Football is back. Dak is back. And the offense is in mid-season form. It didn’t look as good as it did last year. It looked better. Going back to last season, Dak played in four full games and lit up the stat sheet because of how badly the Cowboys were losing. For context, here were the scenarios in weeks 2-4:
– Falcons (down 15 points with under eight minutes in Q4)
– Seahawks (down 15 in Q3)
– Browns (down 27 in Q3)
The offense was forced to abandon the run and air the ball out just to try to make the score look close. Last Thursday, that was not the case. Dallas shouldn’t be judged for the pedestrian run performance. They played against one of the best front sevens in football, who returned all eleven defensive starters. The same starters that held Pat Mahomes and company to zero touchdowns in the Super Bowl. They were also without six-time All-Pro, Zack Martin, to Covid-19 protocol. While the run game was clogged up by Tampa’s defensive line (Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea combine to be almost 700lbs of man), they kept the defense honest with over a dozen dump and screen passes to running-backs or tight-ends.
While there as a lot of buzz and media attention around CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper quietly stole the show. Dak was 13/16 for 139 and 2TD when throwing to Cooper for a QB rating of 142.5. This included a Tony Romo-eqsue play where the ball was snapped wide left, below Dak’s knee. Dak calmly scooped up the ball and threw a dart to Cooper at the front pylon for six points. Contrast that with his production when throwing to Lamb – 7/15 for 104 and 1TD for a QB rating of 64.3. This included an INT that bounced off of the hands of Lamb and into the arms of a defender. While CeeDee has a very high ceiling, it’s still Cooper’s show. Talking about the offense, it’s worth noting that while Zeke didn’t light up the stat sheet, he was a big reason that Dak was able to stand in the pocket and wait for the longer plays to develop. Zeke has never been afraid of contact and was able to keep Tampa’s stud MLBs in Lavonte David and Devin White from getting to Dak in pass protection.
For the most part, the defense looked improved. I don’t think anyone was surprised by Tampa putting up thirty plus points on Dallas. They averaged almost thirty-five a game over the latter part of 2020. Dallas is in the middle of a complete rebuild of the defense. The pass rush was basically non-existent. Zero sacks and only two QB hits. That’s not going to stop Tom Brady in any offense, much less the Bucs. Regardless, they did a good job at forcing two other fumbles and Trevon Diggs is making strides in his second year and held three-time pro-bowler, Mike Evans, to 24-yards receiving. The only other area of glaring concern was in the kicking game. Greg Zuerlein missed a 31-yard chip shot and two extra points. He did nail a 48-yarder when it counted, but there wasn’t any slowing down Tom Brady and company. The last few plays were clearly intended to burn what was left on the game clock. Ultimately, the better team won the football game, but it was a lot more competitive than most felt it would be and there’s some semblance of a defense this year. If the Cowboys come out to play like they did against the Bucs, they’re going to give most teams a run for their money.
Up next, the LA Chargers…