Clarence Hill: 5 things the Cowboys must do to beat the Lions
Dak Prescott is officially back.
And so, too, will be an effective and productive Dallas Cowboys offense.
At least that’s the hope and the plan, starting with Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.
Don’t buy into the narrative Prescott must learn from backup quarterback Cooper Rush, who led the Cowboys to a 4-1 for the past five weeks while Prescott recovered from a broken thumb during the season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Cowboys will continue to be led by a top-10 defense and rely on their running backs. But for the offense to be optimal, they need Prescott, who passed for 4,449 yards and a team-high 37 touchdowns in 2021, making plays in the passing game.
That’s especially true considering the team’s third down issues and lack of big plays in the passing game.
The Cowboys have a third conversion rate of 30.9% and they have just 12 more 20-yard plays in six games. They only ran 294 games.
“I don’t see us playing much differently from what we’ve been playing,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “What you want to do is just stay focused on what we need to improve. Our numbers are down, just start with the number of games. We have to count the game. How do you do that? You get more first tries. I like where our running numbers are, but you would like to have more opportunities in the passing game for our perimeter players. This is the formula of balance. We’ve been productive pretty much running the football. But we definitely need to get more production in our passing game, and that will come with more production on the first down and a higher conversion rate on the third down.
That should come with Prescott back in the lineup.
Receiver CeeDee Lamb said, “Sky is the limit on offense now and that’s to show everybody now that they can be good.
“The Cowboys offense is going to be the Cowboys offense,” Lamb said. “We’re going to do whatever we need to do to increase the numbers and have fun doing it.”
5 things the Cowboys must do to beat the Lions:
Running the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard
Certainly, the Cowboys want to restart the passing game with quarterback Dak Prescott back in the lineup.
Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore also has to rely on pitch play with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard against a defense that ranks 32nd rushing, giving up 167.6 yards per game.
It’s the right thing to do against the Lions and for Prescott.
“I think running football makes it a little easier,” Elliott said. “Even though it might not be that effective, you still carry that defense. You’re always creating body shots and then impacting the game and making the play-action work. I don’t think it really matters if they were first or last.
“I think it’s important for us to keep attacking the defenses on the ground. Why not? You have two great fullbacks and a good o line, so why don’t you make it easy for Dak? »
Elliott had 13 carries for 81 yards against the Eagles and is fresh if he’s already played six games in a season because of how the team splits reps with Pollard. He has 94 carries for 386 yards but has caught just six passes for 32 yards. Pollard has 55 carries for 292 rushing yards.
“I feel good. I feel ready to go,” Elliott said. “Me and TP both. I think we’re ready for this team to lean on us.
Allowing Micah Parsons to practice Eagles game homework
Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons didn’t have a bad game against the Eagles last Sunday.
But it wasn’t one of his best as the Eagles gave him a lot of attention and planned their offense against him with the run/pass options.
He spent more time with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn this week working on his game.
“I just have to perfect my craft and improve this week,” Parsons said. “I personally made personal adjustments, analyzed with coaches. I sat with them and [went over] things I can do to be better and how I can improve my game. This week I’m just looking to choke it all down.
Parsons leads the Cowboys with six sacks, 19 pressures and three tackles for loss.
Stop the run in defense
Because the Cowboys have the best pass rush in the league, opponents focus on their run defense as an area of weakness.
The Cowboys rank 19th in the NFL against the run, giving up 120.7 yards per game.
In last Sunday’s 26-17 loss to the Eagles, the Cowboys gave up just 136 yards on 39 carries.
But the Eagles forced the run. Specifically, on a practice in the fourth quarter after the Cowboys cut the lead to 20-17, the Eagles ran it 11 straight on a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown that turned out to be the difference in the game.
Now the Lions come in with the league’s eighth rushing offense, averaging 151.4 yards per game rushing, led by a lightning combo from Jamal Williams and D’Andre Swift.
The Cowboys know they have to stop racing on Sunday.
“We’re just focusing on Shark Week,” Parsons said. “That’s what we’re insisting on this week. No matter what happens, you will beat them. You know what I’m saying. This is what we are insisting on this week. We just have to go do it. The next thing you know is just the execution.
Winter is coming; Can the Cowboys handle the North
Mike McCarthy has been asked several times this week if he’s starting to feel like the coach of the Green Bay Packers again?
Starting Sunday against the Lions, the Cowboys have four straight games against their former division, the NFC North. They will face the Chicago Bears on October 30 at AT&T Stadium and then have a bye.
They return with a game against the Green Bay Packers on November 13 and the Minnesota Vikings on November 20.
To steal a line from Game of Thrones, Winter arrives for the Cowboys. How the Cowboys handle the North over the next month will go a long way in deciding their season.
The cowboys stay with their guys
A common refrain during the Cowboys’ offseason when the question arose of adding players in free agency to help strengthen the team was, “We love our guys.”
Well, the Cowboys are continuing that mantra as the Nov. 1 NFL trade deadline comes into focus.
Owner Jerry Jones said the Cowboys aren’t looking for anyone in the trade market to strengthen the team for a possible Super Bowl run.
“Absolutely nothing that involves the name of a playing position that I’m seriously considering right now,” Jones said. “Not one, not a movement. But could that change in 30 minutes? Of course it could. Always seek to improve. But I think the reality of the situation. I would say there is none.