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Takeaways From the Dallas Cowboys Week 15 Win Against the Giants

The Dallas Cowboys are one Packers loss away from jumping into the top overall seed in the NFC after their win in New York this Sunday. The Giants came in with an abundance of injuries that gave them little chance to compete, and Dallas took care of business.

Dallas will now wait patiently for the Tuesday night outcome between Philadelphia and Washington before “the team with no name” has to make the short turnaround to Texas. Regardless of who wins on Tuesday, Dallas can clinch the NFC East with a home against Washington next Sunday.

Here are some positives and negatives from the tenth win for the Dallas Cowboys of the season.

micah parsons dallas cowboys
Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Takeaways From the Dallas Cowboys Week 15 Win

The Good:

Defense running the show

This defense never gave Mike Glennon or that offense any reason to build their hopes up on Sunday. There were a pair of good runs by Devontae Booker that made up 74 of New York’s 124 yards rushing, but the Giants just couldn’t find much success.

Outside those two runs, I thought the front seven was spectacular against the run. Carlos Watkins, Neville Gallimore and Demarcus Lawrence all made big plays to stuff runners, and Lawrence’s punch on the ball late in the first half created one of Dallas’ four turnovers. In fact, Lawrence had a hand in two of the Cowboys’ turnovers as his hit on Glennon on the opening drive caused the ball to squirt out high into the air where Jourdan Lewis was able to intercept it.

As for the pass defense, Dallas only had one sack, but pressure helped make several plays. In addition to Lawrence helping to create that early turnover, Micah Parsons flushed Glennon from the pocket in the fourth quarter, where he was forced to throw a prayer up into the end zone that Trevon Diggs intercepted. Randy Gregory also forced the final incompletion of the game on a blitz design that helped him come clean off the edge. The Cowboys’ ability to get pressure also had a lot to do with New York’s game plan. Seldom did we see Glennon hold the ball long.

Most everything came out quick in this one, as it was apparent that the Giants had little faith in their ability to stop the Dallas pass rush.

Secondary looks confident

Let’s not give all the credit to the boys up front. This secondary was playing on their toes on Sunday. That’s easy to do when a team has a backup quarterback and a banged-up offensive line. Still, guys were breaking on passes and knocking down balls like they were in predator mode. No one feared Glennon’s ability to throw the ball downfield, and when he did, the coverage was either good or his accuracy was off.

Micah Parsons made a solid play on a well-designed pattern to get Kenny Golladay the ball. Still, his ability to accelerate in coverage put him in position to cut off Golladay from the throw. Lewis had a terrific afternoon, though he was too early on one play that resulted in a pass interference penalty. Still, he knocked down four passes on the day and came away with the first of three Dallas picks.

New York tried to pick on Anthony Brown, and he was up to the challenge. Diggs had a very nice showing knocking down a slant route and adding the fourth-quarter interception.

Possibly the most exciting news is how Malik Hooker has looked over the last two weeks. It looks like he has gotten some of his range back, which was one of his top traits coming out of college.

Run Game shows signs of life

I’m not going to make it out to be the Cowboys’ top run-effort of the season, but this was a step in the right direction from what we’ve seen. Elliott and Pollard both had some explosive runs, and Kellen Moore got them on the edge a little more.

More importantly, the Dallas Cowboys were getting to the second level much easier, creating running lanes for the backs. It’s tough to have an effective rushing attack when the first contact is coming at or near the line of scrimmage. That wasn’t the case on Sunday on a good portion of our snaps, and it allowed the run game to truly be effective. Having a healthy Pollard and what looked like a healthier Elliott also helps the cause.

Not only did Elliott and Pollard both have some big runs, but we also saw something that Dallas hasn’t been able to do since the run game went into the toilet. Kellen Moore pulled out an RPO, something the Cowboys had success within the early parts of the season.

Run-Pass Options are only successful if teams have to truly respect the run threat, and on this one, that’s what happened. The read player committed to the run, and CeeDee Lamb had plenty of green space ahead of him for an easy pitch-and-catch on the slant.

Welcome back Connor Williams

Williams had his starting job taken away over a month ago, and I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled about it. I like Connor McGovern, and yes, Williams was struggling with holding penalties. Still, he’s so good at blocking for the run, and with all the shuffling on the line, making another change just didn’t seem wise. Now he’s back at left guard, and he played well on Sunday. Not only did Dallas’ run game look more effective, but Williams was the only Cowboys’ offensive lineman to not give up a single pressure, according to Pro Football Focus.

Williams didn’t draw a single flag in the game either. We don’t know when Tyron Smith will be back in the starting lineup, although rumors were that the Dallas Cowboys were very pleased with the results they got back following his injury in the Washington game.

Still, chemistry could be the most critical factor for this offensive line. That is something Williams brings to this unit after being the starter at left guard for 48 games in his career.

dak prescott dallas cowboys
Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Bad

Dak having confidence issues

While Dak Prescott did have a solid-overall showing, he is still having issues on the football field, and I think his confidence has something to do with it. There were several plays where the protection was good, and the receiver separated out of his break on time down the field, and Prescott either didn’t pull the trigger or was too quick to dump the ball off.

When there is pressure, I’ve got no problem with dumping the football off, but that wasn’t the case much on Sunday. We even saw Prescott step up and make several strong throws on the move, which makes me believe he’s not far from getting back to his true form.

Still, he must start pulling the trigger because these wide receivers are too talented not to get the ball when they are open. There were also several pre-snap reads where he was unwilling to go with his downfield option, even if he had a one-on-one matchup. One that stood out was when he got stuck on a read over the middle, despite the safety moving toward the center of the field pre-snap. That left Michael Gallup in a one-on-one matchup on the outside with press coverage. Gallup won easily against the jam and was open instantly down the sideline. The safety did drift in his direction, but a well-timed throw would have hit Gallup with a chance to beat the safety to the end zone.

I liked establishing the connection with Dalton Schultz over the middle in this one. However, Prescott made just one throw of 20 yards or more downfield. We have to give defenses reasons to fear the deep ball, and while we’ve been seeing a lot of two-deep looks, there are still chances.

Drops getting worse

Early in the season, drops were more tolerable because the offense was clicking so well. However, that’s not the case now, and we can’t afford to miss out on big plays. There is no doubt that Lamb is a significant weapon in this offense, but he is also the one dropping passes more often than anyone. As I’ve said before on this issue, it’s not an issue with his hands. The problem lies within his focus. I get that he probably puts pressure on himself to deliver big plays with the offense struggling right now, but that’s just an excuse at the end of the day.

I don’t know whether the sun played a factor on either of his first two drops on Sunday. It looked like it did, but only he knows whether or not he could track the ball. Still, the drop downfield when he had room to run was inexcusable. Prescott is not taking many chances deep right now, and that’s not helping matters. Prescott is currently struggling, as I mentioned above, and drops are only adding to the problem.

These Dallas Cowboys receivers have been touted as one of the deepest, most talented groups of pass-catchers in the league for good reason, and they need to step up their game when Prescott is struggling. They have to remind him just how simple his job can be because they are capable of making plays once the ball is in their hands.

When he does make an accurate throw, these receivers have to reward him by hauling it in. If injuries were part of the problem, I’d be more understanding, but they aren’t. Our top receivers are healthy, and they need to play up to their abilities to help this offense get rolling.

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