Cowboys at Raiders Film Review: Eight Observations

(Photo by Don Feria/Getty Images)
(Photo by Don Feria/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys narrowly beat the Oakland Raiders on Sunday Night Football. After reviewing the film, here are eight observations from the game

  1. The Cowboys running game has remained strong in Ezekiel Elliott’s absence but the transition between the two players has been far from seamless. Alfred Morris moves considerably slower than Zeke as he navigates behind his blockers. That means the Cowboys offensive line needs to be a little more patient at the next level when Morris is running the ball.  It was evident Sunday night in Oakland, when on multiple runs, Dallas linemen were downfield at the second level waiting for Alf to make it to them. Rod Smith, on the other hand, runs with a comparable urgency as Ezekiel Elliott. He’s fast through the hole and prefers to maintain momentum throughout the run. His consistent presence during Zeke’s suspension keeps the timing right and should make the transition back to Zeke happen without a hitch.
  2. The most impressive play of the game for me was when the Cowboys had the ball in the second quarter with roughly five minutes until half. It was 3rd and 12 and Dallas was in S13 personnel (S=shotgun) with Jason Witten spread out in the slot. La’el Collins was tasked with Khalil Mack one-on-one (no small task given the down the distance). The O-line held up and Dak Prescott delivered a perfect ball on a rope to Jason Witten who’s coming back to the ball. Prescott was perfect in his delivery despite not being able to step into the pass. This is a pass Dak doesn’t make earlier in the season.
  3. Speaking of La’el Collins. He continued his strong play in pass protection on Sunday night. This was critical, especially when Tyron Smith left the game after getting rolled on. The Cowboys committed to La’el Collins for the next two seasons and are happy to see him progressing as a pass protector this season. I’ll have to grade him on the All-22 film, but at face value this looks likes his third good game in a row.
  4. Dak Prescott had a pretty rough game. On 3rd downs he was terrible and that’s the exact time he’s expected to perform. The entire offense is built around incremental yardage early and converting manageable third downs. Dak missed targets often and when he did compete passes, they were often short of the sticks.
  5. What was particularly odd was the Cowboys appeared to abandon the running game in the second half. Even after Byron Bell was forced into service, the Cowboys opted to drop back and pass rather than run. On the goalline, the Cowboys unsuccessfully ran the ball with Morris, when it seems the straight line punishing style of Rod Smith would have been preferable in the situation. The play calling was questionable the entire half.
  6. Derek Carr’s 32-yard run on Oakland’s first drive of the 3rd quarter was a play that should have been flagged. Maliek Collins was controlling the middle of the pocket so Carr couldn’t run up the middle. And he did a good job … until he was clearly held and prevented from doing what he was tasked to do. Carr went on to run for a huge gain, and once again, the Cowboys were left to deal with a no-call to their D-line. Combine this no-call, a no-call hold against DeMarcus Lawrence, and the no-call false start to end the first half and you have a continuation of the disturbing trend of not calling penalties on opposing offense lines.
  7. Missed opportunities on defense is what forced Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne out of town this offseason. They failed to make catachable catches all too often.  Anthony Brown is continuing that terrible trend this season. Multiple times this year he’s dropped catchable balls that could have changed the course of the game. Sunday night he could have ended the game if only he would have caught that 3rd and 10 pass that flew right into his arms. He failed to catch the ball. The next play was a pass interference call for 50 yards downfield that put Oakland in scoring range.

Next: La'el Collins is becoming a strength for Dallas

The fake punt, the flea flicker, the going for it on 4th down in their own territory in the fourth quarter of a tied game? Jason Garrett is playing like there’s no tomorrow and quite frankly, there may not be for him if things go poorly these last couple weeks. He’s coaching like he’s on the hot seat. More on this tomorrow…