The Dallas Cowboys just enjoyed arguably their best performance of the season, besting the Kansas City Chiefs 28-17. Here are the standouts, notes, and observations from the game…
The swarming and attacking nature of the Cowboys defense was something to behold. It’s not just about keeping the ball in front to prevent the big play, but it’s also about laying the defensive and aggressively attacking the ball – most importantly — fighting through blocks. Kansas City likes short passes that allow their speedy playmakers to navigate through blockers. If a zone defense passively sits back, the blockers will win. Rod Marinelli had his guys crashing immediately, which made all the difference.
The coverage was also uncharacteristically deceptive. In much the same way teams try to limit Jason Witten and Cole Beasley opportunities, the Cowboys applied the same to Travis Kelce and the Chiefs. You basically knew Byron Jones or Xavier Woods would be on him but you didn’t know where the double was coming from. The Cowboys alternated their linebacker coverage forcing Alex Smith to make post-snap reads.
Damien Wilson had a strong training camp but once the regular season began, his performance has been widely average. He flashed early on Sunday against the Chiefs and broke up some otherwise good looking blocks that could have led to big plays. Wilson may warrant his own dedicated film review because it’s possible these small-looking plays have big-time consequences if not executed as well as they are.
If you would have told me before the game Kansas City would be held to 3 points at 3:27 remaining in the first half, I would have predicted a significant double-digit Cowboys lead. The fact Dallas couldn’t take advantage of the slow start is a problem.
Giving up a 57-yard garbage TD with two seconds left in the first half is beyond embarrassing. But it illustrates how important it is to be aggressive against the Chiefs blocking game (or any other quick team). Orlando Scandrick had the best opportunity to make the play, but multiple Cowboys could have stopped the TD had they been more aggressive.
As noted early in the game, the Chiefs schemed this week to stop the run. By switching primarily from a nickel and dime scheme (pass stopping personnel) to a base 3-4 group (run stopping) they dedicated more bulk to the front seven. The Cowboys have built their team these past five weeks on the back of the running game so it’s no mystery why KC did this. But the Cowboys are also a highly successful team in 11 personnel (slot receiver) and had no problem peppering it in a little Cole Beasley to take advantage of the extra linebackers on the field.
Hitting Terrance Williams on a first quarter comeback route against Marcus Peters was ballzy. Peters is one of the better ballhawks in the NFL and loves jumping those short routes along the boundary. You have to give credit to Dak Prescott for not shying away from Peters’ side of the field.
The punt return unit seems to do more harm than good when actually returning punts. Ryan Switzer hasn’t had many opportunities this season so it’s understandable everyone is a little overeager and a little sloppy when a return opportunity presents itself. One could argue the Cowboys would be better off if Cole Beasley fair caught every punt this season rather than attempting a return with Switzer. But where’s the fun in that?
Can’t say enough good things about the play-calling for Dallas. The only part I disliked were the first two plays on the Cowboys’ final drive in the first half. Both plays killed the clock and led to a 3rd and 15 situation that would have handed the ball back to the Chiefs with roughly 1.5 minutes left. As we know, the Cowboys converted that low percentage down and distance and ended up scoring on that drive, but the one spectacular play should not overshadow the two previous plays that were nothing short of reckless clock management.
I particularly liked the Cowboys’ willingness to let Dak Prescott run with the ball. I believe all 3rd and 3, 4, 5 yard situations should have a run option for Dak up the middle. It can be a read-option on snap or the second or third option on passing play but it has to be there because more often than not, the run is there for the taking. Furthermore, the hit that Prescott inevitably faces is usually less violent than a hit he takes standing tall in the pocket.
Jeff Heath iced the game with the interception but I still saw more negatives than positives from the guy. I’ll have to watch the All-22 before ultimately determining, but this game did little to change my feelings on him.