The Dallas Cowboys suffered their first loss of the season this past week against the Denver Broncos in the Mile High City with an (ugly) final score of 42-17. Frankly, the Broncos dominated the Cowboys from the opening whistle up until time expired; on both sides of the ball.
The media has been harping on the fact that Sunday was a prime example of how overrated the Cowboys are and that the “sophomore slump” is here for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. It is hard to argue against the display Dallas put out, but thinking the season is in danger is a severe overreaction for a couple reasons.
First off, playing in Denver in Week 2 is an unbelievable test. It is arguably one of the toughest venues to travel to due to the altitude, weather and fanbase. With that being said, Dallas’ performance was embarrassing due to multiple factors.
The Cowboys’ defense was comparable to a slice of swiss cheese, and that might even be giving them too much credit. Heading into the game, Orlando Scandrick having to sit out due to injury already stretched Dallas’ secondary way too thin. To make matters worse, defensive backs Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) and Nolan Carroll (concussion) both exited the game due to injury in the first half.
The thin and inexperienced secondary got torched by Trevor Siemian as the young quarterback had an unreal day completing 22 of 32 attempts for 231 yards and FOUR touchdowns. Siemian was able to find his groove from the first drive when he led the Broncos right down the field for 78 yards while only facing one third down.
The secondary doesn’t deserve all of the blame, the defensive line was essentially nonexistent other than Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence registered both of the Cowboys’ two total sacks on the day and was the only d-lineman who seemed to make ANY impact. And while Lawrence’s play through these first two games has been phenomenal, he made a crucial mental mistake by “leveraging” off of Denver’s long-snapper to give the Broncos 15 yards and a new set of downs while the game was still tied early on.
And as for the linebackers: they may have worried me the most. I saw Sean Lee taking terrible angles to the ball carrier and whiff on at least two tackles; these are sights that are rarely seen, but are extremely discouraging. While Lee still finished with eight solo tackles, his counterpart Jaylon Smith only registered three. Those two need to have a bigger impact in games moving forward.
The defense looked bad, but that’s expected. Going into the game it was known that in order for Dallas to win, the offense needed to carry the team. Sadly they couldn’t even help themselves. Denver’s defense looked DOMINANT. I haven’t seen Dallas’ offensive line get blown back off the ball they way they did on Sunday in years.
The run game was literally nonexistent. Ezekiel Elliott was held to a career-worst eight rushing yards on nine carries – those stats just hurt to even type out. Denver stacked the box the entire game and invited Dallas to try and overpower them – which the Cowboys could not.
But when the run game failed, it was up to Dak Prescott to carry the offense. However, Dak failed to rise to the occasion. The usually poised Prescott looked absolutely frazzled the entire game. What was more frightening his inaccuracy in missing some rare open targets throughout the game.
While I love that the Boys are trying to make Dez Bryant the focal point of the passing attack, Dak was CLEARLY force feeding him. Dez garnered 16 targets on Sunday and only caught seven of them. When the pressure came, Dak would try and rifle it to Dez, but Denver was waiting for it all along. Aqib Talib made Dak pay for it when he returned a 103-yard pick-six late in the fourth quarter to put the nail in the coffin. They played Dallas perfectly: Shut down the run game and force Prescott to make plays.
I think the Cowboys needed to run more short crossing patterns to get the second level of the defense off the line of scrimmage. Maybe even throwing rookie Ryan Switzer on the opposite side of Cole Beasley would help add some more speed and give Dak a quick check down option.
And while many are saying the “blueprint” to beat the Cowboys is out, that’s just not true. Denver’s defense is ridiculously good, ESPECIALLY at home. I do expect more teams to stack the box like the Broncos did moving forward, but for a team to replicate the ass-kicking that Denver gave to Dallas last week will be no easy task. The Cowboys, now sitting at 1-1 on the season will travel to Arizona next week for a Monday night showdown against the Arizona Cardinals. Look for a HUGE bounce back win.
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