left side. The Vikings had to keep their blockers in to prevent the punt from potentially being blocked. That meant their coverage team would be late getting down the field. It would have been the perfect time for Austin to head to the sideline as fast as he could, pick up as many yards as he could in order to give Prescott a better shot at the end zone. Instead, the fair catch led to the offense having to use three plays and time just to make the "Hail Mary" attempt.
  • I don't know where this team would be without Amari Cooper. When you talk about body control, balance, concentration and finish, he's one of the best I've ever seen. I was disappointed that he didn't have a chance to finish off this game like he did against the Eagles last season. If I were Kellen Moore, I would have found a way to get him the ball one or two more times on that drive that ended up turning over on downs. As most opponents have found, the Vikings really didn't have an answer for him. Even if Trae Waynes had played, I still believe Cooper would have had a huge night. It's a shame that an effort such as Cooper's was wasted on a loss.

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