Winners and Losers of Dallas Cowboys' Week 2 Performance
On Sunday night, the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Denver Broncos 42-17. The 25-point loss by the Cowboys was one of the worst in Jason Garrett's history as the team's head coach. Unfortunately, the score wasn't indicative of just how big of a blowout this was. Denver dominated every facet of the game, and Dallas had no answer for its offense or defense.
The Broncos outgained the Cowboys by 112 yards on offense despite Dallas moving the ball in garbage time. Denver also won the turnover battle, converted nine of 15 third downs and outrushed the Cowboys 178-40. It was just an ugly performance all around by Dallas.
Unlike last week, there aren't many "winners" for the Cowboys this week, as this was just a total beatdown in Denver. However, here are the biggest winners and losers from the Cowboys' blowout loss.
Winner: Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence
There weren't many bright spots for the Cowboys in this contest, but defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was clearly the best player on the roster on Sunday. Lawrence finished the game with seven total tackles (five solo), two sacks, one tackle for a loss and two other quarterback hits.
His biggest play of the game came on 3rd-and-5 on the Broncos' 25 yard-line, where he sacked quarterback Trevor Siemian and forced a fumble that was later recovered by Maliek Collins. He was a disruptive force on nearly every snap, and the Broncos had no answer for him.
Unfortunately, Lawrence was the only difference-maker on defense. If he didn't make the play, it likely meant that the Cowboys were getting gashed. But for Lawrence, his first two weeks of the season have been fantastic, as he has four sacks and has been a force in the run game. The 25-year old defensive end is looking at a big payday in free agency if he can continue to play at this level.
Losers: Cowboys Cornerbacks
After losing Orlando Scandrick to a broken hand last week, the Cowboys' cornerback depth was depleted on Sunday. Nolan Carroll exited the game twice with a head injury, and rookie Chidobe Awuzie left with a hamstring injury. Neither player returned for the second half.
The Cowboys were left with just two cornerbacks the rest of the game; Anthony Brown and rookie Jourdan Lewis. Dallas was forced into playing zone coverage to hide its cornerbacks, and quarterback Trevor Siemian tore them up. Siemian threw for four touchdowns and had a passer rating of 116. Dallas' defense had no answers for the Broncos passing attack.
If Carroll and Awuzie can't play next week against Arizona, the Cowboys might have to resort to using Bene' Benwikere, a player the team traded for before the season began. They also have the option of bringing rookie Marquez White off the practice squad, but he's a developmental player that probably isn't ready for the big stage.
Nevertheless, the Cowboys cornerbacks struggled on Sunday, and it could get even worse next week if none of their top-three cornerbacks can get on the field for their next matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.
Winner: Cornerback Jourdan Lewis
Considering the circumstances, Jourdan Lewis didn't have an awful game. He recorded his first career interception and played a ton in the second half. He showed that he has the instincts and quickness to play in the NFL, and that should be encouraging for Cowboys fans.
Lewis was beaten twice for touchdowns, but in his defense, he has missed so much practice time that it's understandable he struggled at times. However, as the game went on, it was easy to tell that Lewis' confidence was growing.
He's likely going to be a starter next week for the Cowboys and will likely be the team's primary slot defender with Scandrick and Awuzie out. Lewis should see a lot of snaps against Larry Fitzgerald next week, and that will provide a good test for the young cornerback out of Michigan.
Loser: Ezekiel Elliott
After a huge performance last week against the New York Giants in which he totaled 140 yards, Ezekiel Elliott was shut down by the Denver Broncos. Elliott had just eight rushing yards on nine carries and had just 22 total yards on 13 touches.
The Cowboys couldn't run the ball on first down, and that led to the Cowboys being forced to pass the ball on second and third down. Dallas was just three-of-14 on third downs and couldn't find ways to sustain drives. That, in itself, was the biggest reason that Elliott couldn't get anything going on the ground.
To make matters worse, Elliott was shown not hustling after a Dak Prescott interception in the third quarter. It wasn't a good look for a player who has such a high-profile as Elliott does.
It was Elliott's worst performance in his career, but he didn't get many opportunities to tote the rock as the team fell behind early. In order for the Cowboys to have success on offense, they need to keep games close. This just wasn't the game script for Elliott. Expect him to bounce back in a big way next Monday night.
Winner: Tight End Jason Witten
On offense, there weren't many "winners" for the Cowboys. The team struggled to move the ball all day and racked up some points and yards in garbage time in the fourth quarter. However, tight end Jason Witten had a solid day as he caught 10 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Witten's day could have been better, as he dropped a sure touchdown in the fourth quarter that may have cut the lead down to 11 or 10. Instead, the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs later in the drive. Witten also had a false start penalty earlier in the game.
What should have been a historic day for Witten as he passed Marvin Harrison on the all-time receptions list was tainted by drops, penalties and the loss. Witten is one of the most consistent players on the team, so look for him to rebound next week after his up-and-down performance against the Broncos.
Loser: Head Coach Jason Garrett
On Sunday, the Cowboys suffered their worst loss since 2013 when the team was beaten by the Saints 49-17 in the Superdome. For whatever reason, the team came out of the gates flat and was never able to bounce back. The defense struggled to get off the field, and the Cowboys couldn't run the ball whatsoever.
Garrett's two biggest mistakes in this game came in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys were trying to mount a comeback. With the Cowboys down by 18 points with under 12 minutes left, Dallas decided to punt on 4th-and-3. Dallas didn't get the ball back for over five minutes as there was just 6:13 left on the clock.
His second biggest mistake came on the next drive when the Cowboys drove the ball inside the Broncos 10-yard line. Instead of kicking the field goal to make it a two-score game, Dallas opted to go for it on fourth down and failed to convert. At that point, the game was over.
It was just an ugly performance all around for the Cowboys, and it started with the head coach. His team will look to bounce back after this blowout loss.
Winner: Dan Bailey
Finding a fourth player to call a "winner" was difficult. But placekicker Dan Bailey was his typical self on Sunday afternoon. He nonchalantly drilled a 56 yarder that would have likely been good for 60. It tied his career-long that he set in 2014 and then matched again in 2016. Bailey also made both of his extra-point attempts.
Despite the loss, it's always nice to know that the Cowboys have such a weapon in Bailey. He's made his last 11 field goals and is poised for his best year of his career. Bailey is one of the best kickers in the league, and as long as Dallas has him, it will have one of the best special teams units in the NFL.
Loser: Dak Prescott
In his short NFL career, this was one of Dak Prescott's worst performances so far. Despite throwing the ball 50 times, Prescott threw for just 238 yards and had a passer rating of 68.6. He was also sacked twice, and both were plays in which he ran into pressure rather than avoiding it.
From the start of the game, Prescott's accuracy was wild. He struggled with his timing and ball placement and was never able to get into a rhythm. On numerous third downs, Prescott overthrew receivers that were wide open. He just never felt comfortable in the pocket, and it showed.
Prescott also struggled to find a connection with Dez Bryant. Prescott targeted Bryant 16 times and was only able to complete seven passes for 59 yards. Both of Prescott's interceptions were on passes intended to Bryant, and he knocked away two other balls that could have been intercepted as well.
Prescott typically doesn't have back-to-back bad performances, so expect him to come out hot next week on Monday Night Football on ESPN. If not, the Cowboys could be staring at a 1-2 record and a 0-2 record on the road. Dallas needs its franchise quarterback to be much better next week.