The Cowboys still have cause for concern

Dak Prescott wore a smile after the game, and the Dallas Cowboys quarterback could not be blamed for that. Winning matches in the National Football League is not easy – just ask the Detroit Lions.

So even a 27-17 game over a New Orleans Saints team that boasted neither Alvin Kamara nor an actual quarterback still counts. The Cowboys’ record moved to 8-4. Mission accomplished.

“A victory,” said Prescott, “is a victory.”

However, these are the Cowboys, a team of immense popularity and enormous hype that spent the first two months of the season making its fans dream of a long-awaited Super Bowl.

The victory stems from a disastrous 1-3. November, but does Dallas look like a real challenger, or is a team almost certainly ready to win the NFC East ill-prepared for the top-heavy NFC playoff hunt?

In New Orleans, the Cowboys looked like the latter, a team destined for an early exit. Lucky for them, the playoffs only come in five weeks.

The running game has somehow disappeared. Dallas rushed to 146 yards Thursday, but those stats were padded by a 58-yard Tony Pollard touchdown run and another 33-yard sweep by wide receiver CeeDee Lamb.

Other than that, Pollard had just 13 yards on six carries, and Ezekiel Elliott (who is clearly knocked up) had only 45 yards on 13 attempts. It’s only 3.05 yards per game. rush. And only four of those transports went in more than three yards.

This from a team that bulldozed opponents to 201 yards rushing per. competition during a four-match stretch earlier in the season.

That has made the Cowboys a one-dimensional team. That probably forced offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to repeatedly call passing play in the fourth quarter, as Dallas should have salted the game away. Instead, imperfections caused repeated three-and-out times that drained almost none of the clock.

An opponent with a real quarterback would have taken advantage of that, and rest assured, Dallas is not going to match the admirable, but limited, Taysom Hill in January. Expecting Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady to throw four interceptions is probably not much of a game plan.

The Cowboys’ running game was largely non-existent again against the Saints. (Stephen Lew / USA TODAY Sports)

Even worse, if Dallas stays so openly committed to the passing game, the improved defense will be able to focus on that. Right now, as the season draws to a close, Dallas ‘offensive line can’t create gaps for Dallas’ running backs to break through. A team with a combination of Elliott and Pollard was expected to make a huge difference, but does not show it.

Prescott was 26-of-40 against the Saints in 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Getting wide receiver Amari Cooper back from an injury helped and should help more when he can play more than 24 snaps.

“We just need to be healthier, more focused,” Prescott said. “Like I said, I have to stay more disciplined, just play it piece by piece.”

All this gives cause for concern. The good news is, there is still time. Bill Belichick championed the concept that good teams should reach their paces after Thanksgiving, and with the season now extended to a 17th game, this was essentially Thanksgiving.

A three-game stretch against the NFC East competition should help – unless you think Washington, which Dallas will play twice, is a legitimate challenger. The Cowboys also get a mini-bye, after surviving Thursday and only playing again on December 12th.

The injury situation should be improved. Coach Mike McCarthy should return from COVID protocols. Dan Quinn can go back to concentrating on the defense.

It’s definitely not time to write off the Cowboys – they found a way to win a game, and that’s all that matters. There are no style points.

“It’s good to be past this,” Prescott said. “Of course it did not go as we hoped and planned. But by sitting at 8-4, the top of the division with a chance to get rested and recovered this week, we will place ourselves in a good place when we hit the next five.

“And we want to hit them the right way.”

Hopefully with the lost running game, better balance and knowledge that the September / October race does not matter now, because it all gets harder the closer the Cowboys get to their goal.

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