Winners, losers from ‘Monday Night Football’ in Week 9

By Jesse Reed
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A huge mistake changed the outcome of the game.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys hosted the Tennessee Titans on “Monday Night Football” to cap off what was a wild weekend around the NFL.

It didn’t take a brand new Cowboy long to earn that star on his helmet as Dallas jumped out to an early lead. The lead looked like it might increase, but then a huge mistake changed the outcome of the game.

In the end, Tennessee overcame some early trials and pounded the ‘Boys, 28-14, in front of what turned out to be quite the silent crowd at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

These are the biggest winners and losers from “Monday Night Football” in Week 9.

 

Winner: Marcus Mariota made big plays in big moments

Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Third downs were no trouble for Mariota on Monday night. He just kept converting them, both with his arm and his legs. Overcoming some big-time pressure early in the game that produced two lost fumbles, he continued to stand tall in the pocket and deliver strikes.

His 36-yard laser beam to Darius Jennings in the second quarter on 3rd-and-10 set up his first touchdown pass — an 18-yard screen to Dion Lewis. Then in the third quarter, following Dak Prescott’s second turnover of the game, he put Tennessee up by a touchdown with a touchdown pass to Jonnu Smith.

Then with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter he capped off an eight-play, 64-yard drive with a beautiful nine-yard rushing score.

Game over.

 

Loser: Dak’s awareness is…not good

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The interception thrown in the first quarter was unacceptable. Dallas had a golden opportunity to at least go up by 10 points with the ball at the Tennessee six-yard line after a play by Ezekiel Elliott got them into scoring range following a Mariota fumble. Prescott tried to force-feed Amari Cooper, throwing into very tight double coverage. It was a rookie mistake, and 15 plays later the Titans tied the game up.

Prescott also lost a fumble due to his own lack of awareness. He was going to be sacked. There was no way around it. Yet instead of doing what we’ve seen other veterans do in that situation — just take the sack — he tried to wrestle with Jayon Brown, who stripped the ball right out of his hands. Seven plays later, the Titans went up by a touchdown.

In a game that was decided by 14 points, those two game-changing turnovers are particularly glaring.

 

Winner: Dion Lewis is RB1

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In a continuation of a trend that’s been developing since early in the season, Lewis was the workhorse for Tennessee’s offense Monday night.

The diminutive back rushed for 62 yards on 19 carries. And while the average wasn’t grand, he also pitched in another 60 yards and a touchdown on four receptions, bringing his total up to 122 yards on 23 touches.

That’s a big-time weapon for Mariota and Co. as the Titans attempt to become relevant again during the second half of the season.

Derrick Henry, on the other hand, managed just 32 total yards on eight touches.

 

Loser: Cole Beasley was invisible

Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves chases down Cole Beasley of the Dallas Cowboys

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s understandable that the Cowboys wanted to try and get their new weapon involved in the offense. And while Cooper did make an impact (more on that shortly), the team’s game plan abandoned its most reliable playmaker in the passing game.

Beasley, who had caught more than double the amount of passes compared to any other Dallas receiver coming into Week 9, didn’t even see a single target until the fourth quarter. He finished with just three catches for 16 yards as Dallas’ offense languished throughout the game.

 

Winner: Welcome to Dallas, Amari Cooper!

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It took just under nine minutes for Cooper to announce his presence as a playmaker for Dallas. Following a forced fumble by Demarcus Lawrence on Tennessee’s first offensive possession, Cooper capped off a short drive with a four-yard touchdown (watch here).

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Though he wasn’t able to help the ‘Boys win Monday night, Cooper did show he’s got some potential to become a star in Dallas. He would finish with five receptions for 38 yards and, of course, the touchdown.

 

Loser: Malcolm Butler absolutely roasted on TD

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With his team up by a touchdown late in the second quarter, high-priced cornerback Malcolm Butler had an embarrassing G.O.B moment.

Butler was responsible for covering Allen Hurns without any over-the-top support. He bit hard on a double move, thinking it was a slant. Hurns left him in the dust as he streaked toward the end zone, and Dak Prescott found him with ease for the way-too-easy touchdown to tie the game up right before halftime.

 

Winner: Kevin Byard changed the game

Kevin Byard has morphed into one of the best safeties in the game.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This young man brought some fire to the game, and he backed up his fiery attitude with some outstanding play.

Byard’s interception of Prescott in the first quarter changed the entire game. The play itself was a high degree of difficulty, but then what he did afterward — paying homage to Terrell Owens on Dallas’ star — seemed to supercharge Tennessee.

 

Loser: Brett Maher and Ryan Succop both failed hard

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Kickers have been missing some really bad ones this year. Monday night, both teams saw their placekickers fail in a big way during key moments.

Maher’s is more glaring. He stepped up to the plate, so to speak, after Dallas had marched down the field on the opening drive to set him up for a 38-yard attempt. It wasn’t close. He pushed it badly to the right, and right off the bat Dallas lost a key opportunity to score.

Succop’s turned out to be much less of a factor, thanks to Mariota and Co. But still, it’s pretty noteworthy that he was lined up for a 28-yard field goal right in the middle of the field and doinked it off the upright.