Dallas Cowboys Winners and Losers, Week 3: Brandon Aubrey and Michael Gallup Shine While Dak Prescott and Tony Pollard Sit in Purgatory

The Dallas Cowboys are now 2-1 as they lost to the Arizona Cardinals 28-16. Who were the biggest playmakers in the game, and what needs work?

The Dallas Cowboys fell flat to the Arizona Cardinals 28-16 in a disappointing fashion.  The Cowboys had the bar set high in the first two weeks of the season but lost in one of the biggest upsets of the 2023 season thus far. That said, there was still some good to take away, but also plenty of mediocre and bad performances.

Cowboys vs. Cardinals Winners

Brandon Aubrey, K

Brandon Aubrey continues to be why the Cowboys stay in games and score despite their lack of productivity in the red zone. Aubrey scored three field goals and was responsible for ten of the Cowboys’ 16 points.

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He has made 15 consecutive kicks. He only missed in Week 1 of the season against the Giants. Although it’s great that the Cowboys have found their kicker, it is still an issue that the team has not capitalized in the red zone.

Rico Dowdle, RB

Rico Dowdle was the only player to find the end zone for the Cowboys on Sunday.

He had 21 rushing yards for four attempts and one rushing touchdown. His ability to be physical and make plays shows why the team was keen on giving him a chance to take the backup position this season.

Dowdle averaged 5.3 yards per carry, the same as Tony Pollard.

Michael Gallup, WR

Michael Gallup made his presence known in Week 3, leading the team in receiving yards with 92 yards in six receptions. After a quiet two weeks from Gallup, he came in clutch for Prescott.

His route running, communication, and physicality were on full display, being one of the only glimmers of hope on the offense.

Michael Gallup (13) makes a catch over Arizona Cardinals cornerback Kei'Trel Clark (13) during the second half at State Farm Stadium.
Sep 24, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup (13) makes a catch over Arizona Cardinals cornerback Kei’Trel Clark (13) during the second half at State Farm Stadium.

Gallup almost had a touchdown, but he was defended well in the end zone, and the ball was swatted away.

After the game, Dak Prescott said he thought the Cardinals would get a pass interference call on them, but it didn’t happen, saying, “I gotta make that third down throw. I gotta make the throw somehow. Put it over [Gallup], maybe just scramble and not go there with it, but I felt like we needed a play there.”

Cowboys vs. Cardinals Purgatory

Dak Prescott, QB

Considering the crumbling offensive line around him, Prescott did what he could. Both T.J. Bass and Brock Hoffman made their first career starts, which showed how quickly Prescott can make good decisions under pressure.

Prescott will get scrutinized for the one interception he had in the end zone on the team’s final drive, but a lot could have happened to avoid the situation altogether.

He showcased his escapability throughout the game as he was being chased nonstop. 

He had 249 passing yards, completing 25 of 40 attempts. He ended the night with a 78.0 rating and one interception, which could have been much worse if Prescott was not playing at an elite level.

Tony Pollard, RB

Pollard led the team in rushing yards with 122 yards for 23 attempts. The biggest issue is that he didn’t find the end zone when the team was looking for a rushing touchdown. 

As the starting back, he isn’t making a lot of big bursts. However, with half of the starting offensive line out during this game, that could be a big reason for that.

Pollard has yet to be able to show his burst, but he is dependable for sacking up yards, especially in short-yard situations.

Cowboys vs. Cardinals Losers

The Ridiculous Amount of Penalties

The Cowboys had 13 penalties for 107 yards during the game. It is hard to win a sloppy ball game on all sides.

After the game, head coach Mike McCarthy said, “Obviously, we’re disappointed. But this is part of the journey. … We need to grow from this experience.”

One of the most significant growth areas must be the discipline that unraveled as the game continued.

Overall, it was a highly penalized game by the refs, but the team needs to learn to adjust and play better even under those circumstances.

Red Zone Offense

There is not one thing to point a finger at in the team’s lack of red zone productivity.

When Prescott was asked about the lack of production in the red zone, he said, “Obviously, that’s, that’s an area that we haven’t been good in these last two weeks and even with the win last week, that, that was the sore spot in the win and obviously look at this loss, move the ball up and down the field and just couldn’t score. And so that’s your reason for this loss.”

If Aubrey had not kicked more than half the Cowboys’ total points today, this game could have been close to a blowout for the Cardinals.

The biggest issue is that this was the second week the team failed to score when they had the opportunity to do so. If this is not cleaned up, it could quickly become the team’s downfall.

The Run Defense

The run defense was one of the team’s biggest downfalls, as they allowed the Cardinals to rack up 222 rushing yards.

Josh Dobbs was able to play his best when being mobile because the defense was not stopping big plays from being made.

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The most problematic issue is that the run defense was the Cowboys’ kryptonite last year, which ended up being a significant downfall that cost them the NFL Wild Card round against the San Francisco 49ers, which they will meet again in two weeks.

Johnathan Hankins called this loss a “punch in the mouth,” saying the team never found their rhyme. He also mentioned that the team needs to learn from it and not allow it to happen again.

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