Dallas Cowboys still have problems, despite the 54-19 win

Here's what they need to address to have any chance at returning to the Super Bowl

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Zeke Elliot is back in the Salvation Army bucket.
Zeke Elliot is back in the Salvation Army bucket.
Image: Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys throttled the Indianapolis Colts last night. A 54-19 victory against a team in flux is what should be expected when the team that administered the beatdown is a championship contender.

There is, however, one problem. For three quarters, the Colts had opportunities to upset the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Unfortunately, for the Colts, for a second-consecutive week, their strong run defense struggled. Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott went to work and the Cowboys’ totaled 220 yards rushing on the day.

All that ground-and-pound success, but at the end of three quarters, the Cowboys only held a two-point lead. In fact, if not for a failed two-point conversion attempt by Indy The Boys would’ve been tied with the Colts with 15 minutes remaining.

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For those who have played the 90’s floppy disk classic, Oregon Trail, at this point in the game is where the Colts’ wagon sunk into the water. Of their five turnovers, four took place in the fourth quarter. The Colts were outscored 33-0 by the Cowboys in the final stanza of play, but should a meltdown from a team with an interim head coach who was pulled off of the ESPN set instill confidence in those who root for that star on the side of the helmet?

It is clear through 13 weeks that the Cowboys have a dominant defense. They entered their Sunday night showdown second in the league in weighted defensive DVOA. Through 12 games, they’ve allowed 20 or more points only three times. It’s why they were able to go on a run early this season while Dak Prescott was on injured reserve with an injury to his throwing hand.

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At 8-3, with a home game remaining against division rival Philadelphia Eagles — the team with the best record in the NFL — there are plenty of reasons to feel good. However, even with a healthy Prescott, the Cowboys have still not shown themselves to have much explosion on offense.

For whatever Jalen Hurts lacks as a prototypical passer, the Eagles still have an offense capable of making big plays. Their pass catchers are special, and so is Hurts on the ground. Prescott is mobile, but no game-changer with his feet. While Tony Pollard has shown big-play capability, it’s not like he’s 2016 Ezekiel Elliott. Combine that with wide receivers who are more effective in the open field as opposed to stretching a defense vertically, and it’s easy to see why the Cowboys were neck-and-neck with the Colts for three quarters last night. As close as that game was, until the fourth quarter, the Cowboys’ only totaled 165 passing yards.

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Defense will keep the Cowboys in every game all the way to the Super Bowl if they advance that far. That unit is that good. The way that they dismantled the Colts last night showed that any offense they face from now until Valentine’s Day week had better be ready for a fight.

But in order for the Cowboys to extend their season that far, their offense has to perform better than it did in Week 13.