The lack of Dak Prescott made itself all too apparent in the Dallas Cowboys’ third full game without the franchise quarterback. In the City of Brotherly Love Sunday evening, the Cowboys faltered to their division rival-Philadelphia Eagles, 23-9.
Another lackadaisical performance from Dallas means it is that time of the week once more. Here is the fourth edition of the “Cowboy Chronicles” where I delve into the offensive, defensive and special team takeaways from the team calling the Big D home. Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen.
For the second consecutive game, the Cowboys’ offense was unable to score a touchdown. The last time Dallas went two consecutive games in a single season without a touchdown came in 1996, when Dallas went without a touchdown in Weeks 12 and 13 against the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants, respectively. In other words, it has been awhile.
No matter, the offense still needs to be discussed. Ben DiNucci, a 2020 NFL Draft seventh-rounder, was forced into the starting role for the game as Andy Dalton was in concussion protocol. Rookie nerves, inaccuracies down the field, and the lack of a healthy offensive line capable of steady blocking led to a starting debut to forget for DiNucci, as the 23-year-old out of James Madison University went 21/40 for 180 yards. The stalled passing and receiving portion of the Cowboys’ attack (in addition to the occasional trick play) was not the only part of the team that fell short of expectations. Cowboys’ running backs, are you there?
Although the box score said Ezekiel Elliott collected the most rushing yards (63), the Ohio State product took questionable routes and looked choppy. Tony Pollard, meanwhile, looked more fluid and found easier holes to exploit. In seven carries, Pollard picked up 40 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry, compared to Elliott’s 3.3 yards per carry on 19 attempts. The comparison between the two running backs might as well be a deck chair switcheroo on a sinking ship, though, as the entirety of the offense failed to find the end zone. It starts and ends with the quarterback, and when the team is forced to start a rookie third-stringer, well, games like this can happen.
It does have to be said that Philadelphia’s offense is not necessarily the healthiest or most efficient unit out there. They are not Kansas City or Pittsburgh. Regardless, the Cowboys’ defense looked better. More importantly, they looked more aggressive. Most significantly, Dallas exploited a patch-work Eagles’ offensive line, as the unit collected four sacks. The defensive unit’s four total takeaways (two interceptions and two fumbles recovered) in the Week 8 matchup, surprisingly enough, were more than the unit had in Weeks 1-7 combined. Leading the turnover charge was rookie Trevon Diggs, who picked up two athletic picks off of Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz. Diggs’ first interception was the first by a Cowboys’ rookie defender since linebacker Leighton Vander Esch collected an interception against Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 18, 2018.
The chemistry between the defense looked more coherent and fluid than in previous games. Even if it was against a weak Eagles’ offense, the performance was much needed, given the trades over the past few days and the lack of chemistry between the entire defense as a whole up until this point. Should the production transfer against stronger teams, well, perhaps the hire of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will look a little bit better.
The only points from Dallas came from Greg Zuerlein, who nailed three field goals from 49, 49 and 59 yards, respectively. Despite missing a chipper from 52 yards in the third quarter, it is difficult to slam Zuerlein that much, considering he was the only source of offense from Dallas. Considering the difficulties on offense are likely to continue, Zuerlein’s long-range kicking acumen will prove critical should Dallas get points on the board in future games.
The Cowboys head back home to face off against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 8 at 4:25 p.m. EST.