In today's fantasy-obsessed football world, it's easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara is here to fix that. Following each week's games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all 32 teams and ultimately select a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week. And the winner is ...
There was life again inside AT&T Stadium this weekend, as Cowboys fans saw their team win at home for the first time since Week 1 of 2015. A major factor in Dallas' 31-17 victory over the Bears on "Sunday Night Football" was the dominating play of the offensive line. The unit was without one of the best left tackles in the league in Tyron Smith, who developed back spasms on Friday and was a surprise inactive player on Sunday. Second-year tackle Chaz Green made his first-career start in place of Smith, and while he did get beat a few times, he more than held his own.
The O-line battled through more adversity as starting left guard La'el Collinswas forced out of the game at halftime after gutting out the second quarter with a foot injury, which is believed to be a torn ligament and could leave him sidelined for a number of weeks. Ronald Leary -- who was a two-year starter before Collins took over in 2015 -- replaced him in the second half. Leary asked for a trade in the offseason, but Dallas chose to keep him for depth, which will turn out to be a blessing if Collins misses significant time.
Even with two backups, the offensive line kept rookie quarterback Dak Prescott clean, giving up zero QB hits and zero sacks. Prescott had his best performance of 2016, completing 19 of 24 passes for 248 yards, 1 touchdown and a career-high passer rating of 123.6. The O-line not only kept Prescott upright, but helped pave the way for 199 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott led the way with 30 carries for 140 yards, while Prescott, Alfred Morris and Lance Dunbar all reached the end zone. According to Pro Football Focus, Dallas had the third-best run-blocking unit (behind the Eagles and Titans) in Week 3.
Other notable O-line units in Week 3
Philadelphia Eagles: The offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the Eagles' hot start and has done a great job of protecting rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. This week against Pittsburgh, Philly had zero sacks and just two QB hits attributed to the offensive line. Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn't just pass protection where the O-line flourished. The Eagles had 125 rushing yards and were led by rookie Wendell Smallwood, who had 17 touches for 79 yards and a TD, as Ryan Mathews was sidelined after his ankle "stiffened."
New England Patriots: On a short week and with third-string rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the New England Patriots put up a huge performance against the Texans on Thursday. The offensive line was not accredited a sack and gave up just one QB hit, which is pretty incredible since they played Houston sack artist J.J. Watt and Co. (Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney). The Patriots had 185 rushing yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and were led by LeGarrette Blount's big day (24 carries for 105 yards and two TDs).
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons ran their way to a 45-32 win over the Saints on the heels of a huge performance from Devonta Freeman, who had 14 carries for 152 yards and five receptions for 55 yards and one TD. In total, the offensive line -- which featured a solid game from left tackle Jake Matthews -- helped Atlanta accrue more than 200 yards on the ground and gave up two sacks. Ironically, the sacks came on the first and last passing plays of the game, but in the between the two hits to quarterback Matt Ryan, the O-line provided a solid pocket. Ryan was 20-of -30 passing for 240 yards and two touchdowns.