With their playoff and NFC East division title hopes fading fast, the Dallas Cowboys were able to secure a much-needed win against the reeling Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, by a final tally of 30-7.
Here is what we learned about both teams.
5. Cowboys Caught The Right Team At The Right Time
Even in a historically bad year for the NFC East, the Cowboys' season was on life support as the team headed to Cincinnati for a must-win Week 14 matchup. There wasn’t much reason to believe that after a thorough beating at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens this past Tuesday, the Cowboys would muster up enough of an effort to handle business against another AFC North opponent on the road.
As luck and good fortune would have it, they faced a Bengals team even more downtrodden and dysfunctional than they were, and to their credit, the Cowboys were able to make them pay for their mistakes.
The Bengals lost three fumbles on the day, one each by running backs Trayveon Williams and Giovani Bernard, and another by wide receiver Alex Erickson. It’s hard for any team to overcome that many turnovers, and the Cowboys defense finally had a redeeming performance to get their confidence back up.
4. We Saw The Old A.J. Green
For most of the season, we saw an old A.J. Green—which is to say, a receiver who was not getting separation, not coming down with 50-50 balls, and thus, not being targeted the way star receivers normally get looked at.
A.J. Green can no longer be considered as such after a lost season last year due to injury, and what amounts to another M.I.A campaign due to ineffectiveness on his part and lackluster QB play after Joe Burrow’s injury, but today, we got a glimpse of what fans were used to seeing from No. 18 earlier last decade.
He finished the Cowboys' game with 62 yards on 6 catches, including one touchdown in the second quarter.
It will be interesting to see if Green would want to return to the only NFL home he’s ever known next season, or if he will expect the kind of money commensurate with the seasons he had before his recent dip. He’s a free agent after the 2020 season.
3. Tony Pollard Is An Intriguing Piece For Dallas
Tony Pollard falls into a category fantasy players know all too well—If he, Alexander Mattison, Chase Edmonds, or Latavius Murray, for example, ever supplanted or replaced the starters ahead of them, they would be in line to put up monster workloads based on opportunity and talent.
It seems like each time Pollard gets a chance for the Cowboys, albeit in a limited role behind Pro Bowl RB Ezekiel Elliott, he does something that makes fans’ eyebrows raise.
Pollard came out like gangbusters at the beginning of the second half, showing extreme burst returning the kickoff back for 60 yards all the way into Bengals territory. On the second to last drive of the game, he caught a seven yard pass from QB Andy Dalton to put the cherry on top of Dallas’ victory.
Pollard is probably overqualified to be an insurance back in the NFL, but at cap hits just over $1 million each of the next seasons, the Cowboys must feel extremely lucky to have him in their backfield should anything happen to Elliott.
2. Bengals Need To Upgrade Their Backup QB Situation
To be fair, not every team has a Ryan Tannehill or Taysom Hill type of talent waiting in the wings, and it’s unfair to expect every team in the league to have competent quarterbacks in reserve.
But it’s clear that without Joe Burrow(and the Bengals might not have his services at the start of the 2021 season), the team cannot function well enough to even be competitive in games. Granted, they’re in a tough division, and would not have made noise this season even had the number one overall pick not gotten hurt, but they’ll need someone better than a Brandon Allen or Ryan Finley to come in to keep the team afloat in future seasons.
1. The Cowboys Won The Andy Dalton Bowl
In addition to the division storylines for the Cowboys, the other major plotline for this game was veteran QB Andy Dalton’s return to Cincinnati, where he played nine seasons for the Bengals. When it became clear last season that the Bengals were not going to include the “Red Rifle” as part of their future, reports stated that Dalton had begun to prepare for a future outside of the Queen City.
While Dalton was not able to land a starting gig of his own elsewhere, it was a special moment for him to come back to the city where he started his career and show that he still has some juice left in the tank.
It’s unclear what the future with the Cowboys holds for the former TCU standout, but he may not get too many chances to face his old team down the line, so at least for one Sunday, Dalton could savor a victory against the organization that no longer believed in his ability.