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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.

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

Let's Go Cowboys!!!


I didn't start out as a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quickly as I could. I grew up a Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers and followed him to the Chiefs, until we moved to Texas. I've now been a Fan of the Boys since the Dark Days of the Post-Aikman, Pre-Romo era of abysmal quarterback play, now relishing in more than a decade of franchise quarterbacking for America's Team.

Game Notes

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt the Dallas Cowboys passing game faltered in 2017. Though never expected to throw for many yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys failed to maximize their attempts down the stretch. The passing game was simply inefficient and ineffective.

One reason the passing game took a step back was the disappearance of slot receiver Cole Beasley. Whether you blame defenses adjusting their coverages on third downs towards Beasley, Beasley growing another year older, or quarterback Dak Prescott, Beasley simply didn't look like the same player in 2017.

In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected a wide out who many anticipate could replace Beasley, in time. Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer rarely got chances to make an impact on offense this season, designated as the return man for much of the year. With Cole Beasley out for the season finale, however, Switzer got his chance to make a name for himself.

While the numbers were far from gaudy, Ryan Switzer showed some things we should be excited about for the future.

dalvsphi2018 switzer - Streamable

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Ryan Switzer's first target came on a third down -- something Cowboys Nation should get used to heading into 2018. Switzer is lined up inside in trips on the near-side of the formation. The Eagles show man coverage pre-snap, and with just one safety over top and the other rotated down on top of Jason Witten, it is clear to Dak Prescott they plan to bring some pressure.

As soon as Prescott gets the snap, his eyes go to Ryan Switzer.

The cornerback plays Switzer with inside leverage, refusing to be beat with a hot slant route. Switzer instead keeps the defender on his back hip and creates separation with an out-breaking route.

Prescott delivers the ball towards the sideline where the defender can't catch up to it, and Switzer comes away with the first down.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 2 - Streamable

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Later in the game, we once again see Ryan Switzer targeted from this inside-alignment.

Switzer is a pretty prototypical slot receiver, and if used correctly he should win in man coverage situations often. The cornerback attempts to maintain inside leverage on Switzer and get physical at the top of his route. Ryan Switzer does a nice job of fighting through that physicality and crossing the defender's face over the middle. He flashes open pretty quickly, and Prescott delivers a strike for the completion.

If Switzer can create this type of separation often, I see no reason why he shouldn't be a focus of the offense in 2018.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 3 - Streamable

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Switzer's third target is actually an incompletion, but it is worth studying, regardless. Switzer is in the slot on the far side and the Cowboys once again are in trips alignment. The cornerback over Switzer is in man coverage, but gives him room to breathe at the line of scrimmage.

Switzer exploits the cornerback -- who is cheating to the inside -- with his footwork and route running. He gets to the sticks, breaks to the outside, and creates enough separation for a first-down completion. Prescott delivers the ball a bit late and behind Switzer, causing an incompletion instead.

I'd still like to see Switzer adjust to the ball and make this catch, but I put more of the blame for this play on Prescott.

With a full offseason to work within the offensive system, as well as to develop chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott, Ryan Switzer will prove to be an important piece to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.


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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might've lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season's finally over. It wasn't easy, but we're still here. Here's to 2018. Let's hope it's a good one for our Cowboys. Here's this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

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Coaching Staff Didn't Help Its Cause

It's more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett's job was not an issue. Now, Jerry's even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it's true.

While I don't think we'll see a new head coach anytime soon, I'd dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would've meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a "real action" game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC's #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can't help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers' first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones - Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I'd be surprised if the Cowboys don't keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he'll be paid $790,000 next year which isn't at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn't been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR - Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he's used more next season.

At the end of the day, he's a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on "gadget plays" or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott's best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it's too optimistic to expect something like that.

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Dan Bailey's Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's 2017 season hasn't been easy at all. We've seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys' season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it's all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan "Automatic" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we're not sure about calling him "Automatic" anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let's hope that's the case.

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For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports... Maybe next year. We're on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Starters Produce Uninspiring Week 17 Win

Playing more than enough of their starters in hopes of ending this 2017 season on a high note at the Eagles, the Cowboys produced a lackluster 6-0 win that will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of Cowboys Nation - despite it being a victory.

