CIN-DAL grades: Rookie QB Dak Prescott continues to impress

Highest-graded players and top takeaways from the Cowboys' home win over the Bengals.

| 9 months ago
Dak Prescott, Carlos Dunlap

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

CIN-DAL grades: Rookie QB Dak Prescott continues to impress

Dallas Cowboys 28, Cincinnati Bengals 14

Highest-graded players and top takeaways from the Cowboys’ Week 5 home win over the Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals

Quarterback grade: Andy Dalton 75.9

Dalton struggles to push ball downfield in meager first half

Andy Dalton was okay in Week 5, posting a solid grade, but much of that work came in the fourth quarter when the Bengals were down four touchdowns, and the Cowboys were willing to sit back in coverage and watch the time tick off the clock. In the first half, Dalton only had one positively-graded throw, putting the Bengals in a hole that they could not climb out of.

Bengals QB Andy Dalton

Top offensive grades

C Russell Bodine, 77.7

QB Andy Dalton, 75.9

LT Andrew Whitworth, 75.3

LG Clint Boling, 75.1

WR Brandon LaFell, 72.8

Offense cant find A.J. Green

The Bengals opened the game with four drives ending in punts, and found themselves down three touchdowns at halftime looking to crawl back into the game. Unable to throw anything down the field, Dalton was forced to try to scramble on three-fourths of Cincinnati’s third-and-long plays in the first half, coming up short of the marker each time. A.J. Green is the key to the Bengals’ offense, and he was essentially shut out, posting a 57.4 overall grade on the day.

Top defensive grades

DE Carlos Dunlap, 77.1

LB Karlos Dansby, 76.7

S Shawn Williams, 76.6

DT Pat Sims, 75.1

CB Dre Kirkpatrick, 73.4

Bengals’ linebackers struggle against Cowboys

Starting linebackers Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict were targeted ruthlessly by Dallas. Combined, they managed only four stops in 54 snaps, regularly finding themselves washed yards from the intended point of attack. In coverage, the pair was targeted six times, surrendered six completions, allowed 72 yards, and gave up a touchdown. Burfict at least contributed occasionally; Maualuga on the other hand, recorded a measly 30.4 grade. The Bengals’ defense has toiled in the early part of the season, and the issues at linebacker are a major contributor. Why Vincent Rey was relegated to a backup role is an ongoing mystery.

Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback grade: Dak Prescott, 86.7

Prescott executing measured offense to perfection

Relying on the running game and half-field reads shouldn’t detract from Dak Presctott’s outstanding performances this season. He was superb against the Bengals, missing just two throws (discounting drops and passes thrown away). Tony Romo will have a difficult task reclaiming his starting spot with Prescott in this kind of form. Although the majority of his targets were close to the line of scrimmage, the Cowboys’ prodigy still completed six of eight passes beyond 10 yards for 111 total passing yards. The Prescott selection looks inspired at this stage.

Dak Prescott

Top offensive grades:

QB Dak Prescott, 86.7

RG Zack Martin, 83.8

WR Terrance Williams, 78.9

LT Tyron Smith, 78.8

LG Ronald Leary, 78.4

Bullying lineman have Cowboys’ run game rolling

Zack Martin’s performances have gone up a notch this season. He’s been reliable in pass protection, giving up only three pressures, but has done his best work in the run game, helping Ezekiel Elliott (73.0 overall grade versus Cincinnati) to another 130+ yard rushing game. Martin set the tone early against the Bengals, decimating Rey Maulaga at the second level on the Cowboys’ first carry. Opposite him, Ronald Leary has filled in seamlessly for the injured La’el Collins. With All-Pro Tyron Smith also returning, Dallas becomes an even more imposing proposition. Prescott can be confident his blindside will be protected with Smith in the lineup; the left tackle has allowed only one sack in 112 snaps this year.

Top defensive grades

CB Brandon Carr, 80.1

CB Morris Claiborne, 80.0

DE Benson Mayowa, 78.3

S J.J. Wilcox, 77.0

DT Terrell McClain, 76.4

Cowboys’ cornerbacks impress

It’s no surprise to see the top two Dallas grades go to their corners after watching A.J. Green struggle to make an impact in the game. When Green was targeted six times against Claiborne and Carr, he only had three catches for 28 yards. In a surprise to everyone, Claiborne is now the second-highest graded Cowboys defender on the season.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

  • Blaze Gunn

    Surprised Elliott graded so low looked good to me

  • Samuel Myers

    So according to these grades, Andy Dalton was a better performer than Ezekiel Elliot, and Brandon LaFell was essentially his equal.

    You guys do a lot of great and interesting work, and I come back to read it because it’s unique — but you still haven’t figured out how to grade running backs. Not sure if it’s an implicit bias against the position and what it takes to play it effectively, but whatever it is, it’s wrong.

    • Samuel Myers

      Anyone with a football background who watched that game can instantly tell you what’s wrong with your final grades here — and I’d bet a whole lot of lay fans could as well. I don’t think anyone would argue that the Dallas offensive line is a crucial element to his success, but you could make the same argument for Dak Prescott. Yes, he still has to throw it down the field, but Elliot still has to find the right crease, have the athleticism and feel for the game to kick in the burst as needed, and make guys miss down the field. I think you’ve fallen into the mainstream media belief that playing running back at a high level is something any relatively decent back can do, provided he has the right blocking. I think you need to reexamine that assumption, or whatever it is that deflates the value of running back performances.

      • Samuel Myers

        “that the Dallas offensive line ISN’T**** a crucial element to his success”

    • Zach

      I think they know their main flaw, and they admitted it at the beginning of the article: if you’re grading someone’s work on every single play and judging every play equally you aren’t taking into account one play may be more important than another to the outcome of the game like for Dalton the two scoring drives he led against basically a prevent defense. I’m sure his grade wasn’t nearly that good in the first half. But outside of that I trust PFF’s grades completely. Zeke played well no doubt, and a 73 is a solid grade but you could tell his o line was giving him huge holes to run through, which I think is much easier than what Dak was doing hence the grade difference. Aside from the one 60 yd TD run where he just showed great breakaway speed and the play where he dragged the defense 5 yards I didn’t see anything amazing about Zeke’s runs as far as making a lot of guys miss or breaking tackles. Now I would say the 60 yd run was the back breaker play so maybe it should’ve gotten more emphasized and Dalton’s garbage time #s should be less emphasized but aside from that I think they do a great job.

      • Vitor

        Yeah, I’ve noted the same thing about Dalton’s grade. There’s no way that a play in garbage time should be given the same consideration of a play in the beggining of the game

  • GlenChuck

    Pathetic effort by Cincinnati. Would rather be a Browns fan than root for this team. At least they try, unlike this sorry bunch. Watching them give 35% every single week is getting old.