DALLAS - The Dallas Cowboys came up short against the New York Giants on Sunday, but there were some good things to take away from this game, and also some not-so good things. Who were this week’s winners and losers?
The First Half Dak Prescott
Things started out magnificently. For anyone worried about the Cowboys’ rookie quarterback coming out rusting, that wasn’t an issue. In the first half of his first ever NFL game, the kid played like a seasoned pro. Even when Dallas struggled in the running game where they got behind the chains, Prescott would make the throws needed to get first downs. Drive after drive, the young quarterback would lead the team down the field. The Cowboys punter, Chris Jones, never saw the field until the third quarter. Prescott would finish the first half 14/19 for 134 yards.
One of the most ridiculous things being tossed around after the game was how Ezekiel Elliott was a wasted pick. Yeah, Zeke struggled getting yards as he only gained 51 yards on 20 carries. Alfred Morris on the other hand, was more successful, rushing for 35 yards on just seven carries.
The veteran free agent averaged twice as much per carry as the Cowboys’ young running back phenom. Looking at the tape, the Giants defense sold out to stop the run when Elliott was in the backfield, run blitzing early and often. He just didn’t have as many creases to run through.
But even though he had better looks, Morris did a great job wiggling his way through the lanes. One of the most unsung traits about Morris is how patient he is as he waits for the lanes to open up. And he doesn’t need much room. Morris would stutter-step just enough for a seam to open up and then he would burst his way through it for a nice run.
The Cowboys run defense wasn’t good. They gave up 113 yards on the ground as both Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen scampered off some nice gains. The Giants offensive line is suspect, but the interior played very well. They would wedge out some nice space to run and often times reach the second level making it real difficult for the Cowboys linebackers to make stops.
One guy who did make stops was Terrell McClain. The Cowboys haven’t gotten a lot from him since joining the team in 2014 because he’s had trouble staying healthy, but he was at full strength on Sunday. McClain did a great job of pushing back his man and disrupting the plays. He led all defensive linemen in tackles with five, including one for a loss.
There wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about on the defensive line, but the play of McClain was one of them.
From a pass catching standpoint, Terrance Williams did his job. He caught all three of his catchable passes for 34 yards, which included some nice finishes to his routes. What wasn’t so good, however, was his late-game decision. With time running down and no timeouts, Williams instinctively cut inside trying to pick up more yards to set up a game winning field.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough time to successfully pull it off and time expired. Had Williams chosen to go out of bounds, the Cowboys would still have had a chance.
It should be noted, that if Williams heads for the sidelines, he would have ended up going out of bounds at around the Giants' 45-yard line. That would equate to a 62-yard field goal attempt by Dan Bailey. The Cowboys kicker may be the most accurate kicker in NFL history, but he doesn’t have a powerful leg to get that much distance. His career long is 56 yards, which happened to occur in the second quarter. Sure, anything is possible, but thanks to William’s late game gaffe, we will never know.
The Cowboys missed out on the services of their top cornerback last year as Scandrick was out the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL and MCL. While there was a lot of uncertainty about just how healthy he would be this year but just having him on the field alleviated a lot of the trepidation that accompanied the cornerback situation.
That comforting feeling may be short lived as Scandrick’s return was not a good one. He was ineffective against the Giants receivers and gave up the biggest play of the game – a 45 yard sideline reception to Odell Beckham Jr. Maybe it was just wishful thinking to expect the Cowboys veteran corner to just magically return to form after coming off a serious knee injury.
Scandrick would exit the game with a sore hamstring, but would return in the second half. His health is something worth keeping an eye going forward. The defense needs all the help they can get and not having Scandrick at full strength will definitely hurt this team.
The Second Half Dak Prescott
As great as Dak played early, he struggled as the game progressed. After completing 74% of his passes in the first half, he would only hit 42% in the second half, going 11/26. Prescott’s throws were often off the mark, sometimes at his receiver’s feet and other times nowhere close. His receivers didn’t do him any favors by hauling in any of the tough passes, but on some plays they didn’t even have a chance.
The Giants had the right game plan – take away Zeke and force Dak to beat them. It worked. When the running game was taken away from the Cowboys, it became imperative to get the ball to the receivers down the field and Prescott couldn’t make the plays. For the game, Dak would attempt ten deep throws, but was only able to complete two of them. The Cowboys offense is going to have to find ways to be more successful on their deeper passing plays if defenses continue to overcommit to stopping the run.
Who were your winners and losers? Share them with Dan on Twitter @DannyPhantom24.
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