The Dallas Cowboys may have lost their season opener to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but that doesn't mean it was all bad. After re-watching the game film, I have identified some things that we should make sure get the proper attention it deserves. Here are six observations from the Cowboys' loss on Thursday night,
1. The new kids can stop the run
It was very satisfying to see the Cowboys' defense make the Bucs' offense one-dimensional. They kept them to just 52 total rushing yards at an efficiency of just 3.7 yards per carry. Their longest run of the day was just seven yards.
The combination of rookie Micah Parsons and free agent Keanu Neal appears to be working nicely. It also helps that the team's low-cost free agents Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins are contributing as well. It's early, but the team is off to a good start in showing improvement in their ability to stop the run.
2. And they also can pressure the quarterback
Not only were some new additions making a difference in the run game, but the Cowboys wasted no time throwing their rookie draft picks into action. We know Parsons is going to be utilized in a variety of ways, but look how well he worked with the defensive line as a pass rusher. And third-round pick Osa Odighizuwa was getting in on the action as well.
The Cowboys' pass rush is still a work in progress, but it was nice to see such immediate contribution from their young guys.
3. Jourdan Lewis was smart to try to run it out
The Cowboys' cornerbacks not named Trevon Diggs had a rough game as both Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis were beat for touchdowns. In their defense, they faced a pretty talented group of Tampa Bay wide receivers. While Lewis had a fair share of slow-to-react moments, he also stayed true to his reputation of making plays as he was involved in not one, but two takeaways. First, he had an interception off a hail mary at the end of the first half, but then also he had a huge fumble recovery at a critical moment in the fourth quarter.
Despite scooping up the loose ball, Lewis received some criticism for not going to the ground and giving the Cowboys better field position. However, I'm not so sure it would have gone down like that. Let's take a closer look at the tape.
It should also be noted that Lewis just had a 66-yard return off the interception earlier, so the opportunity for him to make an even bigger play was there.
4. Mike McCarthy doesn't make good decisions
It's going to take some time before I am able to warm up to the Cowboys' new head coach as he keeps producing some head-scratching moments. Despite trying to sell to others that he's a big analytics guy, his actions aren't supporting his words. His decision to allow Greg Zuerlein to attempt a 60-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the half was ill-advised. The odds of making a kick of that length were not favorable even without considering Zuerlein's kicking struggles in that game. But even more foolish was the idea of giving Tom Brady a few more cracks at the Cowboys defense to put his team in field goal position. As it turned out, it didn't prove costly, but that doesn't make McCarthy's decision any less negligent.
And it's hard figuring out what he's thinking with his fourth-down decisions. Last year against the Los Angeles Rams, McCarthy chose to go for it deep in Rams territory rather than kick a field goal. While his aggressiveness was applauded, it didn't take into account how the Rams' offense was struggling to move the ball. Strangely, in a similar situation against the Bucs offense that was moving the ball at will, McCarthy opted to go conservative and kick the field goal. The logic behind these decisions just doesn't make sense.
Of course, McCarthy wouldn't have even been in that position had Blake Jarwin been able to secure his block.
5. Dak Prescott believes in his ability to make plays
I love how they just cut Prescott loose and let him rip it. We can see that Dak is playing at a higher level these days. Big-time quarterbacks are paid to make plays and Prescott is showing that he deserves to be included in that group.
And while every throw wasn't perfect, Dak's biggest criticism came on his sole interception when he tried to hit CeeDee Lamb over the middle. I'm sorry, but big-time quarterbacks make throws like this, and Prescott's pass was right on target.
6. Dak Prescott is a true leader
And can we take a moment to appreciate how calm and collected he is as the guy continues to prove that nothing gets him rattled.
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