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What we learned: Cowboys finally enjoy a standout performance on defense

The Dallas Cowboys couldn’t pull off the upset against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9 but they did witness players step up to give them hope for the coming weeks
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory walks the sideline during a preseason NFL Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

DALLAS — The home defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9 ended up being one of the tougher losses to take for the Dallas Cowboys, despite going into the game as a massive underdog. In a change from most of their previous eight games, the team played well for the majority of the contest and they even led the undefeated Steelers by ten points heading into the final quarter on Sunday. Sometimes, however, the ball just doesn’t bounce your way.

It was perhaps the best game of the season for the Cowboys, despite being on their fourth starting quarterback and behind an offensive line missing it’s top three tackles while being tasked with going up against one of the best defensive units in the league.

Despite the heartbreaker, there were some important things to learn in the loss.

They haven’t quit

There have been times this season where it looked like some individuals weren’t going at full speed, and a comment by safety Xavier Woods about not being able to go hard on every play earlier this season wasn’t well-received. However, despite a 2-7 record, we’re seeing that the Cowboys haven’t given up on winning games, nor have they quit on this season.

Against the odds, Dallas fought for 60 minutes against the NFL’s only unbeaten team and nearly pulled off the upset. Teams that have quit on the season, and their coaches, don’t put forth that type of effort. The Cowboys are still playing hard and that is important with seven games still left on the schedule.

Randy Gregory’s flashed his enormous potential

The organization drafted defensive end Gregory in the second round in 2015 and they have been waiting for him to be available for practically the entire time since. Dallas was rewarded for their patience on Sunday as Gregory produced a top-level performance against the Steelers.

In just his third game of the season, Gregory was one of the best defenders on the field for the Cowboys in an overall solid defensive effort.

Gregory hasn’t played a lot of football at the NFL level in his career and the best is still ahead of him. If Gregory can build on his play against the Steelers, the Cowboys will have a very good player to bookend with DeMarcus Lawrence on the other side of the line.

Neville Gallimore made his presence known

It took some time for the rookie third-round defensive tackle out of Oklahoma to finally see extended playing time, but Gallimore showed up in a big way last Sunday. Gallimore was a load to deal with on the inside and helped stymie the Steelers’ running game.

The defense against the run has been a massive issue for Dallas in 2020 and Gallimore helped turn the tides with his play up the middle.

With the team releasing Dontari Poe, there’s more snaps for Gallimore and he made the most out of them against Pittsburgh. The Cowboys are finding out that the rookie has plenty of potential and they now have the opportunity to find out more about Gallimore over the remaining weeks.

Tony Pollard has earned more playing time

As Pollard gets more touches this season, we’re seeing how good the running back can be in this offense. With starter Ezekiel Elliott hampered by a hamstring issue, Pollard got the call for more touches against the Steelers and he didn’t disappoint. The second-year runner is quicker, has a better burst than Elliott, and has earned more opportunities.

Pollard ran for more yards (57-51) than Elliott in Week 9 and had an average of 6.3 yards per attempt in the loss. While he’s not a better all-around RB than Elliott, Pollard demonstrated why he’s in line for more chances with his performance against the Steelers.

Do you think the Cowboys will be able to carry their gutsy performance from Week 9 through the second half of the season? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.