The Dallas Cowboys beat the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 30-7 in week 14. This victory snapped the Cowboys’ two-game losing streak. Dallas did it all on both sides of the football as their defense arguably played their best game of the season.
Even with this victory, the Cowboys still remain fourth in the NFC East. Since they are two games behind the Washington Football Team, their playoff hopes keep dwindling in the wrong direction. With only three more games left, the Cowboys would almost need a miracle to win the division. However, the Cowboys should still celebrate this impressive victory. Here are three takeaways from their week 14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Defense Finally Stepped Up
The Cowboys defense played their best game of the season. Although they played the Bengals who were without their starting quarterback, Joe Burrow, the defense played better than expected. One thing that Dallas has struggled with all season is forcing turnovers. Before this matchup, the Cowboys only had 10 takeaways and only two games forcing more than two turnovers. Nonetheless, in this game, the Cowboys forced three fumbles including their first defensive touchdown of the season.
Additionally, the Cowboys only gave up seven points which are their lowest point mark of the season. For a defense that hasn’t been solid all year long, giving up a mere seven points gives the Cowboys some hope. Again, this was against the Bengals so no reason to say the Cowboys are an elite defense. However, they did their job like they were supposed to.
The one thing that Dallas needs to work on is their pass rush. Coming into this matchup, the Bengals ranked 31st in the NFL in sacks given up per game (3.7). Unfortunately, the Cowboys didn’t reach that mark this game and only had two sacks.
Although they need to work on their pass rush, the Cowboys still put together their most impressive defensive performance of the season.
What’s Wrong with Ezekiel Elliott?
There’s no question that Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t been the same running back as he was the last couple of seasons. His averages on the ground are the worst of his career. He is only averaging 3.9 yards per carry and 65.3 yards per game. These numbers are a drastic dropoff from his previous seasons. Excluding this season, Elliott averaged 4.6 yards per carry, 96.7 rush yards per game and had two rushing titles in three seasons. Fast forward to this season and Elliott has only eclipse those numbers in two games this season.
After another mediocre performance only rushing 12 times for 48 yards, should the Cowboys be concerned with Elliott’s production this season? What exactly is wrong with him?
The answer to the question is nothing. Elliott is the same running back as he was when he entered the league in 2016. However, the injury to the offensive line has really hurt Elliott’s production. The Cowboys’ top four offensive linemen have all been out for the majority of the season with injuries. Additionally, none of those linemen played a single snap together this season. It’s hard for Elliott to get anything going when the Cowboys are forced to start two rookies and third-string lineman.
Another reason is that Dak Prescott has been out since week 5. Elliott actually benefits when Prescott is under center. In five games with Prescott this season, Elliott averaged 4.03 yards per carry and 72.8 rush yards per game. Although these aren’t eye-opening numbers, Elliott was still efficient even with a depleted offensive line. Also, remember that Dallas trailed big in many of those games.
Elliott has struggled this season but should be back to his old form with the Cowboys’ offense being back to full strength.
The Division Is Out of Reach
The Cowboys division chances are almost out of reach. As the Cowboys sit 4-9 on the season, they need almost a miracle to win the NFC East. As of right now, the Washington Football Team sits atop the division with a record of 6-7.
Although the NFC East has been the worst division in football all season long, it has been much better as of late. In the past four weeks, NFC East teams have a combined record of 9-6, which is the best amongst other divisions. Due to this, the Cowboys still sit at the bottom of the division once again.
The only way the Cowboys have a chance at winning the NFC East is to win out. They have remaining games against the 49ers, Eagles and Giants. Even then the Cowboys wouldn’t necessarily be in the playoffs. They would also need Washington to lose out since Washington owns the head to head tiebreaker. Washington has remaining games against the Seahawks, Panthers and Eagles.
It’s going to be tough for the Cowboys to win the division, but can a Christmas miracle help Dallas get in the playoffs?
Featured Image Courtesy of ESPN