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The Cheat Sheet: One-dimensional offense doesn’t bode well for Cowboys

Everything you need to know to get ready for Lions vs. Cowboys Week 4.

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have completed just three passes over 15 yards this season.

Three.

Last week against the Seahawks, they didn’t even attempt a pass over 15 yards.

Needless to say, the Cowboys’ offense is sputtering, if not in a downright standstill. What was once thought to be one of the NFL’s most lethal offenses, is now scratching and clawing for any sort of identity on offense.

Right now, the Cowboys are averaging 277.7 yards per game—good for 30th in the NFL. Dak Prescott is averaging 166 passing yards through three games—29th in the NFL. And they’ve scored just 13.7 points per game—31st in the NFL.

“We have to be more efficient and we have to be more explosive throwing the ball,” coach Jason Garrett said Monday. “There are a lot of components to it. There’s a protection component. There’s a decision-making component. There’s a throw and catch component. There’s a winning on the route component.”

The Cowboys’ success might hinge on throwing the ball effectively. According to Dave Birkett, the Cowboys have an 80 percent win percentage when Dak Prescott throws for over 200 yards or more. When he can’t hit 200 yards through the air, their win percentage sinks to under 47 percent.

The reality is this offense hasn’t been good for a while, dating back to last season. Over the last 10 games, Prescott has averaged just 157 yards per game with a passer rating of 73.3. The Cowboys are .500 in those games.

Opponent snapshot

The Cowboys are in a bit of dilemma. They have an elite running back in Ezekiel Elliot and an elite pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence. But outside of that, they have nothing but questions.

Their once dominant offensive line needs repair. Their quarterback isn’t playing well and only has one year left on his contract. They have no wide receivers to keep defenses honest. Their best defensive player, and leader, Sean Lee can’t be trusted to stay healthy.

In many ways this is a make or break season for Jason Garrett and the Cowboys. If they win, everyone’s happy. If they lose, the whole thing may blow up.

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Cowboys’ biggest threat

Ezekiel Elliott

The only real threat in Dallas’ offense is Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott is one of the best running backs in the NFL. He’s tied for the league lead in rushing with 274 yards this season. 127 of those yards came last week against Seattle. The co-rushing leader is a guy the Lions should be familiar with—Matt Breida.

The Lions did a nice job of dominating the line of scrimmage last week against the Patriots after letting Breida have a field day. They’ll need a similar outing this week on the road where Elliot averages over 104 yards per game.

Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Cowboys’ weak link

Wide receiver

A well composed offense is like a great piece of music. If all the pieces are in harmony it can be great, but if there’s an off note here and there, then the whole thing starts to fall apart. As of now, the Cowboys one-dimensional offense is making it hard to move the ball consistently.

This offseason, the Cowboys gave Allen Hurns an $11 million contract. So far this season he has just four catches for 51 yards.

Cole Beasley, mainly a slot player, leads the Cowboys receivers with 132 yards this year.

Tight end Geoff Swaim isn’t anywhere close to the player Jason Witten was before he retired this offseason.

Gadget player Tavon Austin leads the receivers with two touchdowns, but they were more unconventional than a function of the offense—a 64-yard touchdown against the New York Giants and a 3-yard shovel pass in the fourth quarter last week against the Seahawks.

And Terrance Williams has completely underwhelmed, posting just two catches for 18 yards through three games.

If you watch much of the Cowboys All-22 tape from this season, the screenshot below become a common appearance—absolutely no one is open.

dallas cowboys offense receivers

Teams are focusing on stopping the run and forcing Dak Prescott and his cast of receivers to win one-on-one battles. It’s easy to blame coaches and quarterbacks when offenses stumble, but if no can separate from the defense it’s hard to compete.

Bottom line

The Cowboys could look better at home. Their only win this season has come at AT&T Stadium. The problem for Dallas is that their passing offense is a mess and they’re missing key pieces on defense. The Lions should get their first road win of the year on Sunday.

Prediction

Lions 20, Cowboys 13