Grading performances during the Dallas Cowboys‘ current four-game winning streak has certainly been fun. But even after their 22-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday, some of the Cowboys’ units clearly had room for improvement. With a huge showdown in Philadelphia coming this weekend, what sort of momentum is Dallas taking into the upcoming game?
As we’ve been doing the last few weeks, we’ll go through the offense, defense, special teams, and coaches to see how each group delivered. We try to evaluate each game on its own merit, measuring performance against expectations and the competition they faced that week.
Cowboys Offense: B-
If not for RB Tony Pollard’s 57-yard touchdown run we might have seen no offensive points in the game. Even though the Cowboys won by 12, the defense and special teams did the heavy lifting.
Pollard’s big run was about the only big money from the entire offense. Otherwise, even he and Ezekiel Elliott had low output with just 107 yards on their other 29 carries. We also saw Tony make a couple of bad plays in pass protection which led to QB Cooper Rush getting completely blindsided.
While neither of Rush’s two fumbles resulted in a turnover, it was not a great day in general for the backup quarterback or his receivers. Cooper only had 102 passing yards on 10-of-16 attempts. While CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup both had some big plays in the game, they also each had ugly drops on potential 3rd-down conversions which further limited Dallas’ scoring.
It was a rough outing for the offensive line, allowing Rush to be sacked three times and failing to create much space for the runners. Dallas only had 2.7 yards per carry outside of the one breakaway play from Pollard. The Rams’ Aaron Donald reminded us all why he’s on another level, making Tyler Smith look like a rookie again and even giving Zack Martin trouble at times.
Thankfully, the other sides of the ball worked enough in the Cowboys’ favor that the offense didn’t sink them. But they’ll likely need to tighten up and be more productive if they want to keep the streak going against the Eagles.
Cowboys Defense: A-
The only knock on the defense is a couple of big plays given up in the passing game. The Rams got 129 yards of offense on just two balls to Cooper Kupp and Tutu Atwell, one of which was Los Angeles’ only touchdown on the day.
Otherwise, the Cowboys shut down the Rams’ offense throughout the game. Even after Atwell’s big gain, the defense stiffened in the redzone and only gave up a field goal. They even produced points with DeMarcus Lawrence’s fumble recovery for a touchdown.
With five sacks, two force fumbles, and an interception on the day, Dallas’ defense only increased the hype as one of the league’s premier units. Micah Parsons fought through injury, double teams, and uncalled holding to still get two sacks and opened up things for Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, and others to make plays.
If not for the defensive front’s harassment of Stafford, it could have been a much different day for the secondary. Trevon Diggs was beaten a few times for completions, though the Atwell play was really more on Malik Hooker. But thanks to their brothers on the front line, the corners and safeties enjoyed a much easier game.
Cowboys Special Teams: B+
If the Lawrence touchdown set the tone for the afternoon, Dorance Armstrong’s blocked punt on the Rams’ second possession definitely turned up the volume. It set Dallas up for an easy field goal that, despite missing the extra point on their first touchdown, created a two-score lead and put Los Angeles into an ever bigger hole early.
The missed extra point is part of the downgrade for this group. While forgivable in Matt Overton’s first play as the long snapper, it could have been a disaster in a closer contest. Watching the ball bounce off holder Bryan Anger’s face was not pretty.
Anger also had another poor punt, his second in consecutive games, which gave the Rams some hope in the 3rd Quarter. Despite starting from Dallas’ 29-yard-line, Los Angeles’ drive thankfully ended in a missed field goal and didn’t cost the team.
On the plus side, kicker Brett Maher made all three of his field goal attempts and continues to prove people wrong about his return to Dallas.
Cowboys Coaches: A+
Coming off three-straight wins nestled between games against NFC East rivals, this road game against the defending Super Bowl Champions felt like it had some real trap potential. But Mike McCarthy and his team were ready for the Rams and came away with a double-digit victory.
Even now, I’ll still defend the idea that McCarthy isn’t much of an upgrade from Jason Garrett. But I can’t deny the man his props for how the Cowboys have played in these last four games. The grit and determination are evident and we’ve even seen the penalties go down since the start of the year. Dare I say it; the Dallas Cowboys suddenly are playing with some discipline.
If a coordinator or assistant could ever win Coach of the Year, Dan Quinn is making a strong case. Even the genius of Sean McVay was no match for Quinn’s crew last Sunday. While Dan certainly benefits from the individual greatness of Micah Parsons and other playmakers, his schemes are putting those guys in positions to succeed and helping several to play some of the best ball of their careers.
Kellen Moore may not have had his best day given the offense’s low output, but you have to give him credit for how his group also isn’t making game-changing mistakes. A huge factor in this win streak is how Dallas has avoided turnovers and made just enough good plays in key moments. Given he’s working with QB2 and still trying to figure out some of the receiving options and offensive line, Moore’s still putting in quality work and contributing nicely to the Cowboys’ success.