Well, that was something, wasn’t it? The Dallas Cowboys went toe to toe versus the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, they didn’t trail until there were only a couple of minutes left in the fourth quarter. Who would’ve thought that the Cowboys would look so competent with quarterback Garrett Gilbert under center?
Actually, Gilbert was one of the biggest positive takeaways from Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. He completed 21 out of 38 passes (55.6%) as he racked up 243 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Gilbert also ran for 28 yards in three rushes. And while his stats aren’t mindblowing, he put together the best performance at quarterback the Cowboys have seen since Dak Prescott’s injury.
Gilbert looked in command of the huddle right out of the gate and seemed unfazed by the Steelers’ constant pressure. He spread the ball to multiple receivers and spread it all over the field. Just take a look at Next Gen Stat’s passing chart for Gilbert’s NFL debut.
Let me tell you what stands out the most to me from the above passing chart. If you take a look at the passes near the line of scrimmage, you’ll notice Gilbert made three throws on it or behind it. If you were to take a look at Andy Dalton’s passing chart against the Arizona Cardinals, you’d see 14 of those. That’s right, 14.
On the other hand, if you take a quick peek at pass attempts of over 15 yards, you’ll notice Gilbert completed five out of nine, including one touchdown for more than 20 yards. Not to mention, those passes are spread all over the field. Against the Cardinals, Dalton completed only one out of eight attempts over 15 yards.
Garrett Gilbert is far from perfect, but he showed toughness on the gridiron. He kept the Cowboys in the game for 60 minutes and moved well in the pocket. It’s more than clear his arm talent is limited and he isn’t the quickest to process plays. Even still, late in the third quarter, Gilbert had a 102.5 passer rating. At the same point of the game, Roethlisberger’s passer rating was 99.9.
Of course, Garrett didn’t manage to put a punctuation point to his surprising performance with a comeback victory. He led the Cowboys 58 yards downfield and got the team all the way to Pittsburgh’s 23-yard line. But despite stepping up in the pocket in the last play, his pass fell short as the clock hit zero.
But since he was facing an undefeated Steelers’ squad with one of the best defenses in the league, how much can you blame the guy?
Andy Dalton could be cleared to play in week 11 after being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list last Tuesday. But the question is, will he have the starting gig when he returns? For many, the expectation is that he’ll be the guy, but Garrett Gilbert made a loud case for himself against the Steelers.
Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys’ coaching staff won’t have an easy decision to make. Fortunately for them, they’ll have time to really think about it as the team is on a bye in week 10.
Featured Image Via Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports