2021 Cowboys: Dak Returns

TFisNEXT

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I didn't see a 2021 Cowboys thread, so mods please delete in case I missed it.

Game 1 under their belt and as expected, they start the season 0-1.


But there was a lot of positive in this game for Dallas. The first is that Dak looked like he did not miss a beat from his scorching start in 2020 pre-injury. That was great to see. I think many expected at least a bit of rust having not played full game speed in almost a year but he was exceptional even though he was under pressure quite a few times. And he did it without his best offensive lineman in Zack Martin (COVID protocol, he will be back week 2). He nearly carried this team to an unlikely win last night.

Secondly, I also loved the offensive game plan. Kellen Moore had TB's defense figured out. He knew he couldn't really try and run it against the TB front 7 (esp with Zack Martin out) so he spread them out and exposed the weakest of TB's defense which is their depth in the secondary. It helps to basically have 3 probowl (nor near-probowl) caliber receivers, but he took advantage of the one on one matchup headaches that it creates for opposiing defenses. So great job by Moore on a well-called game.

Lastly, I was actually a little bit encouraged by the defense. Nobody had any delusions that this unit was going to be a strength of the team and nobody thought they were going to hold down the TB offense, but they looked hungry and swarmed the football well which helped cause a couple of those turnovers. I was hoping for a bit more pressure from the front 4, but TB's O-line is really good. Lawrence was double teamed a lot as well and he still made his presence felt a few times. If the rookies (and 2nd year players like Diggs) can keep developing, this unit will have some good games against lesser offenses.

On the flip side, McCarthy had some head-scratchers....particularly the 60 yard FG attempt at the end of the half. But he also probably should have gone for it on a couple other occasions deep in TB territory. 4th and 3 at the 13 and you could argue 4th and goal from the 3 as well. In this type of game against an elite team like TB, you have to put the game in the hands of your best players. You give the offense the chance to convert those IMHO.


Regardless, there is a lot to build on here and for now, the Cowboys look like the best of a weak division if they can stay relatively healthy on offense.
 

Greg29fan

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I guess I'll go glass half empty and say they just look like another Cowboys team that isn't coached well enough, doesn't execute well enough, or gets screwed by the officials just enough to lose.

When you are +3 in turnover margin, you have to win.
 

E5 Yaz

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I thought they played extremely well, except for the lack of a pass rush. I thought the offensive game plan, basically neutralizing the Tampa Bay front, was really smart, and they attacked the ball on defense.

People talk about the OPI non-call, but if Greg the Leg hits that 31-yarder, there's a good chance they win ... unless you think that final TB drive would end in a touchdown
 

Cotillion

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Non-cowboy fan, but Dak looked great last night. Didn't seem to have any of the hesitation or rust you would expect after a severe injury. So that looks great.
 

PC Drunken Friar

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I thought they played extremely well, except for the lack of a pass rush. I thought the offensive game plan, basically neutralizing the Tampa Bay front, was really smart, and they attacked the ball on defense.

People talk about the OPI non-call, but if Greg the Leg hits that 31-yarder, there's a good chance they win ... unless you think that final TB drive would end in a touchdown
I mean there are so many what ifs in a game. If he hits it, the Bucs don't fumble on the next play, directly leading to a Cowboy TD.
 

TFisNEXT

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I guess I'll go glass half empty and say they just look like another Cowboys team that isn't coached well enough, doesn't execute well enough, or gets screwed by the officials just enough to lose.

When you are +3 in turnover margin, you have to win.
Agreed you really need to win on that turnover margin, though it was more like +2 in reality. The hail mary pick at the end of the half doesn't really count. Also, if Zuerlein is on his game, they prob win. It was about the hardest road game you can get. Maybe KC is a little harder.

I think McCarthy sucks, but I'll give him at least a little bit of credit for allowing Kellen Moore to exploit that very good TB defense. I feel like in the past (esp under Garrett), we would have seen them futilely trying to run into the TB front 7 brick wall just to have "balance" instead of going right after their weakest links. But Moore wasn't afraid to throw it 60 times if that is what TB was going to allow and it worked. The Cowboys offense wasn't really stopped all night except when they stopped themselves (2 big Cee Dee Lamb drops plus a bad holding penalty).

The defense isn't strong enough to make this team a serous contender right now, but who knows, if some of the young starters can measurably improve throughout the year and the offense stays healthy, the Cowboys could be more interesting later in the season.
 

Big McCorkle

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Agreed you really need to win on that turnover margin, though it was more like +2 in reality. The hail mary pick at the end of the half doesn't really count. Also, if Zuerlein is on his game, they prob win. It was about the hardest road game you can get. Maybe KC is a little harder.

I think McCarthy sucks, but I'll give him at least a little bit of credit for allowing Kellen Moore to exploit that very good TB defense. I feel like in the past (esp under Garrett), we would have seen them futilely trying to run into the TB front 7 brick wall just to have "balance" instead of going right after their weakest links. But Moore wasn't afraid to throw it 60 times if that is what TB was going to allow and it worked. The Cowboys offense wasn't really stopped all night except when they stopped themselves (2 big Cee Dee Lamb drops plus a bad holding penalty).

