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Week 6 saw the Dallas Cowboys snap their six-game losing streak to the New England Patriots, a drought which had lasted since the 1999 season. The game featured four lead changes in the final seven minutes over the fourth quarter and into overtime, ending on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to WR CeeDee Lamb. However the events that led to that moment featured plenty of highs and lows along the rollercoaster ride.
Dallas may have extended their win streak to five games, but this time the grade distribution was little more bumpy than in week’s past. Some were their usual A-selves, while others will aim to do better next week.
Here’s how the Cowboys graded out in Week 6, along with the playtime percentage breakdown.
QB Dak Prescott: A-
Dak Prescott – 89 snaps (100%)
The calf strain he suffered on the game-winning touchdown throw put a damper on his day, but Prescott truly willed his team to victory in Week 6. His 445 passing yards were a season-high, and Dallas needed every one of them to overcome all the adversity they faced.
Dak Prescott's 445 passing yards are the most ever against a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team, including the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/zja4EL87ss
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 17, 2021
Prescott completed 36 of 51 pass attempts (70%), for three touchdowns and one interception. He also lost one fumble, but also seemed like he had a rushing touchdown stolen when he was ruled down trying to sneak in from the Patriots’ one-yard line the play before. WR Cedrick Wilson also had another touchdown pass knocked out of his hands in the second quarter, forcing Dallas to settle for a field goal.
But when it mattered most, Prescott led the Cowboys to a game-tying scoring drive late in the fourth quarter, and then won it in overtime once Dallas got him the ball back. Hopefully this latest calf injury doesn’t linger, and Prescott is able to continue his remarkable comeback season after the Cowboys’ Week 7 bye.
just an awesome throw & catch from Dak Prescott to Cedrick Wilson on 4th & 4 pic.twitter.com/yz97eMWa78
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) October 18, 2021
Running Backs: B
Ezekiel Elliott – 63 snaps (71%)
Tony Pollard – 26 snaps (29%)
It wasn’t as dominating of a day rushing as the previous games, but Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard were steady for most of the contest. Elliott pounded out 119 total yards (69 rushing, 50 receiving), while Pollard added 41 rushing yards. They each averaged 4.1 yards-per-carry on 27 combined attempts, again mirroring each other’s effectiveness and not giving the opposing defense any breaks. However, neither runner found paydirt, as Elliott was stuffed near goal line multiple times and on also 4th and 1 during the team’s first drive.
Elliott did however draw the second-most receiving targets of all Cowboys players with nine, catching seven. He had only nine receptions for 55 yards on the season coming into the game.
Wide Receivers: A
Amari Cooper – 78 snaps (88%)
CeeDee Lamb – 77 snaps (87%)
Cedrick Wilson – 44 snaps (49%)
Noah Brown – 18 snaps (20%)
Malik Turner – 1 snap (1%)
Second-year WR CeeDee Lamb had his biggest game of the season yet, leading Cowboys receivers for the second week in a row with 149 yards and two touchdowns. Many expected this year to be a breakout season for Lamb, and he seems well on his way, especially after this performance. The way he ran across the field to break free on the game-winner, to strut into the end zone and wave bye in the face of former Eagles DB Jalen Mills is bound to be a signature moment of this season.
Cooper added 55 receiving yards on five receptions, while Brown and Wilson each had over 40 yards respectively (47 and 42).
Tight Ends: B+
Dalton Schultz – 75 snaps (84%)
Blake Jarwin – 47 snaps (53%)
Jeremy Sprinkle – 8 snaps (9%)
Jarwin came down with his second touchdown reception of the season to start the scoring for Dallas. The one-yard TD grab capped off an impressive drive for Prescott, where he went 6 for 6 for 73 yards, completing passes to five different receivers.
Cowboys rebound with decisive 75-yard TD drive in just 3:37. Tight ends key, Dalton Schultz catching 2 passes for 41 yards + Blake Jarwin scoring. Fun offensive wrinkle with Connor McGovern on pass plays.
Tie game at 7.
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) October 17, 2021
It was also another busy day for Dalton Schultz, who was second only to Lamb in receiving yards with 79.
Offensive Line: C+
Terence Steele, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, Connor Williams – 89 snaps (100%)
Tyron Smith – 78 snaps (88%)
Ty Nsekhe – 11 snaps (12%)
Connor McGovern – 8 snaps (9%)
The resurgent Dallas offensive line has been a bright spot this season, but this was far from the group’s best performance. Many of the team’s 12 penalties were committed by the offensive line, wiping out big plays for the Cowboys. Connor Williams committed three penalties in the fourth quarter alone, while Tyron Smith committed an offensive holding and an illegal hands to the face. Tyler Biadasz and Terence Steele were also each responsible for false starts.
Smith also briefly left the game with an ankle injury, but later returned in the fourth quarter. The veteran LT’s health is always something to monitor, but the fact he was able to come back should be an encouraging sign going forward.
