The Dallas Cowboys kicked off the 2021 season explosively. The Cowboys took on the defenders super bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and stood as they exchanged blows all night long. Dallas didn’t come away with the first win of the week, but their performance was inspiring enough to alert the rest of the league that they are a team worthy of respect to move on. ‘before. Here are 10 thoughts on the Cowboys’ loss to the Bucs.
1. Dak Prescott picked up where he left off.
Based on Dak’s performance, you can’t say he hasn’t played in an NFL game for almost 11 months. Dak kept the offense going on all cylinders throughout the game, leading to a tee shot with less than 1:30 on the clock. Prescott finished 42-58 for 403 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on a pitch that could have been his best ball of the night.
If that’s what a rusty Dak Prescott looks like, this Cowboys offense is going to be really scary going forward.
2. Anthony Brown had a rough night (to say the least).
Tom Brady has a way to spot a weakness and attack it. That weakness Thursday night appeared to be Anthony Brown. All night long Brady looked in his direction and highlighted him for consistent production and points. We knew high school could be a problem for this team, but if the first week is any indication, Brown himself could appear to be tested early and often throughout the year.
3. Ezekiel Elliott did his job – even if the statistics don’t show it.
The Bucs’ top seven are tough and talented. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles likes to exert pressure and exotic looks that require taking a holistic approach to offenses in order to protect yourself from them. Zeke found himself vital for protection and the pass attack as he was spot on and a willing pass protector all night. Zeke’s rushed production was minimal as the Cowboys threw the ball most of the night, but you could see how important it was to the offensive pace to see Zeke there blizzards all night long.
4. Amari Cooper is still WR1.
Cooper was a problem for the defense all night. Dak watched him early and often and he answered the call every time. Cooper finished the night with 13 receptions, 139 yards and two touchdowns. CeeDee Lamb is on its way to becoming a mega star in this league, but Cooper spent opening night reminding everyone not to forget him and his skills, too.
5. Demarcus Lawrence is a stallion.
Even with a drop in his sack count, Lawrence’s overall value for this defense cannot be overstated. Lawrence was a monster in the running game and forced a key turnover with a soccer manual punch, and applied pressure and was also disruptive all night as a passer. Brady steadily pulls the ball out quickly and is very smart in the pocket, so the fact that Lawrence didn’t come home for a sack is understandable even if it is frustrating.
6. Connor McGovern was up to the task.
McGovern found himself in a difficult situation. He was told he was going to start a few days earlier against a fierce defensive line on opening night, and he didn’t bat an eyelid. He was tough in the running game and held up well against pass protection. The Cowboys have some depth at the guard post when Zack Martin returns this week, and it’s safe to say that sooner rather than later McGovern will be reflected in the first five frames going forward.
7. It’s definitely a new era for the corp linebacker.
Last year the linebacker game was a problem. The struggles have been well documented and clearly noted as the Cowboys have invested heavily this year to improve the position. The Cowboys say the game will dictate the staff, but if the first week is any indicator, it sounds like some sort of changing of the guard, as Micah Parsons and Keanu Neal have counted more shots than Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith by a wide margin. We’ll see how this is delegated in the future, but it’s definitely something worth watching as the season progresses.
8. Greg Zuerlein should be warned.
In a game decided by two points on a winning drive orchestrated by Tom Brady, it makes you sick to think that the four points left on the field by your kicker made a huge difference in the outcome of this game. Missing a 31-yard basket and an extra point is simply unacceptable at this level. We understand he didn’t have a lot of work in training camp and is suffering from an injury, but if you’re not ready you shouldn’t be there. You don’t want to exaggerate the situation, but it’s very honest and real to think that with a reliable, healthy kicker on the roster, we could have a very different conversation after this game.
9. Trevon Diggs is what we thought he could be.
For as much time as Brady spent lashing out at Anthony Brown, it was how little time he spent watching Trevon Diggs. Diggs was only credited for the coverage stats of a ten-yard accomplishment against a very good Mike Evans. Diggs has found a way to capitalize on a slanted pass interception as he continues to prove he’s a consistent playmaker for this defense. It will be interesting to see next week when he takes on another group of quality receivers on the Chargers own, but as Diggs really makes sense, it can be safe to say he’s up for any challenge in Year 2.
10. They allowed 31 points, but that defense has improved a lot.
Four turnovers, sure tackles, controlling the running game of the top seven and keeping the team within striking range for a chance at a W, we’re definitely not talking about the Cowboys, right? Granted, they gave up on a practice that resulted in a loss, but this is a game against Tom Brady and they are defending the Super Bowl champions on opening night. Rome weren’t built in a day and we can’t expect a historically bad defense from last year with a change of 180 next season, but there was much to be satisfied. They attacked football, brought different wrinkles and looks and were opportunistic when a situation arose. They’re not in the top 10 defensive end, but with this offense they don’t have to be. Through a game, you can see the foundations established for this unity to be respected in the future.