NOTES: Rookie tackle Smith proving best in class

Sep 11, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Tyler Smith (73) blocks Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Logan Hall (90) during the game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

NOTES: Rookie tackle Smith proving best in class

While you won’t hear his name listed among the favorites for offensive rookie of the year, Cowboys offensive lineman Tyler Smith has had a season worthy of a mention.

Smith started all 17 regular season games and the one playoff game, playing just over 98% of a possible 1,162 snaps this season while moving from guard to tackle to guard and back to tackle again.

“It is just a testament to our preparation,” Smith said. “How our coaches prepare us for the games. We get reps in practice. I got mainly guard reps this past two weeks. But, just staying keyed in because anything can happen. You have to be ready for any situation.”

Smith was the sixth offensive tackle to be taken in the first round of last year’s draft, behind Ikem Ekwonu, who went to Carolina at six; Evan Neal, who went to the Giants at seven; Charles Cross, who went to Seattle at nine; Kenyon Green, who went to Houston at 15 and Trevor Penning, who went to New Orleans at 19.

Looking at some of the key numbers for all six tackles, one could argue that Smith might be the first tackle off the board on a redraft.

“What he has done is remarkable,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said about Smith. “I go back through the years; I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a rookie; I mean, the only rookie that I recall is Will Shields. He started in 1993 and played at Tampa. I think he got in in the second quarter, third quarter as a rookie and started the rest of the year. I think he started the next 16 years in a row after that. That is the only young lineman that I recall that played right away and played at a very high level. What makes Tyler even more special, he has done that at two positions.”

Smith leads the group in snaps, 1,144, while only Cross (1,088) and Ekwonu (1,018) crossed the 1,000-play threshold. He has been called for 13 penalties, with 10 being accepted, or one every 114 snaps, which is good enough for third among the group behind only Neal (1-123) and Green (1-117.5).

Smith has been credited with six sacks allowed this season, which is one every 190 snaps, good for second in the group behind only Green (1-205) and just ahead of Ekwonu (1-169). All while blocking quarterback Dak Prescott’s blindside.

Smith has played so well that when Tyron Smith was ready to return from injury, the Cowboys kept Tyler Smith at left tackle and inserted Tyron Smith back in the lineup at right tackle.

“I love what he brings to the table, super consistent,” McCarthy said. “Another young man that has a high work ethic. He’s up here at 7 a.m. every morning. … Once again, he is off to a great start and has built a heck of a foundation to build off of. He has had a tremendous rookie season.”

Drive for success

The Cowboys did something in Monday night’s win over Tampa Bay that they had done just once all year – score touchdowns on four consecutive offensive drives.

Against the Bucs, Dallas put together four straight touchdown drives that stretched between the second and third quarters that essentially put the game away. Those Cowboys TD drives – seven plays for 80 yards, 15 plays for 80 yards, 11 plays for 91 yards, and eight plays for 86 yards, took a game tied at 0-0 and put it out of reach at 24-0.

“I thought Kellen (Moore) and the play calling, we just stayed true to what we wanted to do,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. “I thought (Prescott) played extremely well, stayed aggressive, and took the check downs. I thought he had great command of the offense and excellent presence in the pocket.”

The only other game in which the Cowboys scored touchdowns on four straight possessions came in that wild fourth quarter against Indianapolis that saw Dallas put up 33 points on touchdown drives of 75 yards in 10 plays, 53 yards in three plays, 72 yards in five plays and 29 yards in three plays. The Cowboys had seven offensive touchdown drives in that win over the Colts.

Monday night also marked the eighth time since Prescott returned from injury that the Cowboys had at least four offensive drives that ended with touchdowns, doing it against Chicago (4 times), Green Bay (4), Minnesota (4), New York Giants (4), Indianapolis (7), Jacksonville (4) and Philadelphia (4).

LVE, Biadasz shine in return

The Cowboys could not have gotten linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and center Tyler Biadasz back from injury at a more perfect time of the season.

And both made the most of their return.

LVE, who was the team’s leading tackler when he went down with a shoulder stinger in the first quarter of the Cowboys’ overtime loss in Jacksonville, returned to record nine tackles and two passes knocked down in the Cowboys’ win on Monday night. He was again the Cowboys leading tackler in the game while playing 79 of 82 defensive snaps.

“I thought he played great. It was great having him back,” McCarthy said about Vander Esch. “He had nine, 10 tackles. He got his hands on a number of balls. I thought he played exceptionally well.”

His return allowed the Cowboys to move linebacker Anthony Barr back to his weakside spot, where he recorded four tackles, including one for loss early in the first quarter, to help set the tone for a run defense that would allow just 52 yards on the ground in the win.

Biadasz returned to the offensive line after missing just over five quarters of football with a high-ankle sprain suffered late in the third quarter of the Cowboys’ win over Tennessee in Week 17.

He played all 69 offensive snaps, committed no penalties, and allowed the Cowboys’ only sack, which came on the sixth play of the game, completing the Dallas’ offenses second-straight three-and-out. More importantly, Biadasz stabilized the middle of the Cowboys’ offensive line that amassed 425 total yards, including 128 on the ground.

Prescott joins elite company

With his four touchdown passes on Monday night, quarterback Dak Prescott did something that has only been achieved 50 times in NFL history while also putting himself alongside two of the most decorated quarterbacks in Cowboys history – Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach.

“I anticipate Dak to play like this every week, just because of how much he puts into it,” McCarthy said about Prescott’s performance Monday night. “It’s like anything in this game; It’s always the little things. … He puts the time in. He does all the extra stuff. He does all the little things that need to be done to be a highly successful quarterback in this league. So, I’m not surprised at all.”

Prescott authored the second four-passing TD game of Super Wild Card Weekend, joining Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, who did it on Sunday.

While Prescott was the latest to toss four touchdowns, Staubach was the first Cowboys QB to do it when he lit up the Los Angeles Rams in the 1975 playoffs. Then, 17 years later, Aikman lit up the Buffalo Bills with four touchdown passes in Super Bowl 27.

Six playoff TD passes is the NFL record, held by Oakland’s Daryle Lamonica (1969), San Francisco’s Steve Young (1994), and New England’s Tom Brady (2011).

Schultz ties Cowboy greats

With his two scores on Monday night, Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz became just the fifth player in team history to catch a pair of touchdown passes in a playoff game.

He joins a group that includes Drew Pearson, who accomplished it twice – 1973 and 1981 seasons; Michael Irvin, who did it three times – 1992, 1994, and 1995 seasons; Terrance Williams, who did it in the 2014 season and Dez Bryant who snagged his pair in the 2016 season.

Cowboys own postseason edge

The Cowboys and 49ers have met eight times in the postseason, with Dallas owning a 5-3 record. The last meeting came in the Wild Card round of the 2021 playoffs, and San Francisco came out on top in Dallas, 23-17.

The teams have met just once in the Divisional round, with the Cowboys picking up a 30-28 road win at Candlestick Park in the 1972 playoffs.

All other playoff matchups have come in the NFC Championship Game, where Dallas owns a 4-2 record, winning in the 1970, 1972, 1992, and 1993 seasons and losing in the 1982 and 1994 seasons.

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