3 Takeaways from Cowboys' Week 15 Win

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2021

3 Takeaways from Cowboys' Week 15 Win

0 of 3

    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys are close to clinching the NFC East. With a decisive 21-6 win over the New York Giants on Sunday, the Cowboys are potentially one game away from taking the crown. If the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team somehow tie on Tuesday, Dallas will be the division champion.

    Of course, the division has seemed to belong to Dallas for most of the year, and the Cowboys have their sights set on something more.

    If the Cowboys fancy themselves Super Bowl contenders—and presumably, they do—they're going to have to handle better opponents than the Giants in January. Fortunately, handling teams like New York now will help ensure Dallas gets that opportunity.

    There was some good and some bad during Sunday's divisional Week 15 win. Here are our top three takeaways.

The Offense Needs to Regain a Rhythm

1 of 3

    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    The Cowboys have won three straight, but the offense has been far from spectacular. A week ago, quarterback Dak Prescott finished 22-of-39 for 211 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 58.8 passer rating.

    "This Dak Prescott, the guy playing football now, cannot win a championship." former NFL safety and ESPN analyst Ryan Clark said last week on Get Up. "They cannot be a Super Bowl team with No. 4 playing at the level he's playing at."

    Prescott made fewer mistakes on Sunday but didn't exactly filet the New York defense. He finished Week 15 28-of-37 for 217 yards with a touchdown and a passer rating of 98.6.

    Big plays were virtually impossible for the Cowboys to come by, and the offense was hampered by another subpar outing by Ezekiel Elliott (3.3 yards per carry). Dallas was a solid 8-of-14 on third down, but it was forced to play small ball throughout the game.

    There's nothing wrong with dinking and dunking down the field, but that's not who the Cowboys were early in the season. They fielded an explosive offense that was still ranked second in yards and points coming into Week 15. The offense—and specifically Prescott—needs to return to form by January.

    If the Cowboys can pair the high-octane offense they're capable of having with an emerging defense, they'll be a tough postseason out.

Tony Pollard Is a Huge Offensive Asset, May Deserve a Larger Role

2 of 3

    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    One positive to take away from Dallas' offensive performance is that backup running back Tony Pollard is tremendous. Elliott's understudy was questionable because of a foot injury but suited up and made his mark against the Giants.

    Pollard finished with 74 yards on 12 carries, for an average of 6.2 yards per tote. He also caught three passes for 13 yards. Last week, Pollard was inactive for the game against the Washington Football Team. Two weeks ago, he carried seven times for 71 yards and a touchdown.

    Having Pollard back this week helped spark the Cowboys offense, as he seemed to be Dallas' most explosive runner. Elliott did rush for a touchdown, but he also failed to average four or more yards per carry for the sixth straight game.

    In fact, Elliott has only topped that mark six times all season—though he came in averaging 4.4 yards per carry for the season. Pollard is one of the game's best change-of-pace backs, but it's worth wondering if he deserves a bigger rushing role.

    Elliott has long been an offensive centerpiece for Dallas, but Pollard—who is averaging a full yard per carry more than Elliott—has the bigger burst. Handing the lead-back role to Pollard might be a winning strategy for the Cowboys in the postseason.

The Defense Is Becoming Great and Gaining Confidence

3 of 3

    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Regardless of how they do it, the Cowboys need to get their defense back on track. If they can't and they fall in the postseason, it will be a shame because Dallas has a championship-caliber defense.

    The returns of pass-rushers Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory from injury in Weeks 13 and 14, respectively, have helped boost an already opportunistic defense. On Sunday, that unit held the Giants to six points while forcing four turnovers.

    The Cowboys have now allowed just 43 points combined over the last three games while grabbing 12 takeaways in that stretch. Adding to the cause has been cornerback Trevon Diggs—who leads the NFL with 10 interceptions—and rookie linebacker Micah Parsons, who does a little bit of everything.

    According to NFL Research, the Cowboys are the first team to have a player with 10-plus interceptions (Diggs) and one with 10-plus sacks (Parsons) in the same season since 2007.

    Dallas' defense is becoming a potent force, and it's gaining that all-important swagger ahead of the playoffs.

    "We're the best defense for sure," Diggs said, per Art Garcia of FanNation.

    This might not be the best defense in the NFL, but right now, it's hard to think of a unit that's more dangerous.