The win put the Cowboys at 9-7 on the season, and it is a shame they had nothing to play for in this regular season finale. Once again in week 17, it was the offense holding back another fantastic performance by Rod Marinelli's defense.

We'll discuss both units in this final 2017 Dallas Cowboys version of Sean's Scout.

  • You have to love the way Chidobe Awuzie was able to bring physicality to a young Cowboys secondary that had another solid game. 

There were times earlier in this season when it seemed the Cowboys' second-round pick would have a lost season due to multiple hamstring injuries, but Awuzie quickly tuned around his rookie campaign by coming in and playing with exceptional technique and awareness.

With enough length to turn and run, Awuzie thrived in this zone scheme by keeping everything in front of him, as he did on his interception of Nick Foles. With Dallas in Cover 2 on the play, Chidobe read Foles' eyes the whole time to the boundary and was in position to cut off the pass.

This is a topic we'll now have much more time to discuss, and it is a hollowing one considering it was truly the Cowboys offense that kept them from the playoffs this season. The need for new talent at WR is clear, but the need for a target that better suits Prescott's strengths going into year three is even more important.

His pass catchers, along with inconsistencies in pass protection, were the main reasons Prescott struggled in 2017, although in this game it seemed like the only time he was affected in the pocket was when forcing the ball late to Bryant.

Coming from a spread system in college, Prescott simply does not have experience throwing his receivers open -- relying on route combinations and separation ability to hit open targets. Dez Bryant hasn't been that type of player through his career, and certainly isn't now that he's lost a step.

  • 9 wins for a team unlike their usual selves up front offensively is still pretty impressive. 

The Cowboys got nearly no impact from any of their free agent signings this season, which is why the depth of the team held them back once again. Veteran Byron Bell was brought in as a backup swing tackle, but he is simply not a scheme fit at tackle here.

Dak Prescott should not have been playing with Bell as his LT, and eventually Joe Looney at LG after Jonathan Cooper went down.

Bell lacks the quick-twitch ability and athleticism needed to be successful on every down, and it showed as he was again beaten by both speed and power against the Eagles.

The Cowboys have proven their acumen drafting young OL talent that performs at a high level early and often. So, instead of relying on more free agents, like Bell and Looney, drafting talent up front to spark the running game and give Prescott adequate protection is likely the best answer.

  • Ryan Switzer's ability to separate late in the down really stood out, as he finally got his chance at WR without Cole Beasley

Growing calls for more of Ryan Switzer on offense will surely take root this offseason after he caught four passes for 32 yards in the absence of Cole Beasley yesterday. More of a one-speed player at North Carolina, Switzer's spacial awareness and smoothness in giving Prescott somewhere to throw the ball as plays developed was really impressive.

In order to be a great team at the NFL Draft, you have to accurately scout your own roster. It will be fascinating to see just how the Cowboys feel about their current pass catchers, with not only Ryan Switzer but the likes of Lance Lenoir and practice squad addition K.D. Cannon in the fold as well.

  • The Cowboys found themselves a valuable addition to their rotation at DT with Datone Jones. 

Jones was able to push the pocket throughout this game in Philadelphia, and has done so consistently since getting here, at both the 1T and 3T positions. Using his hands to generate power as a down-the-line player, Jones plays with great pad level. That allows him to shoot gaps when needed, or anchor the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys have not prioritized adding premier talent at DT in recent years, and may forego it again this offseason as well. The Cowboys expect Maliek Collins to contribute further with another season at 1T and David Irving back at 3T.

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To everybody who made this 2017 season at Inside The Star as enjoyable as ever, I would like to thank the readers of Sean's Scout. All this aspiring scout can ask for is to enhance the fan experience through both wins and losses, and your feedback on this series helped me to confidently do just that.

As we prepare for an even better 2018, Sean's Scout won't be going anywhere! I'm shifting my full attention towards the NFL Draft, looking for prospects that could help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs again next season.

Thank you for another roller-coaster ride we call football season, Cowboys Nation. Truly the best fans anywhere.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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