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During the past twenty years, the worst things that could happen to the Dallas Cowboys have seemingly resulted from high expectations.
Think the team will go no better than 10-6? The Cowboys go 13-3. But think the Cowboys are on the cusp of a Super Bowl season?
Well, you get the 2008 season. Or the 2010 season. Or the 2015 season.
Hopefully, we don’t add the 2017 season to the list of failures to meet high expectations, and Sunday’s 42-17 loss to Denver is just an aberration. But Sunday’s loss was bad.
It was the worst day for…Ezekiel Elliott and the Greatest Offensive Line in Football
Until Sunday, the only thing that seemed to be able to stop Ezekiel Elliott was the NFL’s disciplinary process or the judicial system.
Add the Denver defense to the mix.
Elliott had never rushed for fewer than 51 yards in a game. He had never had fewer than 12 carries, and that came during the season finale in 2016 when the Cowboys barely played their starters.
Against the Broncos, it was 9 carries for 8 yards.
We need not say much more. The Denver line manhandled the Dallas offensive line all game, and Elliott was stacked up from the opening drive.
Of course, Emmitt Smith had a few dud games. So did Tony Dorsett. But neither had many of those games, and hopefully this is the last bad game in a while for Elliott.
It was the worst day for…Dak Prescott
The quarterback was bound to have a bad day at some point. He threw two interceptions for only the second time during his career, and his throws were off for much of the game.
It did not help that he had little time in the pocket, and his receivers did not do him too many favors. Dez Bryant had a nice touchdown catch, but he is not catching some passes he needs to be able to catch. Brice Butler dropped another pass, and Terrance Williams too often disappears.
It was the worst day for…Tackling
The biggest highlights for the Broncos came on plays when three or four Cowboys seemingly had chances to tackle ball carriers but failed.
Jaylon Smith was credited with three tackles, but he should have had about ten. The banged-up secondary had trouble bringing people down. So did Sean Lee.
It was the worst day for…A Banged Up Secondary
Chidobe Awuzie left the game with a hamstring injury, and Nolan Carroll left with a concussion. The team was already without Orlando Scandrick, who has a hand injury.
So the remaining players included the likes of Kevon Frazier, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods. Not saying we should yearn for the days of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, but this secondary is going to remain a concern.
Yes, the Cowboys did a great job shutting down the New York Giants, and Lewis recorded his first career interception against the Broncos. But Denver rarely faced a third-and-long against Dallas, and Trevor Siemian had little trouble slashing the secondary throughout the game.
It was not the worst day for DeMarcus Lawrence. For the second game in a row, he recorded two sacks. One of those sacks resulted in a fumble, which the Cowboys recovered. The play set up the first Dallas score and kept the Cowboys in the game during the first half.
Of course, Lawrence was later called for a penalty on a field goal attempt. The Broncos kept the ball and scored a touchdown instead of settling for the field goal.
Very different circumstances, but the 1998 Dallas Cowboys were able to rebound from a terrible loss at Denver during week 2.
After beating the Cardinals 38-10 to open the season, Dallas traveled to Denver to face the defending Super Bowl champions. The game was no contest, with the Broncos routing Dallas 42-23.
Even worse, the Cowboys lost Troy Aikman to a broken collarbone, leaving the Cowboys to play Jason Garrett.
The Cowboys turned around to win three of their next four games, including wins over the Giants and Redskins. Most people remember Garrett for his heroics on Thanksgiving Day in 1994, but he had his moments during that 1998 season as well.
(Of course, that 1998 season did not end well, as the Cowboys lost to the Cardinals in the divisional playoffs.)
Tony Romo is not yet performing at the level of Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth, but he does have a knack for predicting plays.
NFL.com has a compilation of his predictions during the Patriots-Saints game.
The Dallas Cowboys were once known as the fastest-starting team in the NFL. Most fans are well aware that the team once won 17 consecutive opening-day games between 1965 and 1981.
Those days are long gone, and the first game of seasons for the past twenty years have been more of a mixed bag. Since 1998, Dallas has an opening-day mark of 10-10, and several of those games have been nail-biters.
The last two season openers against the Giants produced two one-point games, with Dallas taking a 27-26 win in 2015 only to lose 20-19 the following season.
Sunday night’s game did not cause the same anxiety. The Dallas defense, with its new secondary, shut down the Odell Beckham-less Giants offense, and the Dallas offense did enough to give the Cowboys a 19-3 win.
The big question marks heading into the season focused on the defensive side of the ball, but the defense was a strong point on Sunday night. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence recorded two sacks, and the line was able to pressure Eli Manning throughout much of the night.
Although the Cowboys lost Orlando Scandrick to a broken hand, second-year corner Anthony Brown came up huge with an interception in the fourth quarter. The play occurred with 7:48 remaining in the game and all but ended any chance of a New York comeback.
Dak Prescott missed a few throws, but he was largely efficient and did not throw an interception. Ezekiel Elliott picked up where he left off last year, rushing for 104 yards on 24 carries.
The highlight of the game came from receiver Cole Beasley. With Dallas facing a 3rd and 6 early in the fourth quarter, Prescott threw the ball on a short out to Beasley. Beasley managed to tip the ball to himself, then trapped the ball along the nameplate on his back shoulder before hauling in the pass to gain seven yards. The play allowed the Cowboys to maintain possession and drain another three minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter.
