“We won a game yesterday. If we win one today, that’s ‘two in a row.’ We win one tomorrow, that’s called a ‘winning streak.’ It has happened before.”
Never has a quote from a 1994 sports flick sequel resonated more with the 2020 rendition of the Dallas Cowboys. While Dallas certainly has not played three full-fledged football games in the span of three days, they can hang their hat (or tip their cap?) knowing that, just like their Major League II counterparts in the Lou Brown-captained Cleveland Indians, the Cowboys are streaking, as they are winners of their last three games. The streak has, in turn, given the Cowboys a necessary jolt that, should the necessary beats follow, lead the team to a coveted playoff berth in what is a wide-open NFC Conference.
You know the drill at this point. Here is my breakdown of their most recent 37-17 home win against their division rivals in the Philadelphia Eagles.
Do not look now, but the Cowboys, despite their offensive issues (you know, no Dak Prescott, a porous offensive line, the sort), have scored at least 30 points in three straight games, averaging 36 points in those contests. The main difference in this game, however, did not simply come in the form of Andy Dalton looking as poised as he had looked while donning the blue stars, but in the route running by his wide receiving unit as well. With increased emphasis on the go routes toward the sidelines, Dalton and his wide receiver platoon, led by Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper (who tallied a combined 242 receiving yards with two touchdowns) were able to shred apart a shot Philadelphia secondary. The performance through the air, in fact, tore away the luster in running back Ezekiel Elliott’s rushing performance, as the Ohio State alum tallied 105 yards on the ground, his most in a single game this season.
Aside from an overly ambitious Dalton throw toward wide receiver CeeDee Lamb on the post route as the rookie slanted into double coverage, the passing attack played efficiently enough. Word of emphasis in future games might lean more on the edge routes toward the sideline, as it seems to play into Dallas’s benefit of controlling tempo. One thing is for certain, though: offensive tempo from the Cowboys, even without Prescott, is a nice sight to see.
Yes, the Cowboys’ defense held Philadelphia to less than 20 points. Even still, the collective performance was one the defense wished it could take back. Even if this might be a slight exaggeration (is it?) the defense definitely wishes it could take the first two opposing possessions away, as the Eagles quickly soared to a 14-3 lead with less than six minutes to go in the first quarter. Eagles’ rookie quarterback in Jalen Hurts, coupled with savvy speediness from wide receiver DeSean Jackson and some grounding and pounding handiwork from running back Miles Sanders, were constantly eating alive an injury riddled Dallas defense. Rollouts, bootlegs and a sprinkle of some home run throws were the culprit, as they have been practically every game against Dallas this season.
Even when taking out three straight Eagles’ turnovers on as many possessions to eventually end the game, the Cowboys’ defense brings the same issues to the table. The speed at the line of scrimmage, along with the field recognition from the free safeties down the field, simply is not there. Even as Dallas looks to pick up a playoff spot, these blatantly obvious question marks on the defensive side will stick out like an extremely sore thumb.
Greg Zuerlein achieved perfection once more, as the kicker for the Cowboys nailed three field goals (20, 21 and 35) and tallied four extra point attempts as well. Even with the offense clicking as of late, Zuerlein’s prowess with the leg will need to be at its best in their upcoming bout should the Cowboys’ offense falter in the touchdown department.
Dallas caps off their regular season with a pivotal division slate with playoff implications against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Jan. 3 at 1:00 p.m. EST.