Cowboys, Texans fall flat in week four

Posted 10/1/19

The Dallas Cowboys fell back to earth against their first formidable opponent on Sunday and dropped their first game of the season to the Saints in New Orleans by a score of 12-10.

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Cowboys, Texans fall flat in week four

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The Dallas Cowboys fell back to earth against their first formidable opponent on Sunday and dropped their first game of the season to the Saints in New Orleans by a score of 12-10.

The New Orleans defense stole the show. The unit came into the game with a handful of underwhelming performances so far in 2019, but rose to occasion for their backup quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, in the critical early-season matchup. The Saints held Dak Prescott to 223 yards and no touchdowns. They also came away with an interception on a last-ditch heave by Prescott in the fourth quarter.

Part of Prescott’s inability to find success came with the underwhelming performance on the ground. Ezekiel Elliot recorded 18 carries for just 35 yards (1.9 YPC) in the loss, which kept offensive coordinator Kellen Moore in a box throughout the night. Zeke did score the game’s only touchdown in the third quarter, which gave Dallas the lead at the time.

If losing Drew Brees for half of the season was a death sentence, someone forgot to tell the Saints. In his absence, New Orleans is 2-0 with victories over a pair of 2018 playoff teams (Seattle Seahawks and Dallas). Despite some clear holes in Bridgewater’s performance, they are finding ways to win games and appear more than capable for the time being.

They will host their first division game of the season on Sunday when they welcome the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Superdome. The Bucs are coming off of a shocking 55-40 victory over the Rams in Los Angeles.

It does not get any easier for Dallas, who will take on the Green Bay Packers and division rival Philadelphia Eagles in two of their next three games. Luckily for the Cowboys, both of those matchups take place in Arlington.

The Houston Texans were also deflated by an NFC South opponent on Sunday. The Texans returned home after last week’s impressive road win over the Chargers only to fall to the struggling Carolina Panthers.

Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey, one of the game’s most lethal weapons, put on a show through the air and on the ground at NRG Stadium, posting 179 total yards against Houston’s defense. But even with McCaffrey’s excellence and a mistake-free showing from backup quarterback Kyle Allen, the Panthers managed just 16 points against J.J. Watt and the Texans.

Deshaun Watson and the offense simply could not finish in the six-point loss. For whatever reason, the unit seems to take the occasional week off and play down to seemingly inferior opponents.

One of the biggest head-scratchers of the game came in the third quarter when Houston was inside the red zone, trialing 10-3. They called a screen pass to DeAndre Hopkins behind the line of scrimmage. Hopkins then did his best quarterback impression and threw a back-breaking interception. The play was intended for Will Fuller and dubbed a “bad play call” by head coach Bill O’Brien. You can say that again.

While Cam Newton’s backup has not exactly blown the league away in his first two starts, Allen has performed admirably with McCaffrey’s assistance. The Panthers are now 2-2 and right back in the thick of things in the NFC.

The Texans, meanwhile, will likely battle inconsistency throughout the season once again. The good news is that they play in football’s most unpredictable division. As it stands now, all four teams in the AFC South have records of 2-2. Houston will now host Atlanta before traveling to Kansas City to play the undefeated Chiefs.

The Chiefs did, however, flirt with their first loss of the season against the Lions in Detroit. That was before Texas Tech sensation Pat Mahomes led the team down the field for a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds.

The New England Patriots also narrowly escaped a road loss against AFC East rival Buffalo. Despite a slow start, the Bills dominated Tom Brady throughout the game and held New England to just 16 points.

It is not often that you can make the great Tom Brady look like a rookie and not be the best defense on the field, but that happened to the Bills on Sunday. New England’s defense has done incredible things under Bill Belichick in 2019, allowing just one touchdown through four games.

For the most part, the 42-year-old Brady has hardly needed to break a sweat during the 4-0 campaign. He has, however, posted impressive numbers aside from the poor performance in Buffalo. The six-time Super Bowl champion has tossed seven touchdowns and one interception to start the year and the Patriots have outscored the Steelers, Dolphins, Jets and Bills by a total score of 122-27. 
The heavy-hitters on New England’s schedule will come during the second half of the year for the most part, meaning there is a good chance they can remain undefeated for another month or so. Their next three games come against Washington, the New York Giants and Jets.

It is best to think of these games as an extension of New England’s preseason, but the Patriots will ramp it up against six straight competitive opponents. Starting on Oct. 27, they will see the Browns, Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs.

It appears that the AFC will once again be controlled by the Patriots and Chiefs throughout the year. The teams will face off in New England on Dec. 8, which could be the deciding factor regarding the location of the AFC Championship in January.

It would be foolish to expect Tom Brady to underperform come playoff time and it might be impossible to beat the Patriots in New England down the stretch if they have the best defense in the conference. But Mahomes continues to reach new heights on a weekly basis and has solidified himself as the best player in football through just 21 career games. The Red Raider can do almost anything, but can he beat the Patriots?

The NFC is a completely different story. The conference has a number of teams who will likely compete for postseason spots throughout the year and there is no clearcut favorite to make it to the Super Bowl. The surprising San Francisco 49ers, who had a bye in week four, are the only undefeated team remaining in the conference at 3-0.

Most divisions have at least two teams who could plausibly make a deep playoff. The NFC North and West appear to be the best divisions in football with teams like the Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, Chicago Bears and Packers.

The Bears have managed three straight wins after an ugly 10-3 loss to the Packers on opening night at Soldier Field. Their defense seems to be in midseason form, allowing just over 10 points per game.

Chicago will be without the services of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky for their matchup with the Oakland Raiders in London on Sunday. Trubisky may miss more time following the bye week with a dislocated shoulder and slight labrum tear sustained on the first play of the team’s 16-6 win over the Vikings in week four. Backup Chase Daniel, however, stepped in and took hold of the position at a higher level than Trubisky has all year. Regardless, they will go as far as Khalil Mack and the defense takes them.

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