Winners and Losers of Dallas Cowboys' Week 4 Performance
After a great first half in which the Dallas Cowboys scored 21 points in the second quarter alone against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, the offense went ice cold and scored just six points in the second half.
On defense, it was worse as it was another game in which the Cowboys didn't record a turnover and allowed 35 points at home. It was an ugly 35-30 loss that the team could not afford to drop at home.
With the Green Bay Packers coming into town next week, Dallas badly needs a win to stay above .500 before the team's bye week in Week 6.
After a disappointing loss to the Rams, here are the biggest winners and losers from the Cowboys' performance on Sunday.
Winner: DeMarcus Lawrence
DeMarcus Lawrence didn't dominate in the same way he did against the Arizona Cardinals, but he was still the team's best defender on Sunday.
He added to his sack total as he had a strip-sack of Jared Goff and now has a total of 7.5 sacks on the season.
However, he wasn't perfect in this game. While he totaled four pressures on 28 pass-rushing snaps, he was a liability in the run game. The 25-year-old finished the contest with a 44.3 run grade, according to Pro Football Focus. He's clearly their best pass-rusher, but he needs to improve in the run game if he wants to truly be an elite defensive end.
Lawrence's performance this season has been spectacular so far and it could get better with the addition of David Irving this week after his suspension ended.
Despite the ugly performance by the rest of the defense, Lawrence was still a star on Sunday. Look for him to have another big performance at the weekend when the Packers come to Dallas.
Loser: Ryan Switzer
Maybe the biggest "loser" from the Cowboys game on Sunday was Ryan Switzer. His muffed punt led directly to the Rams scoring seven points just a few plays later, which completely shifted the momentum of the game.
Instead of Dallas trying to extend their 17-6 lead, the Rams scored and made it 17-13. From that point on, their offense seemed to find life after the gift from Switzer.
Not only did Switzer's fumble hurt, he returned three kicks and never reached the 25-yard line. Special teams were the difference in this game, and these types of plays are what separates the good teams from the mediocre ones.
Dallas spent a fourth-round pick on Switzer to improve their return game, but he hasn't returned any value on that investment so far. It was a rough outing from the former North Carolina Tarheels man.
Winner: Alfred Morris
Heading into the Rams game, Alfred Morris had just one rushing yard on four carries. He was dangerously close to allowing Darren McFadden to sneak into the spot as he didn't receive a carry in the past two games.
This week, however, he exploded with a 70-yard run that led to a Cowboys touchdown just a few plays later.
On an inside zone run, Morris beat the linebacker to the gap and got into the open field where he was eventually tackled at the four-yard line. Morris looked powerful on his long run and has pretty much secured the No. 2 job behind starter Ezekiel Elliott.
If Elliott does have to serve a suspension in the near future, Morris will likely be the player replacing him and Dallas should rest easy knowing he looks quicker than in previous seasons.
Morris looks a much different player than in previous seasons. Make no mistake about it, the 28-year-old is the team's second running back for the foreseeable future.
Loser: Jaylon Smith
Despite racking up 10 tackles (seven solos), Jaylon Smith was a total liability in both run and pass coverage on Sunday. The Rams singled him out in the passing game and repeatedly targeted him, which made him unable to make an impact.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Rams targeted the 22-year-old seven times in coverage, and he allowed six catches for 68 yards. He just wasn't able to stick with the tight ends and running backs, and the Dallas defense got exposed because of his lack of coverage ability.
In the run game, Smith was stuck on blocks all day and never made a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith is one of the worst run defenders in the entire league. His average tackle came nearly 10 yards down the field on Sunday. He just couldn't impact the game at all as a run or pass defender.
With Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens out of the game, Dallas needed more from their second-year linebacker and he just didn't provide much of anything.
If Hitchens is healthy enough to play next week, he should walk into a starting role right away. It hasn't been a great debut for Smith.
Winner: Ezekiel Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott hasn't had a huge rushing performance yet this season, but he's still been a weapon on offense.
On Sunday, he ran for 85 yards on the ground on 21 carries, which pushed him past Troy Hambrick for 16th in career rushing yards for the Dallas Cowboys, according to Pro Football Reference.
Despite the average rushing performance, Elliott added 54 receiving yards on four catches in the passing game. Altogether, he totaled 139 yards on 25 touches and scored two touchdowns.
The 22-year-old's involvement this year in the passing game has allowed him to stay on the field and remain productive, even if he's struggling to find lanes on the ground.
Elliott still seems like he's working himself into shape, but he's still producing at a high level in the meantime. As long as he can stay on the field, the Cowboys should have one of the better offenses in the NFC.
Loser: Cole Beasley
For whatever reason, the Cowboys can't seem to find ways to get Cole Beasley involved in the offense.
On Sunday, the wide receiver saw six targets and was only able to convert three of them for catches totaling 17 yards. One of those catches came on the final drive and went for 12 yards.
Through four games, Beasley has just 86 receiving yards on 11 catches. What's maybe more concerning is that the 28-year-old hasn't had a game with over 75 receiving yards in his last 27 games, according to Pro Football Reference.
Teams have figured out a way to stop Beasley on third downs by taking away any in-breaking route. Without him, Dallas is having trouble converting on third down.
If teams are going to take away Beasley, someone else will need to step up to convert on the third downs.
Winner: Byron Jones
Dallas' defense was terrible on Sunday afternoon, but Byron Jones was one of the few bright spots.
He was credited with seven solo tackles and one tackle for a loss, but his best work came in coverage as he was able to stop multiple drives on third downs.
The Rams had little to no success throwing at the 25-year-old, and it's encouraging that at least one of their secondary members has become a reliable player every week.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jones finished as the team's highest-graded defender on Sunday. He's been the team's best defensive back this season and is one of the top three or four defenders on the roster.
Loser: Jason Witten
What's more concerning is that Witten has played the majority of snaps on offense this season and has been nearly useless in the passing game. He's been on 118 total snaps and 67 passing snaps in the past two games, according to Pro Football Focus, and hasn't been a factor at all.
To make matters worse, the 35-year-old has become a big liability in the run game. He's clearly the worst blocking tight end on the roster and has been beaten terribly over the last two weeks.
Of the tight ends who are eligible, he's been the sixth-worst run-blocking one in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
Witten is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but right now, he's a weakness on the Dallas offense.