Thursday Night Observations

That game was not as close as the score. The Cowboys should have had a sack-fumble on Drew Brees, but Randy Gregory, who did not affect the play, lined up in the neutral zone to negate it, and the Cowboys also lost a possession after a roughing-the-punter call on Gregory which resulted in the Saints only touchdown. There were other ticky-tack penalties, mostly on Dallas, that continued drives, too. As someone who had the Cowboys +7.5, it was a tougher game to watch than it should have been, but in retrospect, the Saints never moved the ball consistently at all with only 176 total yards to the Cowboys’ 308.

Drew Brees had a meager 127 passing yards (4.5 YPA), one TD and one pick. He was sacked twice and should have lost a fumble but for Gregory’s penalty. Accordingly, no receiver did anything. Michael Thomas (8-5-40) led the team, while Alvin Kamara had a meager 11-8-36. Keith Kirkwood caught the TD that probably wasn’t even intended for him.

The Saints rushing attack didn’t fare much better. Kamara had 11 carries for 36 yards, while Mark Ingram went seven for 27.

Dak Prescott lost a fumble and took seven sacks, but he threw for 248 yards (8.9 YPA), a TD and ran for 22 more yards. Two of Prescott’s runs were back-breaking first downs, huge plays in the game. He did miss a wide open Michael Gallup on a would-be TD though.

Ezekiel Elliott (23-for-76) wasn’t efficient, but he ran hard, converted first downs and didn’t put the ball on the ground. He also went 6-6-60-1 through the air and is now every bit the dual threat Todd Gurley is. The drop-off to Rod Smith is steep, and Elliott is worth the early pick the Cowboys used on him three years ago.

Gallup (7-5-76) led the team in receiving and looks like a nice complement to Amari Cooper. Gallup would have had a monster game had Prescott not missed him down the sideline. Cooper went 8-8-75 but lost a fumble. Still, he’s been a massive difference maker to Prescott in the passing game and might prove worth the first-round pick he cost to acquire. Even if you think the Cowboys overpaid, you always want an organization erring on the side of going for it (I can’t believe I’m praising the Cowboys, but credit where it’s due.)

The Cowboys young linebackers, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, look like rising stars, and they outran and outplayed Ingram and Kamara in the running game. Dallas could have Sean Lee back next week too.

 

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