The three points were the fewest allowed by the Cowboys on opening day since the 1995 Cowboys beat the Giants, 35-0.
The 16-point point differential in the season-opener was the greatest since the Cowboys beat the Browns 28-10 in 2008.
Dallas travels to Denver to face the Broncos on Sunday afternoon.
The NFL’s scheduling gods have decided that Dallas must open the season against the Giants. Perpetually?
Dallas plays New York in the first game for the fifth time in six years. In the previous four games, Dallas won three of four but lost last year’s opener, 20-19.
In the team’s history, the Cowboys have opened the season against the Giants nine times, going 8-1 in those games. During the team’s eight-game winning streak, the Cowboys won by an average mark of 35-18. Of course, that streak ended a year ago.
After next Sunday’s game, the Cowboys will have faced the Giants on opening day more than any other franchise. Dallas has played Washington nine times, with the last opener taking place in 2010.
The Cowboys have an overall opening day record of 37-19-1.
Here is a complete list of records vs. different opponents (in alphabetical order):
Baltimore Colts: 1-0
Houston Texans: 0-1
New Orleans: 0-1
New York Giants: 8-1
New York Jets: 0-1
L.A. Rams: 2-0
San Diego: 2-0
Tampa Bay: 1-1
For the third time during the past eight years, the Cowboys played in the Hall of Fame Game. And what dominance the Cowboys have shown—undefeated in these games since 2010.
Of course, the real highlights from the game were few and far between. Three players worth noting:
(1) TE Rico Gathers showed that he has playmaking ability. He caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Moore in the second quarter to cut the Arizona lead to 15-7.
(2) QB Moore: he threw a pick along with the touchdown to Gathers. He did not look bad, but he hardly gives anyone confidence as the primary backup.
(3) WR Brice Butler: he caught a 46-yard pass from Moore in the second quarter. It would nice if Butler could turn out to be a breakout performer this year.
We did not get to see Jaylon Smith, but his brother, Rod Smith was the primary ball-carrier, gaining 64 yards on 18 carries.
Otherwise, the defense gave up too many big plays, and the special teams had some bad penalties. Otherwise, it’s the first game of preseason, so what do we expect?
The Cowboys next face the L.A. Rams on August 12.
Curious at all about the results of the first preseason games in recent memory? Well, here are the last ten:
2008: San Diego 31, Dallas 17
2009: Oakland 31, Dallas 10
2010: Dallas 16, Cincinnati 7 (Hall of Fame Game)
2011: Dallas 24, Denver 23
2012: Dallas 3, Oakland 0
2013: Dallas 24, Miami 20 (Hall of Fame Game)
2014: San Diego 27, Dallas 7
2015: San Diego 17, Dallas 7
2016: Los Angeles Rams 28, Dallas 24
2017: Dallas 20, Arizona 18 (Hall of Fame Game)
I found five things about the 2017 draft class worth noting, but before presenting those five things, we cannot get enough of Drew Pearson:
Anyway, here are the five things:
(1) Before 2017, the Cowboys had drafted only eight players from Colorado. They took two–CB Chidobe Awuzie and DT Jordan Carrell–in 2017. Three of the previous players drafted from
Colorado never played in the NFL. The only starter was Andre Gurode, a 2002 pick who became a Pro Bowl center.
(2) The Cowboys took four defensive backs with eight picks. The last time Dallas took as many as four defensive backs in one draft was 2009, when the Cowboys took DeAngelo Smith, Michael Hamlin, Stephen Hodge, and Mike Mickens. Those four combined to play nine games for the Cowboys.
(3) The last defensive back drafted by the Cowboys to make a Pro Bowl was Mike Jenkins in 2009.
(4) Xavier Woods is the first player from Louisiana Tech to be drafted by Dallas. The school has had 85 players in the NFL; the only one to play in Dallas was kicker Chris Boniol.
(5) A total of 229 players have been drafted from North Carolina, but only 12 of them before 2017 were wide receivers. Add 4th round pick Ryan Switzer to the mix. The best-known of the North Carolina receivers has been Hakeem Nicks, who has played for the Giants and Colts.
The Dallas Cowboys used to be a team filled with great nicknames—Doomsday Defense, Too Tall, the Manster, Hollywood, and so on.
(The Tony Romo nicknames never quite caught on, at least not in a good way.)
Well, the Cowboys took a player with a great nickname of Taco. Plenty of people wanted Dallas to take T.J. Watt (who ended up going to Pittsburgh), but others are happy the Cowboys have Taco Charlton.
Here are a few trivial matters about the pick:
- Dallas has not taken a player from Michigan since selecting running back Tony Boles in the 11th round in 1991. And Boles never played a down of football in the NFL.
- The only player from Michigan ever selected by the Cowboys in the first round was defensive tackle Kevin Brooks in 1985. Brooks spent three years as a starter but never really developed into a quality player along the defensive line.
- The first player ever taken from Michigan by the Cowboys was a running back named Ken Tureaud in 1962 (8th round). Like Boles, Tureaud never played in the NFL.
- The last time the Cowboys took a defensive end in the first round was 2007 when the selected Anthony Spencer from Purdue. Of course, the Cowboys played in the 3-4 at the time and converted Spencer to an outside linebacker.
- The last time the Cowboys took a defensive end to fit a 4-3 scheme was 1999 when Dallas selected Ebenezer Ekuban. One year earlier, Dallas had taken Greg Ellis.
Anyway, some highlights featuring Charlton: