3 Takeaways from Cowboys' Week 2 Win

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2021

3 Takeaways from Cowboys' Week 2 Win

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    After dropping a thriller against the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, the Dallas Cowboys put on another show on Sunday. Their Week 2 matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers was filled to the brim with excitement, despite what the final score might suggest.

    As 20-17 games go, fans couldn't have asked for a better one. Far from a defensive struggle in the first half—the two teams combined for 472 yards of offense through two quarters—it turned into one in the second. The Cowboys and Chargers exchanged field goals in the second half, with Dallas cashing last and taking the three-point victory.

    Through two weeks, the Cowboys certainly look like a playoff team. More importantly, they're 1-1 and tied with the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles atop the NFC East.

    Here's what else we learned during Dallas' Week 2 win over Los Angeles.

Dak Is Back

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    There were no lingering signs of Dak Prescott's ankle or shoulder injuries when he dueled with Tom Brady in the season opener. The Cowboys quarterback finished that game with 403 passing yards, three touchdowns, an interception and 13 rushing yards. While Prescott wasn't as impressive against the Chargers, he proved that Week 1 was no fluke.

    Prescott threw a pick and didn't have a touchdown pass. However, he continued to ooze confidence after throwing the interception on Dallas' second drive, and he continually kept the Chargers defense honest. He finished an efficient 23-of-27 for 237 yards with an interception and no touchdowns.

    Most importantly, Prescott was superb with the game on the line. He calmly orchestrated an 11-play, 49-yard drive at the end of the fourth quarter to put kicker Greg Zuerlein in position for the game-winning field goal.

    Prescott's injuries, along with Dallas' underwhelming 2020 campaign, are firmly in the past.

    "We’re going to let that be last year," Prescott said before the game, per Mike Fisher of FanNation. "We got different expectations, goals and perception of how this year is going to play out."

    Prescott is fully back to his pre-injury Pro Bowl form.

Zuerlein Still Has Dallas' Trust

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    One could argue that Zuerlein cost Dallas a win in Week 1, as the Cowboys kicker missed two field goals and an extra point during the 31-29 loss. If that caused the Cowboys to lose faith in Zuerlein, though, they didn't show it on Sunday.

    In fact, coach Mike McCarthy seemed to display full confidence in his kicker with time expiring. Dallas had an opportunity to get closer, facing a 3rd-and-3 from the Los Angeles 38-yard line. Instead of trying to get the first down and advancing the ball, McCarthy let roughly 20 seconds tick off the clock before calling a timeout and giving Zuerlein a 56-yard try.

    To be fair, Dallas wouldn't have lost the game with a miss—barring a defensive return, of course. However, 56 yards is no chip shot, and few would have blamed McCarthy for not trusting his kicker after repeated misses the previous week.

    Ultimately, Zuerlein's kick was true, and Dallas walked away with a win. That's something McCarthy and Co. will surely remember in clutch situations later in the season. Hopefully, Zuerlein's Week 1 struggles are behind him.

This Is No Longer Ezekiel Elliott's Team

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    Don Montague/Associated Press

    There was a time when nearly every facet of the Cowboys offense went through running back Ezekiel Elliott. That time is clearly over—and not just because Prescott and the passing attack have flourished.

    Elliott wasn't even the Cowboys' best running back on the field on Sunday. He was solid, to be sure, finishing with 71 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown and two receptions. However, backup Tony Pollard was the more explosive option.

    Pollard rushed for 109 yards and an outlandish 8.4 yards per carry. He also found the end zone and added three receptions for 31 more yards. The Chargers practically had no answer for Pollard as a change-of-pace option.

    It's becoming clear that Dallas' offense is better when using a two-back approach—Elliott and Pollard split carries with 16 and 13, respectively. The team totaled 198 yards on the ground, with wideouts CeeDee Lamb and Cedrick Wilson chipping in.

    While this isn't an ideal development for fantasy football managers, it is a good one for the Cowboys. Elliott is now the head of the backfield committee instead of the offensive centerpiece. That should help keep everyone productive and healthy later in the season.

    And with an 18-week schedule, it's going to be a long season.

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