Defensive Line: B+
Carlos Watkins – 40 snaps (74%)
Osa Odighizuwa – 39 snaps (72%)
Randy Gregory – 36 snaps (67%)
Tarell Basham – 35 snaps (65%)
Chauncey Golston – 32 snaps (59%)
Brent Urban – 19 snaps (35%)
Quinton Bohanna – 14 snaps (26%)
Gregory nearly single-handedly took on the Patriots’ offensive line, responsible for both of the team’s sacks and jarring ball the ball loose with devastating hit on QB Mac Jones in the second quarter. Gregory’s reemergence has helped carry the pass-rushing load while DE DeMarcus Lawrence is out, and he should see even better opportunities as the season wears on and more players are added to the rotation.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) October 17, 2021
Really buzzing over Randy Gregory's sacks today. Displayed different facet of his pass-rush skill set. His ability to win with speed, power or counters makes him incredibly difficult to block over the course of a game. #Cowboys
— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 18, 2021
Micah Parsons – 54 snaps (100%)
Keanu Neal – 32 snaps (59%)
Leighton Vander Esch – 28 snaps (52%)
Jabril Cox – 1 snap (2%)
Cowboys linebackers weren’t particularly effective, with New England RB Damien Harris rushing for 101 yards on 18 carries. Leighton Vander Esch badly whiffed trying to bring down Rhamondre Stevenson on a 14-yard reception early in the game, who then beat Micah Parsons in coverage for a 23 yards on the next play.
Leighton Vander Esch gets juked, exposed in space, Micah Parsons can't keep up with RB Rhamondre Stevenson on 23-yard completion and Malik Hooker says he was pushed by Hunter Henry on the TD reception. Pats take a 14-7 lead.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) October 17, 2021
Parsons tied with Trevon Diggs and Kearse for most total tackles (5), while Keanu Neal recorded four tackles (two solo).
Defensive Backs: B
Jayron Kearse – 54 snaps (100%)
Trevon Diggs – 53 snaps (98%)
Anthony Brown – 53 snaps (98%)
Damontae Kazee – 47 snaps (87%)
Jourdan Lewis – 28 snaps (52%)
Malik Hooker – 15 snaps (28%)
Donovan Wilson – 14 snaps (26%)
In a sequence of two plays, the Cowboys secondary showed how it could both swing and lose a game at any given moment. Stunningly, Diggs’ seventh interception and second touchdown of the season re-gained the lead for Dallas, 26-21. In just six games to start the year, the Cowboys have already recorded more interceptions (11) than they had in 2020 (10). The pick-6 was just the shot in the arm Dallas needed after Greg Zuerlein missed a 51-yard field goal attempt, and seemed like it won them the game.
But on the first play of the ensuing Patriots drive, Jones connected with WR Kendrick Bourne for a 75-yard score, putting New England back up 29-26. Diggs was beaten in coverage, but DB Damontae Kazee’s inexplicable attempt to break up the pass was really where things fell apart.
THE PATRIOTS TAKE THE LEAD RIGHT BACK FROM THE COWBOYS 😱
What is going on??!!
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 17, 2021
While the offense, the pass rush, and Diggs’ heroics can cover up a lot of flaws, the Cowboys’ secondary is still a vulnerable target. Jones started the game completing 10 straight passes for 115 yards, not throwing an incompletion until late in third quarter. Miscommunication and misplays like on the Bourne touchdown will be even more costly later in the season against the better teams in the league.
Special Teams: B
Luke Gifford – 22 snaps (79%)
Nahshon Wright – 21 snaps (75%)
C.J. Goodwin – 19 snaps (68%)
Corey Clement – 18 snaps (64%)
Azur Kamara – 17 snaps (61%)
Nick Ralston – 14 snaps (50%)
Keanu Neal – 10 snaps (36%)
Gifford blocked a Patriots’ punt in the second quarter, and the kicking unit was able to execute a 49-yard field goal to send the game to OT with 0:20 left, but it was still a mixed bag on special teams.
Dallas didn’t get much out of their return game, and Wilson fumbled fielding a punt that the Cowboys were able to recover. Zuerlein also missed his third field goal attempt of the season, though that appeared to be an adjustment to avoid the kick being blocked after the protection allowed a man through untouched.
It didn’t seem like Mike McCarthy was pushing any of the right buttons in Week 6. McCarthy lost a challenge after going for it on 4th and 1 from his own 34 on the first Cowboys drive of the game, yet later elected to kick a 51-yard field goal rather than for it on 4th and 2 from the New England 33 with 2:42 left in the game. Both moves backfired, the missed field goal even more frustrating because it seemed counter to the Cowboys’ typically aggressive approach.
The 115 penalty yards charged to the team reflects a sloppy effort from the top down, yet for the fifth week in a row, Dallas banked a win, further locking themselves into NFC playoff picture.