Once Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles went snap-crackle-pop, the New York Jets were not winning their next game.
What would have been an exciting, close game between the Jets and Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Rodgers’ injury sustained four plays into his Jets career in Week 1 turned Week 2 into a low-stress, phone-scroll fest.
Jets starting quarterback Zach Wilson, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, can’t play.
For NFL trivia lovers, the No. 3 overall pick in that draft was also on the field on Sunday, Cowboys quarterback Trey Lance.
In the first two weeks of the season, the Cowboys swept New York. First the Giants, now the Jets.
The Cowboys beat Zach Wilson’s Jets, 30-10, and it wasn’t that close. Or exciting.
Jets fans can only wonder what their lives would be like if “A-ron” had an intact Achilles.
Cowboys fans have no such curiosity about how this team’s offense would look if Kellen Moore was still the offensive coordinator.
Meanwhile, out in Los Angeles, Chargers fans (apparently those actually exist) are left to wonder if Moore’s offense needs to score 100 points a game for their team to win a game.
Of the many changes made by the Cowboys in the offseason, head coach Mike McCarthy dumping Moore in favor of himself and Brian Schottenheimer was one of those unneccesarily necessary moves.
McCarthy had to do something, and moving on from a coordinator he inherited and retained was logical.
Moore had been on the Cowboys’ staff since 2018, and his Scott Linehan/Jason Garrett offense preferences had grown stale.
It was best for both parties to move on from the other.
After the first two weeks, the Cowboys offense functions differently without Moore, and this is also hardly a reincarnation of The Greatest Show on Turf.
The immediate results so far with McCarthy as his team’s primary play caller is that the Cowboys offense flows a lot like his days when he was the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, from 2006 to the middle of the 2018 season.
When his primary quarterbacks were Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
Multiple, smaller running backs. A fullback. Using the running backs in the passing game. Offensive linemen who can play multiple spots, if necessary. Feature one A-list wide receiver. The ball gets out of the quarterback’s hands faster.
It’s been just two weeks; it’s impossible to say if McCarthy over Moore as the play caller will make any difference for this team in January.
The Cowboys offensive line has had some injuries, and the offensive execution against both the two New Yorks has been spotty. Not bad. Not great.
“We’ve done some good things,” Cowboys guard Zack Martin said after Sunday’s win, “but when you look at the tape we should have scored two or three more touchdowns.”
He means both games.
In Week 1, the offense scored three touchdowns in a 40-0 win. Take into consideration it was pouring rain almost the entire game.
In Week 2, the Cowboys defense turned the Jets into the Giants 2.0.
The Jets don’t have an NFL quarterback, and the Cowboys exploited that ugly reality all afternoon.
The Jets had the ball for less than 18 minutes, and their most effective play was, “Prayer, on three.”
The Cowboys scored 30 points, and they should have had well over 40. Had the execution, or play calling, been better, they could have hit 50.
Case in point: In the middle of the third quarter, the Cowboys had a 1st-and-goal. Rather than opt for the boring run to a running back, Prescott handed the ball off to Peyton Hendershot for a glorified end-around.
Hendershot didn’t see the open hole not because he’s a terrible player, but because he’s a tight end trying to execute a play that is off-the-grid. He followed the play design and blocking, right into a tackle.
The drive stalled, and the Cowboys settled for a field goal.
Inside the 20, the Cowboys were 2-for-6. On the plus side, the offense did give first-year kicker Brandon Aubrey a lot of chances on Sunday.
Aubrey was 4-for-4 on field goals, in the second half.
There is more this offense can do. There is more this offense must do.
Meanwhile, out in Los Angeles, their old coordinator was scoring points. And not winning.
Even though they have one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, Justin Herbert, The Chargers dropped to 0-2 on the season.
Kellen Moore’s Chargers have scored 58 points in their first two games, one of the best figures in the NFL. Their defense is currently horrible.
When Moore left, Cowboys fans celebrated their offensive issues would be solved by having the head coach take over as play caller.
“There is a lot more connection on all parts and all positions,” Cowboys tight end Jake Ferguson said. “I feel more of a connection. We do have a new mindset and a new approach to the offense.”
This new approach is hardly terrible.
And it can be a lot better.