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Broncos shut down Zeke, Cowboys in lopsided win

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The Dallas Cowboys walked into a buzz saw Sunday afternoon in a lightning-delayed, 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos in Colorado. Here's what we learned ...

1. It's strange how Cowboys-esque of a win this was for Denver. With six minutes to go in the third quarter, right after Dallas went down 35-10, a quick check of the Time Of Possession meter showed the Broncos holding a 25:54 to 12:52 advantage (Denver ended up holding the ball for a total of 33:50). Even if the Cowboys took control of the fourth quarter (they didn't), it would have been entirely lopsided. This is mostly thanks to Trevor Siemian, who logged another smart performance. At this point, I'm unsure what more anyone could ask of him except to knock off the errant turnover. Siemian clearly won the starting QB job because of his relationship with Denver's top wideouts and on an afternoon like Sunday, where they can essentially use option routes to pick the thin Dallas secondary apart (it backfired once late in the third quarter with that Jourdan Lewis pick) it's nice to put zero additional pressure on a talented running game.

2. I think people should be careful turning this game into an indictment of what Dak Prescott will finally be like if he has to carry the load. It's far too early for that. Far, far too early. Were there concerning moments? Sure. When Dallas was trailing by 25 (the biggest deficit Prescott has faced in the NFL) he missed Cole Beasley high on a routine drag route. He also threw two picks, though one was on a slant route thrown well to Dez Bryant. Bryant simply let it go. The other was a desperation fastball with less than a minute to go which was made far worse when Aqib Talib took it back 103 yards for the score. I seriously doubt he throws that ball in a tie game. So here it is -- a game where Ezekiel Elliott enters the fourth quarter with eight total rushing yards on nine carries. A game where Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and Shaquil Barrett have all logged quarterback hits (Miller had five and two sacks). I still think Prescott battled nicely. The 28-yard touchdown to Jason Witten to make it 35-17 was a tad high but still resulted in a score. He hit Witten again in the end zone with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but Witten dropped the ball.

3. Elliott's worst game heading into Sunday was a 51-yard performance with a touchdown in his first career game. Sunday night (nine carries for eight yards and no touchdowns) wasn't even close. It's incredible how lifeless the Cowboys' offense can be without the gashing runs. When Elliott isn't draining the life out of a defense, there are so many more ways to get after Prescott and scramble the game plan. How strange is it to see Dallas in that frantic, down-by-a-mile scramble in the fourth quarter when the defense knows Prescott is throwing and sends the house every time?

4. Seeing an emotional Garett Bolles carted off the field Sunday was difficult for the Broncos. Can he be replaced? Yes. Bolles was OK against the Chargers in Denver's season-opening win and was OK against Dallas. However, general manager John Elway is trying to find a long-term fix at the position, which cannot happen unless Bolles gets reps. As we've seen this offseason, good line help is very difficult to come by, and Elway did a nice job patching up the line in front of Siemian given the market and draft class. Might he make a move?

5. There cannot be enough praise heaped on the defensive game plan by first-year head coach Vance Joseph and the execution by the rest of the Denver Broncos. Watching Prescott hopping around in the pocket scanning through his progressions was nail-biting on Sunday with Miller lurking. Imagine a defense being good enough to shut down just about all of Dallas' skill position players with Witten being the only one you let get away. While most teams don't have the blueprint to execute something of this nature, it will be interesting to see if Dallas is played differently over the next few weeks.

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