Dallas Cowboys: Andy Dalton and Ezekiel Elliott, no replacement for Dak

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Neither Andy Dalton nor Ezekiel Elliott were able to step up and fill Dak Prescott’s void on the Dallas Cowboys.

As if there were any doubts as to whom the most important player is on the Dallas Cowboys, those were put to bed in Dallas’ hapless performance on Monday Night Football. In Dallas’ first game without Dak Prescott since 2015, the offense floundered — Weaknesses fully exposed and no one there to cover up them up.

Ever since Elliott and Dak entered the league in 2016, people wondered who the most important cog was in the Cowboys’ offensive machine. Let them wonder no longer. Zeke dug a hole for the Dallas Cowboys offense early, turning the ball over twice in the first half and gifting the Cardinals 14 points on two short fields. On first down runs, Dallas was only 3 for 9 in successful plays in the first half. In other words, 66% of the time those runs dug Dallas a hole.

The passing game was no better. Andy Dalton failed to find any success on first downs, going a cool 0 for 5 in the first half. Unlike Dak, Dalton was unable to overcome the pass-rush pressure and only completed three passes past the sticks through the first two quarters.

The game plan was a bust and the execution was a bust. The “feed Zeke” strategy worked out about as good as we expected. Six of the first seven plays went to Zeke and zero first downs were earned on those possessions.

The Dallas Cowboys Secondary Improved

As those who watch the game know, the box score doesn’t always tell the whole story. At face value, the Dallas Cowboys defense continued their trend of getting rolled at will, but the reality is they improved considerably in some areas. 21 of Arizona’s first 28 points game came off of turnovers.

The Dallas secondary held Murray to just nine completions on the day for only 188 yards (that includes a 80 chunk play) and an embarrassing 37.5 completion percentage. Murray’s 74 yards on the ground made up for his passing deficiencies but the coverage success should not be overlooked.

Be honest, if someone told you before the game the Dallas secondary would hold Murray to 188 yards and a completion percentage under 40%, you’d be shocked (in a good way). It was clear by the fourth quarter a comeback was not “in the Cards” so to speak, and that combined with a worn out defense, led to some stat padding, but let’s appreciate the small steps this secondary has made (until we break down the All-22 at least).

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The Dallas Cowboys run-stopping issues continued

While the coverage improved, the inability to stop the run continued. Not only did Murray rush for for over 70-yards, but running back Kenyan Drake ran for 164 yards. Granted, 69 of those yards came on a single run within the last two minutes in a game that was already over, but at no point did it seem as though Dallas was controlling the Cards’ running game.

All in all, Dak Prescott’s value to this team was highlighted by the two men asked to step up in his absence. They were unable to overcome the shortcomings of the offensive line and only prove how special a franchise signal caller is to a football team.

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Other Notes:

  • The Dallas Cowboys curiously used Jaylon Smith as a spy on Kyler Murray. Why they didn’t use a smaller and shiftier DB in this role is beyond me. No one Jaylon’s size should be asked to do this.
  • Connor McGovern saw his first action and not-so-surprisingly struggled with blitz pick-up and communication.
  • Tyrone Crawford showed more explosion than he has all season inside. Sadly, he’s pretty worthless against the run and that’s what they need most inside.
  • Jaylon Smith started strong, fighting through blocks and making plays. But as the score became lopsided, the effort and energy dwindled. Again, Jaylon should be on a snap count.

Next. For Dalton to succeed in Dallas he must avoid this. dark

Monday Night Football was a learning opportunity for those thinking Dak was just a bus driver or that any competent QB could do his job. Same for those who steadfastly think Zeke is the Cowboys most important offensive player.  Both of those distinctions clearly belong to Dak.

  • Published on 10/20/2020 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 10/20/2020 at 05:18 AM