Dallas Cowboys vs Cincinnati Bengals Standouts, Notes and Observations

Oct 9, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs with the ball in the first quarters against Cincinnati Bengals at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs with the ball in the first quarters against Cincinnati Bengals at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys faced their biggest challenge to date when they hosted the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon. Who stood out?

Despite significant injures to their top players, the 2016 Dallas Cowboys have been rolling. It was clear from the first drive to the final snap, the Dallas Cowboys were on a mission. A mission to put their doubters to bed and show that they are a real contender.

The win against Cincy puts them in first place in the NFC East at 4-1. Sunday marked their first matchup against high-end individual talent. We can now finally start drawing some conclusions about this surprising roster.

Let’s take a look at Sunday’s standouts, notes, and observations…

  • It’s easy to take the creativity of the Dallas Cowboys run-heavy offense for granted. The steady use of Lucky Whitehead running jet sweeps, the bootleg, the play action, and the read-option, all make the offense difficult to predict. If you add in the fact that most of the Cowboys running backs can motion out and run routes from the receiver position. Or that the steady use of two tight end sets can signal pass AND run, and you have a very unpredictable attack.
  • I love to rip on Terrance Williams but he played with a special kind of fire on Sunday. He had a hunger for contact and aggressively attacked every assignment presented to him. I’m not sure anything he does will warrant a second contract with the Cowboys (for mostly financial reasons) but THIS is why you make players play through contract seasons. Let’s hope this continues because it could be huge for this team’s season.

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  • The Cowboys defense mixed it up and played a significant amount of zone coverage. There clearly was no way they were going to stop A.J. Green with one guy but to change the entire coverage scheme for the game was borderline genius. The Bengals were no-doubt watching film and planning for typical man coverage, but the Cowboys utilized their veteran DBs and mixed it all up.
  • Should the Cowboys stick to running a primarily zone coverage? Heck no. It was the unpredictability that made it work. Eventually, Andy Dalton and the Bengals figured it out and moved the ball on the Dallas Cowboys surprise coverage scheme. The lesson of the day is deception is often more important than scheme and skill.
  • I love Brandon Carr…manned up and with a safety over the top. He’s too slow to play traditional man-press. He’s too passive to play man-off. But with the safety, he’s physical and fearless because he’s got back-up. Obviously the Cowboys need to disguise coverages and can’t do the same thing every snap, but Carr, in the right situation, is actually good.
  • Sean Lee didn’t have a great game. He over-pursued and missed some primary assignments. Strange to see from the defense’s best player.
  • The Bengals clearly focused on stopping Cole Beasley. It took a Dak Prescott rollout to find the right angle to involve Beasley in the game. Unfortunately for the Bengals, it was a TD. Cole Beasley can’t be stopped.
  • I can’t say enough about Morris Claiborne’s resurgence this season. He’s becoming the beast we all expected he would be when the Dallas Cowboys made him the #6 pick in the draft. His defense in the endzone against Green was a thing of beauty. He showed physicality, recovery, and ball awareness within about 3 seconds of play.
  • Later in the 4th, Claiborne made another endzone play on the ball, jumping up and batting a would-be TD away. Re-sign him now? No way. Keep him motivated and he will keep producing.
  • I’ve been a longtime lover of Terrell McClain…err…that came out wrong. I’ll try again: I have long been known to sing the praises of DT Terrell McClain’s football skills but this game was special. McClain was responsible for multiple sacks and splash plays and despite the heavy workload, he dominated the line.

Next: Understanding the Defensive Line Techniques

Look, a page full of standouts, notes, and highlights and nary a word about Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott. Not stating the obvious can be done! Tune in all week as we discuss Dak’s and Zeke’s awesomeness.