Entering Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys were facing their first game without Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. Additionally, the team was without All-Pro offensive lineman Tyron Smith, and kicker Dan Bailey. After losing Sean Lee to a hamstring injury, the team counted on their depth to cover for the missing firepower. Instead, the team received extremely poor play from the “replacements”, and lost a crucial NFC matchup to the Atlanta Falcons 27-7. Here are some notes from the contest:
Tyron Smith for M-V-P?
Although Zeke Elliott was talked about as a big loss for the team, Tyron Smith made his best case for being the MVP of this team. Dealing with a groin injury, as well as a balky back, Smith was inactive against the Falcons. In his place, Chaz Green had arguably the worst performance from an NFL lineman in recent memory. The third-year pro gave up an unbelievable 5 sacks. He was eventually replaced by Byron Bell, who gave up 2 sacks on Prescott. Dak was sacked a career-high 8(!) times, and the quarterback had no time to do anything in the pocket. The 8 sacks were the most the Cowboys have given up since 1991. Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn recorded a franchise-record 6 sacks in the contest, and will assuredly be the NFC Defensive player of the week for his domination of the Dallas O-line.
Defense Falters in Absence of Lee:
The Dallas defense had been on a tear throughout the Cowboys’ three-game win streak. Against Atlanta, the defense started out playing well. Rookie safety Xavier Woods recorded his first career interception, which set up Dallas’ first scoring drive. The team was stout against the Falcons’ run game, and looked on their way to another successful day. However, that quickly changed. All-pro linebacker Sean Lee left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. In his absence, the Falcons’ offense came to life. The Cowboys ended up being outscored 27-0 after Lee left the game. After struggling in Lee’s absence earlier in the year, the team will be looking for a quick recovery by the linebacker going forward.
Offense Loses Punch Without Zeke:
The Dallas Cowboys had been one of the highest scoring offense in the NFL. Playing without their star running back and left tackle, the offense sputtered. The team mustered just 7 points, which came as the result of a short field following Xavier Woods’ interception. The running game also struggles to get out of the gates, as the committee backfield recorded just 65 rushing yards on 15 carries. For comparison, the team entered the game averaging 148 rushing yards per game this season. With Zeke slated to miss the next 3 games, and likely the next 5, the team will have to find a way to get the run game going early and often.
Dallas Cowboys Looking Ahead:
While Sunday’s loss certainly doesn’t end the season, the defeat is still painful. At 5-4, the Cowboys sit 3 games behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. The team also fell one game behind the field in the NFC Wild Card race. Here is a quick look at the current landscape in the NFC:
Division Leaders Record: Next Week:
Philadelphia 8-1 @ Dallas
Minnesota 7-2 vs Los Angeles Rams
New Orleans 7-2 vs Washington
Los Angeles Rams 7-2 @ Minnesota
Seattle 6-3 vs Atlanta
Carolina 6-3 BYE WEEK
In the Hunt:
Atlanta 5-4 @ Seattle
Dallas 5-4 vs Philadelphia
Detroit 5-4 @ Chicago
Green Bay 5-4 vs Baltimore
Next week, the Dallas Cowboys will have a crucial matchup on Sunday Night Football, as the Philadelphia Eagles will travel to Arlington, Texas to take on the Cowboys. Dallas will need a victory to avoid an insurmountable deficit in the division, and to keep pace in the NFC playoff race. In the meantime, they will look to correct their offensive line performance and look to establish a running game to take pressure off Dak Prescott, as well as the defense.
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