It would be an understatement to say the Dallas Cowboys got beat on Sunday. They got manhandled. One of the most prolific offenses in football was held to only 268 total yards in a 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos, with 238 passing yards from quarterback Dak Prescott and only 30 total rushing yards for the team. Superstar running back Ezekiel Elliott had only 9 carries for 8 yards. After 15 straight 80-yard games to start his career, Zeke was completely shut down for the first time
. Meanwhile, wide receiver Dez Bryant posted a respectable 7 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown on cornerback Aqib Talib in the second quarter. It was the only time during the game that it seemed like Dallas looked like they could give Denver a run for their money. What followed was a disastrous second half as Prescott threw two picks and had another two interceptions batted away from Talib by Dez Bryant. It was a surprising performance from the former fourth-round pick, as he only had four career interceptions before the contest. Despite the poor performance of these players, it was the Cowboys as a whole that played poorly, as the vaunted Dallas o-line was unable to get any push on the Broncos defensive front and resulted in the Cowboys having no run game. This resulted in a one-dimensional offensive attack with Prescott attempting a career-high 50 pass attempts. Has Denver finally found the key to stopping one of the best offenses in football, or is this Bronco defense that good?
Gonna go with the latter here. Despite missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record last season, the Denver Broncos have continued to be one of the premier defenses in the NFL, finishing No. 4 in total defense in 2016 according to NFL.com. The Cowboys simply walked into this game extremely unprepared to play such an experienced defense. Remember, this is the defense that wrecked Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers en route to a victory in Super Bowl 50. The best defense Dak and Zeke had played prior to this game was the 2016 Baltimore Ravens, the No. 7 ranked defense that year. The confusing part about this is that Prescott had a huge game that day, passing for 301 yards and three touchdowns with Zeke gaining 97 yards on 25 carries. Dallas gave up on running the ball early, straying away from their run-based attack after the offensive line failed to open up any holes for Zeke. As stated above, this made the offense completely one-dimensional with Prescott being forced to carry the offense.
Of course this article couldn’t be written without some blame being placed on the Dallas defense. A secondary that was already thin as is lost three starting cornerbacks with Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, and promising rookie Chidobe Awuzie all missing time due to injuries. This gave Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian mismatches all day, with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combining for 133 receiving yards as Siemian tossed four touchdown passes. Running back C.J Anderson also ran wild, with 118 rushing yards on 25 carries. This uncharacteristically good performance speaks volumes to how bad the defense played, allowing 380 total yards as the Broncos went 9/15 on third down compared to 3/14 for the Dallas offense. Denver simply was able to keep the chains moving on third down and avoided drops for the most part. While you cannot game plan for injuries before they happen, the lack of depth in the Cowboys secondary is clearly showing so far and will continue to do so throughout the season.
If the Cowboys are unable to commit to the run game and give Ezekiel Elliot his carries, the Cowboys will have some serious trouble repeating as NFC East champions. While Prescott is a good quarterback, is he good enough to lead the Cowboys back to the No. 1 seed?