Motion kills, emotions build among Cowboys lessons learned vs Giants

At face value, it may not seem like a 49-17 thrashing of an overmatched Giants team would offer much insight to the Cowboys. Here’s Dallas, a loaded roster in the thick of the playoff hunt, playing their best ball of the season. And here’s New York, a battered and bruised cellar-dweller, just hoping to survive the game, and probably, the season.

The Cowboys already had the reputation for beating up on the little guys. They were great when faced with a mismatch, it’s their ability to perform against their equals that was under constant question. But Week 10 against the Giants was not their standard drubbing of an inferior opponent. It was more than that. It was a departure from the norm on both a micro and macro level.

It’s these items that deserve extra attention this week as the Cowboys progress into their most logistically difficult part of the schedule.

With three games in 12 days, Dallas faces a tough task in schedule alone. It’s a time when the Cowboys traditionally struggle and given the circumstances this season, it’s a section they absolutely need to win if they want to catch the division-leading Eagles in the standings.

What was learned?

The Cowboys are performing on an elite level

Their passing game has specifically been dominant, producing a league leading 0.317 EPA/dropback, a staggering 0.072 ahead of the second place Philadelphia. Given the success of the passing game, it should be no surprise Dak Prescott has been lighting the NFL up during the same stretch as well.

In addition to leading the NFL in EPA/play, adjusted EPA/play, CPOE (completion percentage above expected), and success rate, Prescott is also leading the NFL in average air yards since Week 6. He has complete control of the offense and is arguably playing the best ball of his career.

Speaking of “best ball of his career,” the same can be said for pass rusher Micah Parsons, pass catcher CeeDee Lamb, and pass interceptor DaRon Bland. All three are hitting their stride at this exact moment and all three have been instrumental to the Cowboys success.

Parsons may not have the sack numbers he’d like, but his impact is impossible to ignore, and his 53 pressures leads the NFL.

Lamb may not be leading the league in yards, but he’s breaking records and making a compelling case to be the best WR in the NFL at this moment.

And while Bland hasn’t moved into the elite CB discussion, he’s second in the NFL in interceptions with five, he leads the NFL in interception returns for touchdowns with three, and he’s sixth in pass deflections, despite starting less games than anyone ahead of him on the list.

The Philadelphia loss inspired them

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys waited for quite a while to shut down the Eagles hype train that’s been flooding the national media outlets since around this time last season.

Injuries to both starting QBs in 2022 robbed Dallas of the chance to beat a Jalen Hurts-led Eagle squad last season so extra weight was on Dallas to show out in Week 9 here in 2023.

And the Cowboys did show out. Despite losing the game, Dallas walked away feeling like the better team.  If just one of the half-dozen bad bounces had gone their way, many believed the Cowboys would have left Philadelphia winners.

They didn’t, but rather than demoralize the team, the loss actually inspired them. Dallas bounced back immediately in words and in action and appear to be focused on dominating in coming weeks and getting revenge when the two NFC East rivals meet in Week 14.

The Cowboys’ focus and execution proved they are honed-in on the task. It’s a good mental place to be in heading into the Thanksgiving gauntlet ahead of them.


The Cowboys are willing to change

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the most surprising of all revelations is the evolution of ideas and strategies. The Cowboys began the season with a stubborn refusal to move their running game into the backseat. They spoke incessantly over the offseason about running the ball and began the season backing those words up.

But over the first nine weeks, Dallas just ranked 15th in the NFL in rushing EPA. At a success rate of just 38.9%, runs actually hurt their scoring chances 61.1% of the time.

They inexplicably ranked 27th in early-down pass rate, opting for less effective running plays on series’ most critical downs.

Then something clicked.

When speaking to 105.3 The Fan, Jerry Jones stated they needed the passing game to set up the run – not the other way around. It was a sign the Cowboys were either finally getting it or that Jones had been abducted by aliens. After the Giants game on Sunday, it appears the former.

The Cowboys pass/run split on early downs sat at 35/28 on Sunday, which is shocking because it was basically a blowout by halftime.

It doesn’t just stop at pass/run priority either. The Cowboys also started ramping up their use of motion.

Since the bye week, they’re in the top-10 in motion rate, a step in the right direction and proof they are changing as the season progresses. In fact, their usage of the even more impactful at-snap motion has been a beautiful thing to see.

Week 10 showed a lot more to Cowboys fans than just a blowout win.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire