Leading up to last Sunday’s game between the Colts and Cowboys we took a look at a few of the critical game matchups that would help to define the outcome. After the dust had settled on the Colts’ impressive shutout win over the Cowboys, it is time to take a look back and see how those matchups played out.
Pierre Desir vs Amari Cooper
This first matchup, like many when you pitch a shutout, is a pretty clear and decisive victory for the Colts. Desir did a fantastic job against DeAndre Hopkins the previous week, and had a similar performance against Cooper here. It is important to note that they obviously play a lot of zone, so credit goes to the entire defensive backfield for the job they did on the Cowboys receivers.
Desir deserves specific mention though for consistently knocking Cooper off his routes and helping make sure he couldn’t become a significant factor in this game. He was 4 of 7 for 32 yards in the air. Considering that the prior week he had 217 yards and 3 touchdowns, that is a massive accomplishment.
Removing him from the equation left the Cowboys’ offense one-dimensional and allowed the Colts to clamp down on the run game and get after Dak Prescott. This secondary has gotten better with each week, and the drafting of a couple blue chip players to add to it could make them a very unpleasant group to go against.
Colts Defensive Line vs Cowboys Offensive Line
The Colts defensive line has also been heating up as the season has progressed. They had 3 sacks and 5 QB hits as a team, which is solid and served as enough of a disruption to stop drives when it counted. They limited Prescott to just 206 yards passing and an interception. What’s more, Tyquan Lewis had a sack which pushed the Cowboys back out of field goal range, keeping points off the board and ending a Cowboys drive.
The area where the clear victory took place was in terms of the defensive line beating the Cowboys offensive line in terms of opening holes for the running game. While they gave up yards in between the 20s, when the ball reached the red zone, the defense clamped down tight. They limited Ezekiel Elliott to 87 yards and stuffed him on the goal line when the Cowboys went for it on 4th and 1. That kind of hard-nosed performance would typically be unthinkable against the image we have in our minds of the Cowboys’ offensive line. It was exactly the performance this team delivered.
T.Y. Hilton vs Byron Jones
Hilton didn’t find himself matched up against Byron Jones all game. Much like Pierre Desir on the Colts side, the Cowboys play a zone scheme that doesn’t necessarily employ following receivers with their cornerbacks. Hilton had one catch in coverage against Byron Jones, but was largely matched up against Chidobe Awuzie. It wasn’t a pretty matchup for anyone covering Hilton.
When you factor in that he started the day with a distinct possibility of not playing, it is remarkable that he was able to do anything at all. What he was able to do was go 5 for 8 and get 87 yards. He described himself as at about 70 percent after the game was over. If anyone doubted his toughness, this season has more than quieted that. Hilton has repeatedly played through injury and continues to be a big part of the offense.
Also, his taunting penalty was totally ridiculous, but right in line with the performance we have come to expect from these officials.
Eric Ebron vs Cowboys linebackers
If there was a matchup that the Colts did not win, it was this one. I wouldn’t necessarily say this win goes as a credit to the Cowboys linebackers as much as simply an offensive preference toward other players in this game. Ebron didn’t seem to be part of the game plan here anyway, but his most notable contribution to this game was in the form of that ugly drop he had. He was only targeted 3 times and had 1 catch for 8 yards.
Considering the use of Hilton, Nyheim Hines, and Marlon Mack, that isn’t all that surprising to see lower numbers from Ebron. It would be disappointing if every week the same guys were getting all the looks, but that hasn’t been the way with this offense. The Cowboys have talented linebackers and it could be that Reich decided at the outset that using Ebron to challenge them wasn’t the best way to beat this team.
Frank Reich vs Jason Garrett
This one is a no contest win. Frank Reich had both his offense and defense ready to go against a familiar opponent, and it was clear from the jump. Give Matt Eberflus the credit he deserves for leading his defense to a shutout, but Frank Reich is the head coach and as such, bears the weight of blame and credit when all goes to plan.
His offense was able to score effective on a very good defense, moving the ball on the ground through massive holes created by the offensive line. While past years have forced the Colts to rely on Andrew Luck to do it all, Frank Reich is not having that. Last week it was the Andrew Luck and T.Y. Show. This week? Marlon Mack setting up the play action and getting guys open downfield while the defense goes to work locking up the opposing offense.
This is exactly the kind of team that, if they can get it, tends to be the one you don’t want to face in January, and Frank Reich has them humming along in just such a way as to give themselves that chance.