It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Dallas Cowboys are officially in the win column improving to 1-1 on the season, defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 20-17 in a nail biter.
The game was capped off by a 56-yard game-winning field goal from Greg Zuerlein as time expired, rebounding from an abysmal Week 1 performance.
The Cowboys are now tied for first place in the NFC East with the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Luckily for the Cowboys, they’ll have a shot to claim the first place spot in their matchup with the Eagles next weekend at AT&T Stadium.
Ahead of their first home game, here’s a look at some takeaways and aspects of the game the Dallas Cowboys can capitalize upon.
Keep Tony Pollard Involved in the Offense
Photo Retrieved from The Athletic (www.theathletic.com)
Tony Pollard was electric in the Cowboys’ victory on Sunday. He eclipsed 100 yards rushing and posted a rushing touchdown to go along with his big day.
Ezekiel Elliott also showed major improvement from the Cowboys’ previous matchup. He totalled 97 yards from scrimmage and averaged 4.4 yards per carry on the day.
While Zeke seemed to have taken a backseat to Pollard on Sunday, the performance of the tandem could prove to be fruitful for the remainder of the Cowboys’ season.
Pollard has displayed the ability to be an integral part of the offense, and the Cowboys should use this to their advantage. Having an All-Pro running back in Elliott is already a privilege most teams cannot boast, but adding Pollard in as a rotational back is a luxury.
For the first time in a long time, the Dallas Cowboys looked balanced in their offensive scheme. Though it certainly wasn’t the unit’s best showing, there was a lot of good to take from the matchup.
Sunday’s matchup showed that the Cowboys don’t have to rely solely on Dak Prescott to bail them out of games, and that they don’t have to force feed Elliott for him to be productive.
Pollard’s speed and lateral quickness adds a different dimension to the Cowboys offense, and allows Zeke to cater more towards his style of power running in short yardage situations rather than being forced to run plays to the outside.
The Cowboys have already proven to be a problem offensively with their passing game. If they can expand on the dynamic between Elliott and Pollard in the backfield, it would be a nightmare matchup for any opposing defense.
Defense Continuing to Produce Turnovers
Photo Retrieved from National Football League
Dan Quinn’s unit is continuing to turn heads to start the season. After forcing four turnovers in Week 1, they followed it up with two interceptions in Week 2 and held the Chargers to just 17 points.
This performance was especially impressive as it came in light of multiple injuries for Dallas defensively. Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Donovan Wilson were all inactive for the game, but their absences proved less detrimental than expected.
A multitude of players stepped up for Dallas defensively, leaving major footprints on the outcome of the game.
Jayron Kearse was phenomenal in Donovan Wilson’s absence, and likely earned a starting spot on the defense. He compiled 5 tackles and a deflected pass on the day, while also disrupting a multitude of plays in the backfield.
Micah Parsons also excelled, taking up the mantle of defensive end in Lawrence’s absence. Throughout the game, Parsons dominated his matchup and put constant pressure on Justin Herbert.
Kearse and Parsons played big roles in the win yesterday. It’s not too far-fetched to say without them, Dallas doesn’t win.
Trevon Diggs and Damontae Kazee also contributed to the standout performance, each tallying an interception. For Diggs this marks his second pick of the season, nearly eclipsing his previous season’s total of three.
The Defense has been incredible in the turnover battle thus far. They are first in the NFL with a +4 turnover differential.
There is still room for improvement, however. Dallas has allowed 400 yards of offense in back-to-back games to open the season. Only five teams have allowed more yards than Dallas this season: the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings.
Generating takeaways won’t be enough to overcome this on a weekly basis, but it certainly helps the effort. The Cowboys currently rank 17th in the league defensively despite allowing the 5th most yards per game.
The defensive unit has been strong thus far. If they can keep up this pace, and still force turnovers, look out. Things may start to look up for Dallas on both sides of the ball.
Maintaining a Fast Paced Offense
The Cowboys put up 14 of their 20 points in the first quarter. They scored the remaining six in the final quarter of the game.
While the Cowboys offense is not known to stall, the reason behind Sunday’s anomaly is quite simple. The Cowboys offensive pace slowed down heavily after Dak Prescott threw an interception late in the opening quarter.
Justin Herbert seemed to benefit from the change of pace as well. He threw for his first touchdown of the game in the second quarter.
When the Cowboys were up-tempo on offense things were difficult for the Chargers defense. It allotted them little time to adjust. Adversely, it helped Dak Prescott and the offense get virtually anything they pleased.
Most importantly, it helped the Cowboys maintain control of the clock. The Cowboys dominated the early portion of the game both passing and running the ball.
Keeping an opposing offense at bay on the sidelines is a good strategy for “America’s Team.” This lets them chew clock while keeping a guy like Justin Herbert off the field.
The Cowboys next matchup against the Eagles on Sunday will be especially dependent on the new strategy. The Eagles currently rank 4th in the league overall defensively. A fast paced offensive scheme will be key to keeping the defense on its toes.
If Dallas can maintain this high level of offensive pace next week, they are in good shape to capture their second win of the season.