Dan Bailey who? After a thrilling week four victory against the Detroit Lions, the Dallas Cowboys essentially saved their season. The 2-2 Cowboys are still in the thick of things as we pass the quarter-mark of this season. The questions of their nonexistent offense fizzled out and they proved it is possible to win without Sean Lee. While it was not a blowout by any means, this win is significant for America’s Team. They aren’t done yet.
Unequivocally, this win was manufactured by certain key players who held large roles in the win. While those will come later in this piece, take these next two names as “honorable mentions.”
First of all, Byron Jones has splashed in his return to the cornerback position, stifling the league’s elite through four games. Whether he should actually be playing there is a debate in itself, but so far, it has worked out nicely for the Cowboys. Jones’s freak athleticism has shown as he flashes impressive recovery speed, illustrious ball skills, and the ability to lock up in man coverage. To add, Detroit game planned around avoiding the star defensive back, further proving his impact. He was rarely targeted, blanketing one of the best receiving groups in the league.
Leighton Vander Esch
Next, Leighton Vander Esch put on a show, even if he was not a top-three performer. The first round pick has shined thus far, with 11 tackles in 33 snaps on Sunday, adding to an already insane tackle rate. He filled in except for star linebacker Sean Lee. The Boise State product could help reduce the absence of their defensive leader. If Vander Esch continues this pace, he’ll be on the fast track to Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The kid is a smart linebacker who is physical yet athletic, with the potential to be a star. Leighton Vander Esch is already making plays as a rookie for Dallas, just wait until he starts full time.
Now onto the three best performances for the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday against Detroit…
Unless you reside under a rock, you have most certainly heard rumblings of uncertainty coming out of the Dallas Cowboys quarterback room. Dak Prescott endured a nasty streak of games in which he lost a good portion of respect many fans and analysts had for him. Thankfully, Prescott proved that he is still the guy in Dallas. He finally broke the 200-yard plateau that has plagued the passer for what seemed like an eternity. Sporting a stat line of 255 yards, a 63% completion percentage, two touchdowns, and no interceptions, Prescott bought himself some time.
What this Dallas Cowboys offense needed was quality quarterback play, and Prescott finally delivered. If it is here to stay, America’s Team will be competing for a playoff spot. We know the defense is stout, but teams don’t win games without a viable offense, as we saw week one in Carolina. Speaking of winning games, Prescott’s two-minute drill, one filled with clutch plays and perfect passes, did exactly that. Without Dak’s lights out performance, the Dallas Cowboys would be 1-3.
It just so happens that elite players show up when they are needed most. In a game where big performances were needed by many, Elliott stepped up to the plate and served up a career game. With 152 rushing yards on only 25 carries, Elliott consistently helped move his team down the field and tire out the Lions’ defense. Those yards do not even account for the 88 he garnered through the air, including the play of the game late in the fourth quarter. Totaling 240 yards from scrimmage, Elliott carved up a Lions defense that shut down Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Moreover, Elliott played arguably the most significant role in the Dallas Cowboys offense in week four, touching the ball 29 times and scoring a touchdown. Getting Elliott going was a focal point of Scott Linehan going into this week after a multitude of complaints littered the Dallas coaching staff. The former Buckeye went off, providing Dak Prescott with much-needed support and helped cement his case as one of the league’s few elite running backs. There’s a reason the Dallas Cowboys built their team around a single running back.
Demarcus “Tank” Lawrence had a day to remember against Detroit, with all of the team’s three sacks. A monster performance for one of the premier edge rushers in football, Lawrence carried a pass rush that has struggled of late. Lack of pressure against Seattle led to a defensive meltdown just last week. Pressuring the quarterback is vital and Lawrence’s performance helped rattle Matt Stafford. His crucial sacks played a large part in holding the Lions to 24 points.
Furthermore, Lawrence’s dominance has and will continue to, open doors for other pass rushers. Taco Charlton and Randy Gregory both stand to benefit from their teammate’s recent success. As Lawrence continues to draw double teams, his production may falter, but the overall defense will not. “Tank” is the foundation to a potentially elite defense that can win the Dallas Cowboys a good amount of games this year. I’m sure Dallas will take three sacks from him on any given Sunday.