There’s something happening down in the Metroplex. The Dallas Cowboys offense is performing admirably amid adversity.
Consider this: the team started their season without two of their key wide receivers and their All-Pro left tackle. Then, they promptly lost their franchise quarterback, a defensive captain, and left guard by Week 1’s end. That type of calamity makes it easy to write off any season as a loss, especially so early on. It’s been happening to Dallas since their week one debacle against Tampa Bay. After handling the Cincinnati Bengals last week and toppling the New York Giants on Monday night, everyone should be looking at this team differently moving forward.
Dallas Cowboys Offense Clicks in Monday Night Win
The Dallas Cowboys are now 2-1 on the season after beating the Giants 23-16 on Monday night. They have shown over multiple weeks now that they understand how to win as a team. Solid play in all three phases of the game against New York led to victory. The defense continued its rise to being one of the best in the league. The offense executed well as Rush had another solid outing. The special teams also added a blocked kick and momentous punt return from KaVontae Turpin late in the game. It was another team-centric win that the Cowboys needed to remain interesting as they await the return of key players.
The timetable for Dak Prescott’s return keeps shrinking. What was initially thought to be a 6-8 week injury has now been reduced to 3-5. Michael Gallup did not make his debut Monday as many thought he might, but next week seems a full go. Connor McGovern should also return soon, though the line may have found a formula with Jason Peters playing left guard. The offensive side of the ball will continue to look different going into October, but this version is showing true potential in the meantime.
The Dallas Cowboys offense was a big question mark coming into the season and was harangued after a lackluster start. The defense has been pulling its weight all season. Monday showed how well the whole team can operate when the offense can help balance the load.
What a Rush
Once again, Cooper Rush showcased an ability to outperform expectations in big moments. His first career win was in front of the nation during Sunday Night Football; his most recent came on the road for Monday Night Football. The 3-0 start to his career as quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys hasn’t been done since Jason Garrett (spanning three games between 1993 through 1998).
Cooper Rush is now 3-0 as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
He's the second undrafted Cowboys QB to win each of his first 3 career starts, along with Jason Garrett. pic.twitter.com/3vHrza1qJV
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 27, 2022
Against the Giants, Rush was 21-of-31 for 215 yards and a touchdown. It could have been a lot more if not for inopportune drops and penalties. For another week, Rush maintained poise and decisiveness in the pocket, making the right plays at the right time. With every passing week, he takes more and more deep shots while continuing to take care of the ball. There are no caveats here — Rush has been impressive any way you look at it.
What might be most notable about Rush is his ability to stay in the pocket and deliver strikes knowing a hit is coming. There were several big catches early in the game that Rush was barely able to get off. Though, once the New York pass rush evaporated after the first few drives, the impressive backup had all night to make smart decisions and sharp throws.
The coaching staff’s trust in Rush is also noteworthy. In two games, Rush has thrown the ball over 60 times. Nothing about the game plan for Dallas indicates any reluctance to let him sling it around. To his credit, Rush has done nothing to make the coaches regret their confidence. He has yet to throw an interception to his two touchdown passes and has had several highlight plays. Whether he is feeling more confident under center or is just a game-time player, Cooper Rush has far outplayed all expectations.
A Perfectly Scripted Attack
The offense was almost perfectly balanced — as all things should be — with 31 passes to 28 rushes. It is the type of formula this offense is predicated around, and Kellen Moore executed it well. The rushing splits were also nearly identical with Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott getting 13 and 15 carries respectively. Pollard ended his night with 105 yards, while Zeke had 73 yards and a rushing touchdown. Both rushers put their complementing skills on display and were helped in no small part by the offensive line.
The offensive line for Dallas looked good for the most part. We’ll get to the costly penalties later, but the run blocking was effective and pass blocking was solid. The pockets for Rush got cleaner as the game progressed and he was not sacked all night. Jason Peters made his 2022 debut, playing left guard on a handful of snaps. Poetically, his first snap as a Dallas Cowboy led to a 46-yard rush from Pollard.
Tony Pollard SCOOTIN 🛴
— NFL (@NFL) September 27, 2022
Many predicted that Peters would take over the left tackle position, but rookie Tyler Smith is performing admirably. Dallas will certainly garner some criticism if Peters remains at guard, as his (many) accolades have come playing tackle. Yet, if the mantra truly is “best five on the field,” then Monday makes the notion difficult to argue against.
Moore called an excellent game, and the Dallas Cowboys offense executed it to near perfection. It was an encouraging showing, especially when considering the weapons that will roll in over the next few weeks. The receiving unit still needs help and is looking to Gallup and James Washington to provide that soon. However, the current pass catchers played a pivotal role in Monday night’s win.
The Redemption of CeeDee Lamb
CeeDee Lamb experienced a roller coaster of a night. After a 15-yard catch on the first play of the game, he had numerous drops—a continuous blemish on his record. The drop of a perfectly thrown ball from Rush had the stomachs of Cowboys fans turning all over the country.
By halftime, Lamb had two catches — he had the same number of crucial drops. The Dallas Cowboys have made it abundantly clear they are relying on Lamb to elevate himself into the premiere receiver role for this offense. It was beginning to look as if Monday would end up as another question mark added to that notion. However, Lamb showed a mature resilience and stepped up when Dallas needed him most. After the Cowboys tied the game and forced a punt, the newest 88 decided to rewrite the narrative. In one clutch drive, Lamb accumulated 48 yards, a crucial 4th down conversion, and a highlight reel touchdown grab.
CEEDEE LAMB ONE-HANDED FOR THE LEAD 😱 @_CeeDeeThree
— NFL (@NFL) September 27, 2022
Lamb wasn’t the only receiver to make an impact. Noah Brown has been a consistent bright spot for the offense since the season began. Monday night was no different, as he made several big plays early in the game on his way to a five-catch, 51-yard performance. The chemistry that Rush and the receivers are finding makes it easier to refrain from rushing Gallup back. An elevating Lamb, emerging Brown, and returning Gallup should have the team feeling much better about this unit.
Outside of the drops, the only thing stopping the Cowboys from hanging 30+ on the Giants was the recurring penalty issue. Two early drives were stalled in large part due to holding calls on Matt Farniok and Tyler Smith. Rookie tight end Peyton Hendershot had two holding penalties of his own, which damped an otherwise stellar night. The defense also had numerous unnecessary penalties that extended drives and kept the unit on the field longer.
This has been a longstanding issue, as Dallas led the league in penalties last season as well. Some bad calls can always be expected from NFL officiating crews, but the Cowboys have allowed penalties to influence their games far too long now. The coaching staff is doing a commendable job to start the season, but the penalties are still a huge problem. Dallas must find a way to cut down on the flags before they begin dictating the outcomes of games.
Next week, the Cowboys take on another divisional rival in the Washington Commanders. The results of a revamped Carson Wentz offense have not been great thus far, but the defense remains a formidable unit on paper. Coming off a dismantling by the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington is quickly losing footing in the NFC East standings. The Commanders will undoubtedly be looking for a big win to stymie any good feeling bubbling up in Big D. The Dallas Cowboys offense will need to continue its balanced attack, hopefully with the help of Michael Gallup’s return. With games against the Rams and Eagles quickly approaching, the Cowboys need to stack wins where they can.