Dallas Cowboys prove they can compete in NFC, but can they really?
13-10. The final score of last night’s game between the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. If you didn’t watch the game, you may assume the team who came out on top was the Saints. If you assumed so, you’d be wrong. The Dallas Cowboys walked out of that game with a victory over the now 10-2 New Orleans Saints.
Surprised? Yeah, me too. As a fan of the Dallas Cowboys myself, I wasn’t too confident heading into this game. Despite being on a three game winning streak, the Cowboys hadn’t played a team like the Saints. Their three consecutive wins came against the Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins.
Why didn’t those wins give me confidence in the Cowboys? Well, for starters, two of those three teams (Eagles and Falcons) have losing records this season. While the Redskins do have a winning record currently, they were without starting QB Alex Smith when the Cowboys beat them. Not a reason to give someone confidence heading into a game against a 10-1 team who hadn’t lost since Week One.
Secondly, those three wins came against teams who average 20.9 (Eagles), 25.5 (Falcons) and 20.0 points per game. None of those teams rank inside the top 10 in points per game. Going into the game against New Orleans, they were facing the league’s number one scoring offense, who was averaging 37.2 points per game before playing Dallas.
While those things didn’t have me feeling confident heading into last night’s game, there was one reason I was optimistic about the Cowboys’ chances of winning.
The Dallas Cowboys’ Defense
Heading into the game against the Saints, the Dallas Cowboys held the number three defense in points allowed per game (19.4). If there was any chance of beating the Saints, it came from the defense.
Well, the defense did just about everything they needed to do to earn a victory over the Saints. They shut out the league’s highest scoring offense in the first half. They held Drew Brees to 127 passing yards on 64.3% completions, his second worst of the season. New Orleans was held to a total of 176 yards of offense, resulting in just 10 points. They even forced Brees to throw only his third INT of the year.
This defense held what was the league’s highest scoring offense to 10 points! They held an MVP candidate to 127 yards passing! In their victory over the New Orleans Saints, the Dallas Cowboys proved they can compete with anyone in the NFC……. defensively.
The Dallas Cowboys’ Offense
While the defense was fantastic last night and proved they can compete with anyone, the offense is a different story. Dallas jumped out to a 13-0 lead at half. There were some things that could’ve gone better for the Cowboys’ offense in that half, but for the most part they were pretty good.
There was a part of me that just knew the second half would be different. I knew there was no chance this game was going to be an easy win for Dallas. While the Cowboys were pretty good offensively in the first half, the second half was a complete disaster.
Dallas scored 13 points in the first half. They had 13 points when the game was over. Everyone was talking about how the Saints were shut out in the first half, but nobody seemed to recognize how the Cowboys were shut out in the second half. Dallas couldn’t score points when they had the chance to put the game away. They couldn’t score at the most important times of the game.
Now, there were positives for the offense in this game.
- Dak Prescott completed 85.7% of his passes, his highest percentage of the season. He set his personal record for most completions in a row with 18. With that 85.7% completion percentage, Prescott threw for 248 yards and one TD. He didn’t throw an INTs.
- Ezekiel Elliott had 136 total yards of offense, including one TD. Zeke continues to be the focal point of the offense.
- Although Zeke had 136 total yards, he was held to a 3.3 yard average rushing the ball. While that may not seem good, it was actually good for Prescott. The number one rush defense of the Saints forced Dak to make plays with his arm. He consistently did that in this game, proving it’s not all about Zeke.
- Rookie WR Michael Gallup had five catches for 76 yards. Gallup continues to improve during his rookie year. He was consistently open and made some really good catches. He looks like he’s the future number two guy behind Amari Cooper.
- Built a 13-0 lead on the New Orleans Saints in the first half.
While the Dallas Cowboys did some nice things offensively, they were by no means perfect.
- We’ll start with what I already mentioned. They built a 13-0 lead in the first half, but were shut out in the second half and couldn’t put the Saints away.
- One of the positives for the offense was Dak Prescott completing 18 straight passes. Well, it should have been 19 straight, but Dak missed a wide open Michael Gallup on that throw. Gallup would have walked into the end zone had it been completed. That would have given the Cowboys the TD they needed to secure the victory a lot earlier than they did.
- Turnovers: WR Amari Cooper fumbled the ball during this game, which resulted in the Saints getting the ball back. Dak Prescott also fumbled twice, losing the ball once. That lost fumble came with 2:42 left in the game. They were up 13-10 at that point and gave Drew Brees another possession.
- Sacks: Dak Prescott was sacked seven times, resulting in a loss of 40 yards.
Can Dallas really compete in the NFC?
After what the Dallas defense did to Drew Brees and the Saints last night, there’s no doubt the Cowboys can compete in the NFC defensively. They proved they can handle just about any offense who comes their way.
While I’m fully confident in the defense, I don’t have that same confidence in the offense.
- How many times can you get away with scoring zero points in the second half of a playoff game?
- How many times can you miss a wide open receiver who would have scored a TD and still win a playoff game?
- Can you get away with fumbling three times in a playoff game? How many times can you give the ball back to a QB like Drew Brees, Jared Goff or Russell Wilson with under three minutes left and still walk away with a playoff victory?
The Dallas offense was lucky their defense was playing on such a high level last night. This game could have easily gone the other way because of careless mistakes. If the Dallas Cowboys want a real shot at competing in the NFC this season, those careless mistakes have to be fixed.
The defense overcame their mistakes last night, but how many times will they be able to save this offense when it’s win or go home?
Comment below on if you think the Dallas Cowboys are legit NFC contenders!