The defense isn't strong enough to make this team a serous contender right now, but who knows, if some of the young starters can measurably improve throughout the year and the offense stays healthy, the Cowboys could be more interesting later in the season.
McCarthy had some highly questionable fourth-down decisions yesterday (as do most NFL head coaches), but it's hard to see how he isn't, broadly speaking, killing it when it comes to Prescott. He has one of the best QBs in the NFL paired up with one of the best group of receivers in the NFL, and is making the choice to utilize both of them to their fullest extent. It goes back to last season before Prescott's ankle ended up in a shape that the human ankle is not supposed to end up in, where they had basically only those two things, a QB and WRs, and nothing else, and were leaning on those two things to keep them competitive and in football games. That should be a rather effective QB-Coach combo going forward.
 

21st Century Sox

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I was very surprised that the Cowboys played that well. The defense completely shut down any running game, and Dak was out of sight. They are going to roll up the points this year. If the defense plays like they did last night, the Cowboys should run away with the NFC East, which isn't really sayin much, but still....
 

Soxy

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I was very surprised that the Cowboys played that well. The defense completely shut down any running game, and Dak was out of sight. They are going to roll up the points this year. If the defense plays like they did last night, the Cowboys should run away with the NFC East, which isn't really sayin much, but still....
Eh, the secondary still looks like a mess to me. There's a chance the front seven will be good, but they better get a pass rush, because I don't trust the coverage.

The turnovers made them look better than they actually performed. The defense has to get some credit for those too, sure, but they'll probably need to do stuff like that to be competitive on defense. Sacks, turnovers, big plays. Teams can exploit that secondary and move the ball. Sure, they won't face Brady and the Bucs every week, but I thought they looked bad in the back end.

As I said in the game thread last night, if Dak is fine, then they shouldn't have to worry about the offense scoring points. McCarthy is the only guy who could screw that up, and he mostly got out of the way last night. The pitch to Zeke on the goalline may have been too cute by half, but he probably scores if the TE could have held his block at all.
 

TFisNEXT

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Eh, the secondary still looks like a mess to me. There's a chance the front seven will be good, but they better get a pass rush, because I don't trust the coverage.

The turnovers made them look better than they actually performed. The defense has to get some credit for those too, sure, but they'll probably need to do stuff like that to be competitive on defense. Sacks, turnovers, big plays. Teams can exploit that secondary and move the ball. Sure, they won't face Brady and the Bucs every week, but I thought they looked bad in the back end.

As I said in the game thread last night, if Dak is fine, then they shouldn't have to worry about the offense scoring points. McCarthy is the only guy who could screw that up, and he mostly got out of the way last night. The pitch to Zeke on the goalline may have been too cute by half, but he probably scores if the TE could have held his block at all.
I'd expect the pass rush to do fairly well against a lot of these inferior offensive lines. TB is really stout up front and one of their hardest matchups all season. Lawrence and Gregory should do well against the tomato cans.

I agree the secondary is the big weakness. Diggs looked pretty decent though, so if he can keep developing, they will be able to give Brown more help. The defense doesn't need to dominate though for the Cowboys to win the east. The offense should carry them to 10 wins if the defense is merely below average instead of a train wreck. They'll have to win their share of 35-27 or 31-28 type games but I think they will given the pretty easy schedule after week 2.
 

Soxy

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I'd expect the pass rush to do fairly well against a lot of these inferior offensive lines. TB is really stout up front and one of their hardest matchups all season. Lawrence and Gregory should do well against the tomato cans.

I agree the secondary is the big weakness. Diggs looked pretty decent though, so if he can keep developing, they will be able to give Brown more help. The defense doesn't need to dominate though for the Cowboys to win the east. The offense should carry them to 10 wins if the defense is merely below average instead of a train wreck. They'll have to win their share of 35-27 or 31-28 type games but I think they will given the pretty easy schedule after week 2.
I thought Lawrence looked really good the other night. If there's any hope to be found on defense, it's in that front seven.

Just looked at their schedule and they've got a pretty tough slate of road games outside the division: Bucs, Chargers, Patriots, Vikings, KC, Saints. No gimmes with any of those. LAC next week should be another shootout. Chargers are in a similar boat as Dallas, with a great looking offense paired with a suspect defense. First team to 40 wins.
 

TFisNEXT

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Pretty good win by the Boys yesterday. They still are making too many mistakes, but you'll gladly take the W on the road out west.

Run game was dominant with Zack Martin back this week. I also loved Parsons playing a lot of end with Lawrence and Gregory out. He was actually getting legit pressure throughout the game when he played end. His pressure (they called it a sack, but it prob shouldn't have been...but it was still intentional grounding regardless) on the Chargers' final series was critical in forcing the FG attempt.

I did not understand the ending sequence on offense even though it worked out. I'm fine with the run on 2nd and 6 there from the Chargers 40, but use your last time out at 30 seconds instead of running the clock all the way down. They could have easily gotten another 10-15 yards and spiked it if they run another play with 30 seconds left. But Z was up to the task, he nuked that 56 yarder. Prob was good from 65.
 

TFisNEXT

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Yeah I’m not surprised. He looked dominant at times yesterday which is really a testament to his athleticism considering he hadn’t played the position since high school. The dude just seems like a natural pure football player. He could be a big key to getting the defense back to merely mediocre instead of a sieve which would make the Cowboys a more interesting team since we know they have the offensive weapons.