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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons: By the Numbers

John Williams

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Offense Abandons Run Game, Sputters in Second Half
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Week 10 will feature a matchup of two teams that were at the top of the NFC last season, the Dallas Cowboys (5-3) and the Atlanta Falcons (4-4), and the two teams seem to be trending in different directions.

The Dallas Cowboys, just a few weeks ago had everyone wondering if they were a legit Super Bowl contender after dropping to 2-3. Since dropping back to back games to the Los Angeles Rams and the Green Bay Packers, they've won three straight and made believers out of Cowboys Nation and national observers.

The Atlanta Falcons on the other hand started the season hot going 3-1 in their first four. Since then, they've dropped three of their last four to the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and Carolina Panthers. Their lone win was a five point win vs the New York Jets in a game they were trailing at half time.

This is a huge game in the NFC playoff race. A Dallas Cowboys win will position them well for a wild card spot while keeping them in sight of NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles. A Falcons win allows them to stay above .500 and keep a shot at one of the two NFC wild cards.

The Dallas Cowboys hold a 16-10 lead in the all-time series with their last victory being a 37-21 blow out win in 2009.

By the Numbers

-4

The Atlanta Falcons turnover differential, which is 25th in the NFL. Matt Ryan has been intercepted seven times in eight games, good for sixth most among quarterbacks who have played eight games or less.

0

Jason Garrett has zero wins over the Atlanta Falcons as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. One of the two losses to the Falcons coming in the Tony Romo less 2015, losing by 11. In 2012 they lost by six in a game where Romo threw for over 300 yards, but could only engineer one touchdown drive.

2

David Irving is second on the team in sacks (6), tackles by a defensive lineman (10), and passes defended (4) in only four games in 2017.

2.67

The yards per carry number on nine carries for Rod Smith if you take away his season long rush of 45 yards.

Dallas Cowboys Wishlist At San Francisco 49ers

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

3

Ezekiel Elliott is third in the NFL amongst running backs in yards from scrimmage. One of the players that is ahead of him, Kareem Hunt has played nine games. The other player, Todd Gurley picked up a ton of his yardage (215 total yards) during Sean Lee's absence in week four.

His suspension is a significant loss.

3.07

Alfred Morris' yards per carry on 13 carries when you take away his season long run of 76 yards.

4.375

Atlanta Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have combined to average 4.375 receptions per game on an average of six targets per game.

7

Seventh in the NFL is where Matt Ryan sits in passing yards. He also ranks ninth in completion percentage but is only 14th in passer rating at 92.8.

9

Dak Prescott's ranking with a 97.9 passer rating. That's ahead of notable quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Marcus Mariota, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Cam Newton, and Joe Flacco.

14

The amount of times that Matt Ryan has been sacked, which is good for ninth in the NFL among players who have played at least eight games. For perspective, the leader in this category is Drew Brees who has only been sacked eight times.

15.3

The Atlanta Falcons leading receiver is averaging 15.3 yards per reception. His 658 yards is nearly double that of the second leading receiver for the Falcons and ranks fourth in the NFL. Julio Jones has also been targeted 24 more times than Mohammed Sanu, who is second in targets.

16

Dak Prescott's 16 passing touchdowns are tied for fifth in the NFL with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. Prescott's 20 total touchdowns rank him third in the NFL behind Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson.

Cowboys Defense Better Or Worse Then Last Season?

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

17

The difference in points per game when Sean Lee is out of the lineup (35) and when Sean Lee is in the lineup (18). That even includes the 42 points they allowed vs the Denver Broncos in week two. Take that 42 point aberration away and the PPG average drops to 13.2 points per game.

21

DeMarcus Lawrence's 16 game sack pace, which has begun to come back down to earth after his tremendous start. At this pace, he'd be 1.5 sacks shy of tying Michael Strahan's single season sack record.

22

At roughly 22 points per game allowed, the Atlanta Falcons and the Dallas Cowboys are 14th and 15th in the NFL in points allowed per game.

27

Dallas' total sacks is third in the NFL behind the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers. The Atlanta Falcons have only registered 18 sacks this season, which ranks 18th in the league.

This should be a good matchup for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys offensive line.

31

With only two interceptions on the season, the Atlanta Falcons sit second to last in the National Football League, only to the Oakland Raiders who have yet to intercept a pass this season.

The Dallas Cowboys aren't much better, however, having only intercepted four passes, tying for 26th in the NFL with Carolina.

32

With only six turnovers forced in eight games, the Atlanta Falcons are tied for last in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Falcons also tie for last in turnovers/drive, while the Dallas Cowboys are 18th in the NFL in the same category.

40.2

The rate at which the Atlanta Falcons allow an opponent to score a touchdown or a field goal per drive. At 40.2% the Falcons represent the fifth worst rate in the NFL.

The Dallas Cowboys have the ninth worst number at 37.2%.

Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons: By the Numbers

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

75

Dez Bryant's 75 targets are 27 more than Jason Witten. Dez has been the fifth most targeted player in the NFL this season and is on pace for 150 targets.

Among players with more than 70 targets, only Amari Cooper and Alshon Jeffrey have a worse catch percentage than Dez's 50.7%. Again, of players with more than 70 targets, only slot receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Christian McCaffrey have fewer yards than Dez's 435 on the season.

It's clear that Dak works to get Dez involved regularly. The two just need to figure out a way to be more efficient.

80.33

The amount of rushing yards allowed per game when Sean Lee is playing. Compare that to the 164 yards rushing per game they allowed to the Los Angeles Rams and the Green Bay Packers.

81

Lead back Devonta Freeman averages 64 rushing yards and 17 receiving yards per game. His 81 yards from scrimmage per game is second on the team to Julio Jones' 82 yards from scrimmage per game.

94

The difference in rushing yards per game with Jonathan Cooper (183.6) instead of Chaz Green (89.33) starting at left guard.

The Other John Williams ✭ on Twitter

Weeks 1-3 Chaz starting at LG. Cowboys avg 89.33 yards rushing/game. Five games since w/ Cooper at LG, avg 183.6 rushing/g #CowboysNation

114.5

The amount of rushing yards that the Atlanta Falcons running backs have combined for through eight games. Coincidentally, they've also allowed 114.5 rushing yards to opponents.

✭ ✭ ✭

As always be on the look out for the Inside The Star Staff Picks tomorrow and of course...

Let's Go Cowboys!!!



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Coming into their week two match up against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys knew they could control the game with -- for the first time in years against Eli Manning -- their pass rush and strong secondary. Exposing a weak Giants offensive line went well beyond the Cowboys front four in this win though.

The Cowboys put Manning on the turf six times, with Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard relentlessly dialing up pressure. With the depth at linebacker to match up with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, along with Byron Jones' efforts on Odell Beckham Jr., it's no secret how the Cowboys defense forced Manning to dump the ball to his running back for 14 receptions.

Barkley's longest catch going for ten yards, this was a nearly flawless game for Rod Marinelli's defense to even the Cowboys record at 1-1. Expecting much of the same from their front seven against a poor Seahawks OL, now is a good time to look back at some of the pressure packages the Cowboys used in week two.

With a core of versatile linebackers they can trust, the Cowboys deployed Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, Damien Wilson, and Leighton Vander Esch all over the field to present the Giants with different looks. What made the Cowboys defensive play calling so successful was their LBs ability to cover ground quickly and create depth in coverage.

By doing so, the Giants could not take any chances down the field, their longest passing play going for 37 yards.

Blitz1

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On this play, even with the Giants looking to get the ball out quickly, the pressure from Smith and Wilson disrupt the timing. Sean Lee, the only Cowboys linebacker not sent after Manning on the play, ends up rallying from his starting WILL position to get in on the tackle. The Giants did not have the numbers up front to block Damien Wilson attacking from SAM, although more impressively, Smith was able to rip through a partial block from the right guard and get ahead of Wilson on their rush.

Blitz2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This next blitz shows off the Cowboys strong coverage downfield against the Giants. Cornerback Anthony Brown had his fingerprints all over this game in the back end for Dallas, but on this play comes out of the slot after Manning. Sensing the pressure at his feet, Manning steps up and actually puts himself in position to deliver a good ball, but is forced into yet another check down.

While linebacker blitzes are part of the "Richard effect" on the Cowboys defense, a well-timed slot blitz is a staple of Rod Marinelli's scheme. Using Brown a number of times in this role off the strong side, the Giants had no answers for the different pressures Dallas sent their way against Ereck Flowers at right tackle.

Blitz3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Even when Smith was picked up, as he was in the above play, the Cowboys capitalized on missed blocking assignments to get home with their front four. Taco Charlton the benefactor at RDE here, watch as Barkley rushes to keep Lee from having a straight run at his QB - allowing Charlton to do the same off the edge. Running untouched on the play, Charlton does a nice job taking a sharp angle to Manning and chasing him to the ground.

Blitz4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

As much as the Cowboys cornerbacks were a huge part of the team's confidence in sending pressure, their safeties also performed well in coverage. I wrote about the above play on Monday morning in my Sean's Scout that immediately follows every Cowboys game:

"That's a fantastic play by Jeff Heath to run across the field and tackle Evan Engram short of the line to gain on third down.

The Giants drive would continue with a fourth down conversion, but the Cowboys defense did eventually force a punt.

The Cowboys safeties were primarily called upon to play in run support in this game, a role Heath has struggled in previously. Showing off his strengths as an athletic and rangy defensive back on this play, Heath didn't get pushed up the field by Engram on his release, hunting him down after the catch in front of a fired up Dallas bench."

Heath picking up Engram is just one example of a Cowboys defender exceeding expectations in coverage. Smith was able to run with Beckham Jr., as was Charlton on separate plays later in the game.

Blitz6

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The only fitting way to conclude this film study is with a DeMarcus Lawrence sack. The Cowboys best individual defender, Lawrence had his way with Flowers as we all expected. Playing to another one of Tank's strengths here though, Lawrence rushes to the inside off a well-executed T/E stunt with Tyrone Crawford.

Also sending Brown at Manning again, the Giants pass pro leaves Lawrence unabated to the quarterback. Unlikely to escape the grasp of Lawrence on such a free rush, Manning does try to abort the pocket, but had Brown crashing down on him to collapse things.

Lawrence might not earn many easier sacks this season. None of the Cowboys starters on defense are more capable of using their own ability to get to the QB than Lawrence still, who is getting all the help he needs from Richard as his play caller.

Through just two games, the Cowboys commitment to forcing the issue on defense has potential to keep this team atop the NFC East as the offense comes into its own.

Depending on the development of their own passing game, this may have to be a defense that can win Dallas games. The only way to do so is with sacks and turnovers.

The latter is something Marinelli's defenses have always excelled at when at full strength (the Cowboys are expecting Randy Gregory back as early as this week and DT David Irving comes off suspension in week five). The former is something the Cowboys are creating with a deeply talented front seven, orchestrated by one of the best in the business.

The Cowboys will look to build on their nine sacks this season against the Seahawks on Sunday, a team that's allowed the most in the league at 12. Their timing to go after Russell Wilson will be tested more than it was against the Giants, with Richard also better positioned to aid the Cowboys against his former team.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys’ Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys' Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

In every game, whether it's a sporting event or a board game there is a path -- and sometimes more than one -- to victory. For the Dallas Cowboys, it's no different. As they get set to face a Seattle Seahawks team that is 0-2 for the first time since 2015, they'll have to win in several areas to bring home the W.

After starting out 0-2 in 2015, the Seahawks finished the season with a 10-6 record and won their wild card game over the Minnesota Vikings before falling in the divisional round to the Carolina Panthers.

The Seahawks are one of those teams that you can get down, but can never count out. If the Dallas Cowboys want to come out on top in their trip to the Pacific Northwest, they are going to have to come ready to play.

In particular, these are the things that the Dallas Cowboys have to achieve to be the victors on Sunday.

Limit Big Plays

The Seattle Seahawks are a very interesting offensive case study. They have one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but have invested very little in trying to protect their most important asset.

They rely on Russell Wilson's improvisational ability and penchant for big plays.

In 2017, Wilson had a quarterback rating of 100.9 on attempts greater than 20 yards down the field, per Pro Football Focus. He threw the ball "deep" 91 times, completing 31 passes for 1,134 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had the most deep attempts in the league last season and tied with Alex Smith with the most touchdowns on deep attempts. Wilson's yardage was nearly 200 yards more than the next best in the NFL on deep passing.

Wilson's going to take some deep shots. If you watched the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears, you noticed that even though Wilson was getting battered, it didn't deter him from taking shots deep down the field. Sometimes into unfavorable coverages.

The secondary has an advantage over the Seattle Seahawks group of wide receivers, but they'll have to stay disciplined and not allow the big pass plays to beat them.

In a game where they were being dominated for more than three quarters, the Seahawks were able to hang around and had a chance at the end because of their penchant for big plays.

Don't get beat deep.

Wrangling Russell Wilson

The Seattle Seahawks have allowed the most sacks in the league through two weeks. They've allowed six in each of their first two games this season. The Dallas Cowboys are going to have opportunities to sack Russell Wilson this week.

They have to take advantage.

