FRISCO, Texas – The in-depth analysis will come on Monday, but there was just a ton to digest in this thriller against the Lions.
From my vantage point in our studios at The Star, these are my main impressions from the game:
· I talked about it during the week and on our pregame show that the new wrinkle you could see from the offense was to play with a little pace. It was a good plan to attempt to wear this Lions defensive line out due to their size. The Cowboys did a nice job offensively putting the pressure on the Lions, and as the game wore on you could see it taking its toll -- especially on that final drive.
· I had a feeling that Tyrone Crawford could be disruptive in this game with his quickness. Crawford was able to beat the down block by Taylor Decker, which threw off the pulling block of T.J. Lang. That put both Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence in place to tackle Kerryon Johnson for a loss on a big play.
· Nice job by Cole Beasley running his route through the middle of the defense to hold Quandre Diggs in place while Michael Gallup was able to release away from Nevin Lawson along the sideline. Diggs had no choice but to honor Beasley's route, which allowed Dak Prescott just enough room to throw the ball over the top.
· Bad break for Jourdan Lewis playing in the dime package. There is nothing easy about covering Golden Tate out of the slot, but when Lewis slipped on the play it caused him to lose his balance and stumble forward. Once Tate felt that, he just spun away from him and started up the field. What compounded the problem was the way that Jeff Heath didn't attempt to push Tate to the sideline to drive him out of bounds.
· Loved the way Scott Linehan used Ezekiel Elliott in the screen game. I felt like Elliott could have had two touchdowns on the day if Connor Williams wouldn't have delayed a little too long to get out in front of Elliott. Williams will learn that, when he is blocking a linebacker that is playing man coverage on the back, he needs to go and attack that man. Jarrad Davis made a heck of a play to tackle Elliott for a short gain. If Williams gets that block, like I mentioned, Elliott could have been bumping his head on the goal post -- the field was that open.
· Really nice zone coverage by the secondary to force Matthew Stafford into holding the ball for DeMarcus Lawrence's first sack of the game. Lawrence was able to use a stutter move that forced backup guard Kenny Wiggins off balance. Lawrence was able to quickly swim Wiggins, which put him right on top of Stafford before he could unload the ball.
· It appeared that Dak Prescott used the hard count to his advantage after what transpired in Seattle last week, where the Seahawks were jumping the count. On the pass to Allen Hurns along the near sideline, Prescott was able to bait both Rickey Jean-Francois and Devon Kennard into the neutral zone for a free play.
· Jaylon Smith took a page out of the Sean Lee playbook with a bluff blitz, where he faked like he was dropping into coverage, then came on the rush. The pocket around Stafford was closing down quickly, but it was the pressure by Smith right in Stafford's face that kept the ball from getting out of his hand.
· Tavon Austin's dinner won't taste as good as it could have if he would have pulled in that pass from Dak Prescott. Austin was excellent on his release, and with no safety help over the top, he had all the room he needed to make the catch. Prescott's fake to Rod Smith was perfect and he anticipated that once Austin was even with Darius Slay, he was going to be get him. The throw should have been a touchdown due to the location of the pass.
· Usually not a huge fan of when the offense gets in "13," or three tight end personnel, but one of the biggest runs of the day for Ezekiel Elliott came from that grouping. Geoff Swaim and Rico Gathers were able to take care of their guys on the front side, which allowed Elliott to cut the ball back to the inside where Joe Looney was able to clean up Jarrad Davis. It was that block that got Elliott in the clear and he had a chance to score, but a nice open field tackle by Quandre Diggs saved the touchdown.
· I honestly don't know what the coverage was when Matthew Stafford threw the ball to Kenny Golladay over the top of the defense. It appeared that both Anthony Brown and Jaylon Smith were playing short like they were expecting Byron Jones or Jeff Heath with help over the top. Jones peeled off his man to make the tackle, but there was too much confusion on the play --which led to a Kerryon Johnson touchdown on the next play.
· What poise by Dak Prescott to get back on that stripped ball by Da'Shawn Hand and avoid the outside pressure to throw it away to save the series. If Prescott doesn't try and make something out of nothing and just falls on the ball, the down and distance situation would have been horrendous. Heads up play on his part to save the game right there.