Cowboys Struggling Ahead of Crucial Eagles ClashBy Connor Lynch
The Dallas Cowboys face a big test against the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday Night. Dallas needs a win to have a chance at the playoffs, but poor form and major absences put a result in doubt.
The defending NFC East champions’ struggles were highlighted in last Sunday’s 27-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Dallas was without Ezekiel Elliot, who will miss at least the next three games due to legal proceedings. Elliot is appealing a 6-game ban he received for alleged domestic violence.
Kicker Dan Bailey could be out for another 3 games with a groin injury. Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith is also a doubt with injuries to his back and groin. Sean Lee, 2016 All-Pro linebacker, tweaked his hamstring against the Falcons and will also miss games.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was exposed without Elliot or Smith. Dallas has previously never given up more than four sacks to one player in a game. Against Atlanta, Prescott gave up 8. Tyron Smith’s replacement Chaz Green gave up five sacks to Adrian Clayborn. After Green was benched, Byron Bell gave up one more to Clayborn.
Without Elliot, Dallas’ run game is weak. In eight games he had four 100-yard games and the Cowboys averaged 28.3 points when he played. The Dallas Cowboys’ running backs only posted 65 yards on 15 attempts against an Atlanta defense that had allowed an average of 114.5 rushing yards per contest.
The Falcons, who had made just 18 sacks all year, won 8 against a weakened Dallas team. Dallas had been averaging more than 25 points a game, but they only managed one touchdown.
Head Coach Jason Garrett, who has been accused of tactical inflexibility, will have to get everything right against Philadelphia on Sunday. After the Atlanta game he admitted that he didn’t have a plan to replace Tyron Smith.
“Well, fortunately, when Tyron is playing left tackle for you, we rarely have to game plan any of that kind of stuff. You never really talk about what kind of formation you’re going to be in or who’s chipping. Tyron has just been a dominant player for us at that spot. So part of the game plan this week was to help our tackles in this game, particularly left tackle, getting his first start over there, whether it was with the formation use or with the back.
“Again, we didn’t do it 100 percent of the time. The times we didn’t do it, it hurt us. Obviously, when your front-line players go out, you have to be able to continue to play and be effective,”
Tight end Jason Witten also admitted that the absences are taking their toll. “It’s harder when your key players aren’t out there,” he said.
However, Dak Prescott refuses to be discouraged. “I’m not going to lose confidence in any of them from one game,” he said. “As I said, I’m not going to put everything on them. I’m going to look back at the film and see what we could’ve done better”
“We’re excited for what’s coming ahead of us. We’re going to take each game separately, take each day within that week in preparation, one day at a time, and we’ll get better.”
Against this backdrop, the match against the 8-1 Eagles looks frightening for Dallas. Philadelphia could all but guarantee the divisional title with a win. The Cowboys are + 3.5 to win against the Eagles.