Like Cam Newton in week one, Russell Wilson is a very elusive quarterback. Not only is he really good at making plays with his legs, he can be difficult to bring down. The Dallas Cowboys will have to work to keep Wilson in the pocket and finish when they get an opportunity to bring him down. He's not a physical presence like Newton is, but he's slippery and has some of that Tony Romo elusiveness to him.

If the potential tackler doesn't get Wilson down on first contact, it could lead to big plays both through the air and on the ground. Wilson averages 33.6 yards per game on the ground in his career and 5.7 yards per attempt. In order to get off the field on third down, they're going to have to prevent Wilson from using his legs to pick up third downs.

Establishing the Pass to Set Up the Run

At this point in the Dallas Cowboys offensive approach, everyone in the world knows what the Dallas Cowboys want to do on offense. They want to run the ball.

The Dallas Cowboys did a great job using this knowledge to their advantage on the first series of the game against the New York Giants.

On the first play of the game, they used a Run-Pass Option, with a clear out to the flat by Tight End Geoff Swaim, and found Allen Hurns on a slant to set up a second and short. Then after picking up that second and short with a run by Ezekiel Elliott, they used a straight play action out of a two running back, one tight end set, and hit Tavon Austin for the 64 yard touchdown.

Dak's willingness to throw the ball deep on a couple other occasions helped open up the run. The deep ball has to be a threat in order to back defenses off the line of scrimmage and do what you do best: Run the Ball. If they aren't going to back off, then you have to keep throwing it until you hit the deep ball enough that it forces them to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys were able to run the ball pretty effectively for the rest of the game, even if they didn't hit a lot of big plays. With the New York Giants interior defensive line, it was going to be tough sledding anyway. Getting things going through the air, helped out immensely.

The Seattle Seahawks are going to try to do what everyone does; put the ball in Dak Prescott's hands. If they're going to win on Sunday, it's going to be because Prescott had another efficient game throwing the ball.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

This game sets up really well for the Dallas Cowboys to improve their record to 2-1 and keep pace with the upper tier teams in the NFC. Every win matters, but these NFC games matter even a bit more. No game in the NFL is a cakewalk and this game is no different. If the Dallas Cowboys aren't able to do the above, it could be a long day for America's Team. 



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Game Notes

#SEAvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Wishlist Christmas Edition: Seahawks @ Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys found a way to get their first win last Sunday, defeating the New York Giants from start to finish, 20-13.

Now at 1-1 and locked in a three way tie for 1st place in the NFC East, Dallas is looking to string together a few victories and create some early separation. Seattle is now sitting at 0-2, and while that's typically a hole teams cannot climb out of in the NFL, the Seahawks will be desperately fighting to avoid an 0-3 start.

The Seahawks opened up as 3 point home favorites against the Cowboys, with the over/under set at 44.5 points.

Dallas Cowboys

After an abysmal season opener against Carolina, the Cowboys came out firing against the Giants on Sunday night. Dallas led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, and ended up holding on as the Giants made a late garbage-time run.

Dak Prescott looked as comfortable in the pocket as he as in weeks, finding Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass on the opening drive. Ezekiel Elliott scored another rushing touchdown, and the Cowboys defense was straight up dominant.

Now, the Cowboys defensive line has another chance to increase their sack total against the Seahawks' weak offensive line. And you know DeMarcus Lawrence is salivating.

Dallas improved to 1-1 straight up and against the spread, covering the 3 point spread set by Vegas a week ago. Both Cowboys games have gone under thus far as well.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks fell to 0-2 on Monday night with a tough road loss to the Chicago Bears. Khalil Mack dominated the Seahawks offensive line, dictating protections and keeping Russell Wilson uncomfortable all night long.

The Seahawks haven't been able to get much of a run game going this season, despite their insistence upon doing so. Russell Wilson is their offense, and if the Cowboys can pressure him and force him into hero-ball throws, they should have success on Sunday. After all, this was the Bears recipe for success on Monday night.

Seattle is 0-2 straight up and 0-1-1 against the spread this season.

Trends

  • The score total has gone under 5 straight Cowboys' games.
  • Dallas is 2-4 against the spread their last six times playing at Seattle.
  • Seattle is 1-5 against the spread their last six games at home.
  • The under has hit 4 of the last 5 Cowboys/Seahawks games.

Prediction

While I've thought hard about picking the under for the third straight week (I'm 2-0 doing so), I'll pick the actual game for you guys this time. I think the Cowboys will get this road win and improve to 2-1 behind dominant defensive line play and a strong running game.

This match up favors Dallas in multiple ways and I expect them to take advantage of Seattle's weak spots.

I like the Cowboys +3 a lot this Sunday.



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