After spending the last couple weeks beating teams that everyone expected them to beat, the Dallas Cowboys would go against a good football team. The Cincinnati Bengals have earned a trip to the playoffs in each of the last five seasons. With a defense laced with Pro Bowlers like Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Adam Jones, and an offense with playmakers like A.J. Green and Giovanni Bernard – the Cowboys would have their work cut out for them.
But Dallas strolled into AT&T and dominated the game from the onset. Dak Prescott and company would score touchdowns on their first three drives of the game and the defense wouldn’t allow the Bengals to score until they were trailing 28-0 in the fourth quarter. It was the best showing of the season, but who were the players out there getting it done?
Here are this week’s winners and losers.
The Offensive Line
Every once in awhile you’ll hear people suggesting that this Cowboys offensive line is overrated. Sure, they’re good, but if they were as good as everyone was saying, they’d be imposing their will on the opposing defenses. Well, that’s exactly what happened on Sunday. The offensive line had their way with the Bengals defensive line.
All Pro defensive tackle, Geno Atkins was rendered helpless against the Cowboys interior line. With Ron Leary filling in for the injured La’el Collins at left guard, the old gang was back. That’s right, the 2014 offensive line that helped DeMarco Murray set a new franchise rushing record was back together again. This was by far the most impressive outing from this group and is something fans will be seeing a lot more of as the season progresses.
The Cincinnati Bengals have allowed the fewest 100 yard rushers since 2011, but that didn’t seem to deter Ezekiel Elliott.
After being on the wrong end of this list a couple times this season, the Cowboys number two receiver had himself a nice game. Williams would catch all five of the passes thrown to him for a total of 70 yards. His routes were sharp and he is a handful to deal with as a blocker in the running game. Williams had two key third down catches, including the game cincher that allowed the Cowboys offense to get in victory formation.
Williams has been under fire with some early season blunders, but the young receiver has responded very well. With Dez Bryant missing his second straight game, Williams has done a great job making plays. He didn’t fill those shoes very well last year when Bryant was out, but having a capable quarterback makes a world of difference.
Every game Claiborne gets better and better. Last week, he had his first interception since Week 3 of 2014. And this week, he was all over the field. Claiborne continues to draw the toughest assignment and each week, he delivers. Against the Bengals, he had two great touchdown saving deflections where he leaped up high to knock down the ball.
Don’t look now but Morris Claiborne is having a Pro Bowl season. With this kid turning a corner at the corner position, this is what the Cowboys have done in the first round of the draft over the last seven years:
Dallas Cowboys' last 7 first round picks:
How many teams can say they’ve drafted great players in the first round for seven straight years?
While Claiborne may get the nod as the defensive MVP thus far, he is getting some real competition from Terrell McClain. The Cowboys defensive tackle has spent the last two years in battling injuries and prior to this season hadn’t made a single start for the Cowboys. But this year, he’s not only started all five games, but has been the team’s best defensive lineman.
The Cowboys pass rushers played well as a group as DeMarcus Lawrence returned to the rotation, but McClain was the one player that was able to do the most damage. He had five tackles (one of them for a loss) and 1.5 sacks. After the Cowboys only had one QB hit last week, they had nine against the Bengals, with McClain leading the way with four of them.
Those Who Wanted Jalen Ramsey With Pick 4
When the Cowboys drafted Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, there were many fans who were upset. In particular, people wanted to draft Florida State’s cornerback, Jalen Ramsey. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Ramsey with the very next pick.
But this dilemma needs to be put to rest. While Ramsey isn’t making a splash yet with the Jaguars, the talent of Elliott is on full display. On Sunday, Zeke had 134 yards rushing, 37 yards receiving, and scored two touchdowns. He even recovered an onside kick just because he can.
Elliott leads the league in rushing with 546 yards, which is 85 more yards than the second place guy, DeMarco Murray or something. He has now rushed for over 130 yards in three straight games, which hasn’t been done by a Cowboys running back in a single season. Ever. Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, or Herschel Walker – all never did it. What’s even more amazing is that Elliott’s done it in just his first five games in the league.
He’s now averaging 109 yards a game and is on pace to rush for 1,747 yards for the season. But even more impressive is what he’s been doing lately. After a slow start, the rookie is showing more patient and bursting through the holes. He’s averaging 137 yards over the last three games. If this is the type of production we are all going to be seeing from this point on, Zeke will finish the season with 2,056 yards, blowing away Eric Dickerson’s rookie record and have him eyeballing Dickerson’s single season record.
The Rest Of The NFC East
It’s always great when the Cowboys win, but having both the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants lose as well is just icing on the cake. The Cowboys are now right where they belong in the standings as the NFC East leader.
Not only did the Eagles lose, but Carson Wentz threw his first interception on his 135th pass, which means Dak Prescott now holds the rookie record for most passes thrown without an interception. Prescott has now thrown 155 passes without a pick.
The only thing that would have been better is if Odell Beckham Jr. would have went on one of his temper tantrums and thrown his shoe at someone. Oh well, we can’t have it all.
Who were your winners and losers? Share them with Dan on Twitter @DannyPhantom24.