DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys got their first win of the season against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Of course, things came right down to the wire in classic Cowboys fashion. Finding a way to keep it entertaining, even when things get ugly, is a hallmark of Jerry Jones’ team.
Getting the last-second 20-17 win meant that the Cowboys avoided an 0-2 start, which is usually a death knell to most teams trying to win the Super Bowl. The extra game in the new 17-game schedule will help teams that do fall into that category, but Dallas surely didn’t want to head into Week 3’s Monday night game without a win and in desperation mode against the division rival Philadelphia Eagles.
Before turning the page to the hated rivals, let’s look at what we learned about the Cowboys in their Week 2 win:
Micah Parsons can do it all
The Cowboys drafted Parsons because he could affect the game in more ways than one on defense. Parsons not only has the ability to be an every down linebacker, but he also came advertised as a good pass rusher. With the defense short on edge defenders against the Chargers, the team asked Parsons to play defensive end for the first time since high school and the rookie was outstanding.
There were a few bumps in the road early, but Parsons settled in and showed that he can be a contributor to the pass rush for the Cowboys. Dallas learned that they can move Parsons around and have a weapon on defense.
Dallas has a two-headed monster at RB
Ezekiel Elliott is the highly drafted, highly paid, rushing champion back, but the Cowboys have learned that using him and Tony Pollard together forms an explosive combination. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is getting both players involved in the game and scheming up ways to maximize Elliott and Pollard’s strengths.
Elliott grinds out the tough yards but the offense is finding ways to use Pollard to keep Elliott fresh. Pollard has more big play ability and Moore is setting him up to get into space where he can make defenders miss.
Right now, Dallas looks to have one of the top RB duos in the league and both are heavily involved in the game plan which makes for a winning fusion to keep defenses off balance. Fantasy football players must hate it, but it works for the Cowboys.
Greg Zuerlein has been money in the clutch
The Cowboys made a sizable investment in Zuerlein last year and the results have been mostly uneven. Zuerlein has missed some easy kicks, including two in Week 1 that might have been the result of him working his way back from injury this summer.
However, in the biggest moments, Zuerlein has earned his money. The veteran kicker made two game-winning kicks last season, cashed in on a long field goal in a bid for redemption in Week 1 to give the Cowboys a late lead, and nailed the 56-yard game winner against the Chargers.
It might be hard to trust Zuerlein in the first few quarters, but with the game on the line, he’s come through.
The defense rises to the occasion
It has only been two games so far, but the Cowboys have forced six turnovers, which leads the league. More importantly, the defense is taking the ball away or coming up with a big play at key times.
In the season opener, Damontae Kazee caused a fumble near the goal line to give the Cowboys a chance to win the game. The offense responded by taking the lead. Against the Chargers, Kazee had another huge play, this time an interception in the end zone just before the start of the fourth quarter in a tied game. The picks saved points on Dallas’ path to a razor thin victory.
Parsons had the other big play as the Chargers were driving late in the game. A sack by the rookie forced the Chargers to kick a field goal as part of a goal line stand to keep the game tied instead of falling behind with fewer than four minutes remaining on the clock.
The Dallas defense might not be a great group just yet, but they make big plays at the right time to give their team a chance.
Do you think you learned more from Dallas’ Week 2 win rather than their Week 1 loss? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.