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Season Outlook: How Dallas is maturing into a viable playoff contender

Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire

Season Outlook: How Dallas is maturing into a viable playoff contender

Sunday’s 20-17 win over the LA Chargers marked a few accomplishments for the Dallas Cowboys. It was the first game since 2017 they won without the offense scoring at least 30 points. It was the eighth consecutive game the defense forced a turnover. And it was the first time in a while we are seeing this team mature into a playoff contender.

The week one loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a moral victory to some, but it still is what the score said it was – a loss. Yes, it allowed us to get a feel for what the potential of this year’s team could be but seeing as how they lost it still meant Dallas had work to do to get in the contenders’ conversation.

This team took a step in that direction Sunday. 11 of their past 19 losses have been within one possession. A team like the Kansas City Chiefs have won 10 of their past 12 games that have been within one score.

Good teams find a way to win. Many look at the fact Dallas was held to just six points after the first quarter, along with the Chargers self-inflicted mistakes, and say Dallas fell into their first win of the season. On the opposite end, you look at Dak Prescott not throwing a touchdown, the number of starters absent and the Chargers running 36 plays in the second half to only produce two field goals shows you the maturation process this team is going through.

Kellen Moore

Outside of the impressive play of the actual players, Kellen Moore may be the biggest winner through the first two games of the season. He’s given Cowboy fans more than enough to be excited for what Moore will bring to the table in these next 15 games.

Since taking over as the offensive coordinator in 2019, Moore has had to put up with Jason Garrett’s tight leash on his aggressiveness, his starting quarterback missing most of the season in 2020, and multiple injuries along the offensive line and wide receiver room. But with some of those same things cropping up in week one of 2021, Moore showed how much of a positive he is in this coaching staff.

Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott complemented each other well as they combined for 180 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Furthermore, we saw a carry from CeeDee Lamb in the first half that further personifies Moore’s belief in “yards are yards.” Seven different players finished with a reception. Even more so, we’re two games in and no one has used the word “predictable” to describe this year’s offense.

Tony Pollard

Pollard said after the game he has been forced to embrace the “underdog mentality” his entire football life.  He’s averaging 8.4 yards per carrying and is on pace for his first 1000-yard rushing season. The third-year back is projected to be this team’s leading rusher and in Moore’s eyes, that’s fine. Why is that positive when you have the league’s highest-paid running back in front of him?

If you care about salary cap numbers and your fantasy team winning, then maybe you should be upset. But if you’re interested in seeing this team make it to their first NFC title game in two decades then embrace this new two-running back system. Teams have gotten accustomed to stacking the box against Dallas because of everyone’s belief that their success is dependent upon Elliott.             `

It’s why Prescott is nearly at an 80% completion percentage and why Elliott will remain fresh for the latter half of this year’s schedule.

Trevon Diggs

By now teams should be wondering how Dallas managed to grab Lamb in the first round and Diggs in the second of 2020’s NFL draft. Diggs snagged his fifth career pick Sunday, already surpassing former Dallas corner Byron Jones’ career total (4).

Dallas has another second-round corner in Kelvin Joseph who will be available after Monday’s game against the Eagles. Pairing him with Diggs, Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown may give Dallas one of the deeper defensive back groups in the NFL.

So far, Diggs has held Mike Evans and Keenan Allen to a combined five receptions. Elite potential would be an understatement.

Staff Writer covering the Dallas Cowboys | Madden Legend | SFA Alum | Fascinated by Success

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