In 2014, the Cowboys were the “road warriors” of the NFL after winning every single one of their regular season road games. With half their road games in the books for 2017, the team has managed to win three of them, including wins in two-straight weeks.
The Cowboys are now 4-3 and right in the thick of the playoff hunt. They still have some ground to make up if they want to make a push for the division crown, but a win over the Redskins certainly helps their cause. Here are three winners and three losers from Sunday’s game.
The Big Three in the trenches
Have you heard – the Cowboys have three monsters in the trenches imposing their will on people. If you think I’m talking about All-Pro’s Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, you’re mistaken. These monsters play on defense.
The Cowboys defensive line is tearing it up this season as the team is now ranked in the top five in sacks with 25 through seven games. Most of the damage is being done by NFL sack leader, DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, and Tyrone Crawford.
Lawrence kept his sack streak going as he’s had a sack in every single game this season. Irving had two sacks and might even have a chance to catch Lawrence as this rate. And Crawford not only got his fourth sack of the year, but stripped the ball away for a turnover (that Lawrence recovered), and blocked a field goal that was a turning point in the game. These three guys have brought new life to the Cowboys pass rush.
After the Cowboys selected three cornerbacks in the draft, some fans were willing to part ways with the veteran. Trade rumors circulated and fans seemed perfectly content with going a different direction. Scandrick has dealt with injuries over the last two years so it’s real easy to forget just what he meant to this team.
Well, it shouldn’t be hard to remember now as he played a remarkable game on Sunday. He made solo tackles in the open field, would take down players behind the line of scrimmage, but no play was bigger than when he scooped up the ball on the blocked field goal and ran 86 yards. The Cowboys have 99 problems in the secondary, but Scandrick ain't one of them.
Usually, making four of five field goals won’t earn you much praise from anyone, especially Cowboys fans who are accustomed to watching “Mr. Automatic” Dan Bailey. And when Mike Nugent started off missing his first attempt in a Cowboys uniform, things were looking shaky for the team’s new temporary kicker.
But Nugent kept his cool and calmly knocked down his next four kicks, accounting for all of the offensive scoring in the second half. Not only that, but his kickoffs were perfectly placed. He would consistently kick the ball to the two-yard line, forcing the Redskins to run it out. With wet field conditions and a slick ball, this turned out to be a great strategy as the Cowboys were able to knock the ball away from Redskins returner, Chris Thompson, for a fumble and recovery.
No More Zeke
The only thing better than watching Ezekiel Elliott run for 373 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns over the last two games would be a decision announcing that he’d be on of the field for the rest of the season. But late Monday night, Cowboys fans finally got the news we have been dreading.
#Cowboys RB Zeke Elliott has lost his attempt at a preliminary injunction. He’s suspended again.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 31, 2017
The Cowboys leveraged heavily on Elliott in this game as he accounted for 154 of the teams 307 total yards. The running game is starting to take off as Zeke’s yardage output has improved in each of the last five games, including two-straight 145+ yard performances. Having him unavailable for the next six games is a huge loss for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys offense ran the ball well on Sunday, but at times they struggled to get into a rhythm. Many times throughout the game, the Cowboys would get called for holding. They would commit five holding penalties total, including two by Tyron Smith, and one each by La’el Collins, Jonathan Cooper, and Jason Witten.
The penalty on Witten negated a nice bubble screen where Dez Bryant took the ball all the way down inside the five yard line. One of Smith’s holding penalties nullified a 26-yard touchdown run by Elliott. Too many times they were putting their offense in poor down-and-distance situations and those type of things are drive killers.
If you check the stat sheet, you might be inclined to be impressed by the Cowboys pass defense. Kirk Cousins only had 263 yards passing and just one touchdown. He also threw a pick six when David Irving deflected a ball at the line which Byron Jones returned for a score.
But if you look past the results, you can see several moments where the Cowboys cornerbacks were a step slow. The Redskins had three receivers who caught passes of 25 yards or more. The Cowboys would also get called for a pass interference penalty in the end zone that would set up a Redskins touchdown. And there were a couple times where a Washington receiver just flat out dropped a pass that would have resulted in a nice gain.
The Cowboys played well defensively, but they still have some issues in the secondary that needs fixing.
Does the win over the Redskins make you feel any better about this team going forward? Or are you worried they will struggle without Zeke? Share your answer with Dan on Twitter @DannyPhantom24.