We knew it was bound to happen, but it was still surprising when it actually did.
Dallas Cowboys rookie sensation Dak Prescott had been almost flawless through the first six games of the season, but against the Philadelphia Eagles, he looked mortal. For three and a half quarters, Prescott looked like the player that most analysts expected him to be coming out of Mississippi State. His mechanics were off, his footwork was bad, and he was inaccurate.
Despite that fact, the Cowboys still fought their way out of a hole to beat the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys were sloppy for most of the night, but when it matter most, they executed well enough to get the victory. , let’s get to some key observations from the Cowboys win over their division foe.
With that out of the way, let’s get to some key observations from the Cowboys win over their division foe.
Ezekiel Elliott may be the best running back in football
It wasn’t easy, but Elliott fought his way to 96 crucial yards on 22 carries. Even though it wasn’t his best statistical game, it may have been his best performance.
Elliott did a fantastic job of displaying the patience to hit his landmarks and allow the blocks in front of him to develop and the explosiveness to get through the crease once it opened up (something he struggled a bit with previously this season). He ran hard and fought for every inch as evidenced by the fact that 89 of his 96 yards came after contact, per Pro Football Focus. It was difficult, but Elliott routinely gashed the Eagles in crucial situations to keep the offense moving. In fact, the Cowboys should have fed him more as some wonky play calling in the red zone almost cost the Cowboys the game.
On top of his success as a runner, Elliott made a big impact as a blocker in the passing game. He did a great job of diagnosing who he had to block while executing it with controlled violence and excellent technique. Just as he did here:
Zeke doing work in pass pro. pic.twitter.com/6Db3zoAiL0
— Matt Claassen (@PFF_Matt) October 31, 2016
This game showed, more than any other, why it was worth spending such a high pick on a running back. Elliott is a special player who has already woven himself into the fabric of the offense. He is going to be an integral part of the Cowboys or a long time.
Tyron Smith is elite
The Cowboys’ star left tackle is a freak of nature. Despite the fact that he isn’t 100 percent healthy, Smith had about as dominant of a game as a player can have:
Tyron Smith was a JYD tonight. Maybe the most dominating performance I've seen from a LT in a long long time!
— Duke Manyweather (@BigDuke50) October 31, 2016
Smith is an extremely difficult matchup for any pass-rusher because he has the strength to anchor, and the foot quickness to mirror and get to his landmarks. Against the Eagles, Smith showcased all the traits that make him a top-three offensive tackle in the NFL. Here is one example:
Smith’s footwork and hand usage were on point throughout the night as he dominated in the run and pass game. In a crucial division game against high-level competition, Smith was on top of his game and one of the biggest reasons why the Cowboys escaped AT&T stadium with a win (look for a more in-depth explanation of Smith’s performance later this week).
Secondary shines again
Carson Wentz’ stat line from Sunday night would even make Alex Smith laugh. Despite completing 74.4 percent of his passes, Wentz completed 32 of his 43 passes for only had 202 passing yards and one touchdown. Wentz only accrued an abysmal 4.7 yards per attempt. Not only was this because of a couple drops from the Eagles wide receivers, but also it was because of the stellar play of the Cowboys secondary.
Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown did a fantastic job of staying glued to the Eagles receivers all night. And when the Eagles tried to run bubble screens and quick hitches, they did a great job tackling. Here is a great example from Brandon Carr:
Even though the cornerbacks played extremely well, the Cowboys left the game with a sour taste in their mouth as they learned Barry Church and Morris Claiborne will miss extended periods of time with injuries sustained against the Eagles.
The Cowboys secondary will truly be tested over the next month as J.J. Wilcox and Anthony Brown get thrust into even bigger roles. It will be interesting to see how they hold up.
Cowboys coaching staff has a hot and cold performance
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli did a great job against the Eagles; however, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia struggled against their division foe.
Garrett’s gutsy calls, such as the fake punt and going four it on fourth-and-1, helped the Cowboys claw back from a 10 point deficit to win the game. Garrett should be commended for his aggressive gameplan and the trust in his players to get the job done.
Marinelli put the Cowboys defense in a great position to stop the Eagles offense when it mattered most. Without the defense’s fantastic effort, the Cowboys would have had no chance to overcome their offensive struggles against Philadelphia.
On the other side of the coin, Linehan had one of the least impressive performances as the Cowboys play caller. He didn’t adjust to Prescott’s struggles to well, and he took the ball out of the hands of Elliott on too consistent of a basis.
Bisaccia didn’t do a good job of getting his players ready as it was a mess on special teams for the Cowboys Sunday night. Penalties and poor fundamentals in coverage hurt the Cowboys and put the offensive and defenses in poor positions all night.