DALLAS - The Dallas Cowboys avoided a 0-2 start by going into FedExField and beating the Washington Redskins, 27-23. It was a roller-coaster affair with the lead changing five different times. In the end, the Cowboys made enough plays to pull out the victory. It was a great road win against a divisional rival.
Who were this week’s winners and losers?
How can you not like what the rookie quarterback has done so far? It’s such a breath of fresh air compared to that mushroom cloud we all were exposed to last season when Tony Romo got hurt. Most people were just hoping that the Cowboys would have enough offensive stars around him where he could just drive the bus and give them a chance to make plays. Little did anyone know that he would be one of the stars.
And that’s exactly what he is. His numbers don’t jump out you. He was 22/30 for 292 yards, which is pretty good, however he didn’t throw a touchdown. But his numbers don’t tell the whole story. They don’t tell you that the coaches trusted him enough to make a crucial throw on a fourth down play.
They don’t tell you that his mobility in the pocket helped the offense make big plays. And they don’t tell you that he would lead a fourth quarter comeback against the reigning division champs on the road. If those things sound familiar, that’s because it’s exactly what Tony Romo did against the Redskins late in the 2013 season.
Dak is playing like a seasoned pro in only his second NFL game. People keep proclaiming to not get overly excited just yet, but phooey on that. I’m excited.
The Cowboys traded away a future sixth round pick in order to select Swaim in the seventh round of the 2015 draft. For the last year, people have come to the conclusion that he was a wasted pick. He was a blocking specialist, yet he didn’t do anything last year to challenge James Hanna for his role on the team. But with Hanna injured, the second-year tight end is making the most of his chances.
Swaim has made great strides in his game this season. Not only he an outstanding blocker, but he is getting opportunities in the passing game. On Sunday, Swaim would be involved in the team’s two biggest passing plays.
First, he was on the receiving end of that great fourth down bootleg play that was good for 28 yards and set up a first and goal inside the five-yard line. Then, on another bootleg play to his buddy, Jason Witten, he leveled DeAngelo Hall that sprung his teammate for a big gain.
Swaim is definitely finding his niche on this team.
It’s funny that some fans were scratching their heads wondering what had happened to their star wide receiver. Well, hopefully that itch has gone away. Bryant would follow up his one-catch effort last week with seven catches for 102 yards against the Redskins.
The thing is, Bryant never stopped being great. He was ailing all of last year and last week, the Cowboys couldn’t get him the ball. That wasn’t an issue on Sunday as they would work him over the middle again and again. The coaching staff was adamant about getting the ball in his hands, and it paid off.
The Cowboys have some concerns at the linebacker position, but after watching Durant play this week, there is reason for hope. The veteran was a strong contributor to the 2014 defense before he got hurt. And on Sunday, he was looking like his former self.
Durant made two key plays late in the fourth quarter. First, he and Sean Lee were able to clog the running lane and stop Chris Thompson on a third and short play. This forced the Redskins to go for it on fourth down. On the very next play, Durant deflected a pass that was heading right in the arms of Pierre Garcon. This resulted a turnover on downs.
When you’re the fourth overall player taken in the draft, expectations are high. Elliott’s line of 20 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown isn’t that bad. And he had a nice 21-yard run that helped set up a Cowboys score. More importantly, he is commanding so much attention from the defense that it has opened things up for Dak Prescott and the passing game. So his impact is there regardless of whether he is churning out big yardage totals.
But the problem for Elliott on Sunday was his ball security. Zeke would fumble the ball twice in the second half, and was eventually replaced with Alfred Morris for the rest of the game. If you are worried about this being a problem for Elliott, don’t be. This wasn’t an issue for him at Ohio State. And one of those fumbles came from Josh Norman peanut-punching the ball out. So, this isn’t a matter of Zeke being careless with the ball. But needless to say, when you put the ball on the ground twice, that’s a problem and it cost him some snaps late in the game.
The Cowboys were dead last with 33 giveaways last year so this is a big point of emphasis for the team entering the season. The team has been real good at hanging onto the football up to this point, with Elliott’s fumble being the only giveaway this season.
The third-year linebacker appears to have a case of Benjamin Button’s disease when it comes to his level of play. He started out great as a rookie, but has gradually gotten worse. On Sunday, he was out of position on many plays and continued to struggle in coverage. He was late to react and seemed unsure of what he was supposed to do. And he had a roughing the passer penalty late in the third quarter that gave the Redskins the ball, first and goal on the nine-yard line.
This was supposed to be a breakout year for the young guard as many were projecting that he could join his fellow offensive linemen in the Pro Bowl this season. Well, he’s off to a rocky start. Collins is getting overpowered too often. There are many times where Elliott has to reroute his course due to Collins losing his battle with the defender. On the opening drive, Collins missed his blocking assignment on the shuffle pass play to Zeke down at the goal line which cost the Cowboys a touchdown.
Who were your winners and losers? Share them with Dan on Twitter @DannyPhantom24.
Copyright 2016 WFAA