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Dallas Cowboys vs Detroit Lions: Inside The Numbers for Week 4

John Williams

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Cowboys Defense is Ready to Win Now, Time for Offense to Prove the Same

The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys come into week four with identical 1-2 records to start the season and are looking up in their respective divisions. The Cowboys are coming off of a disheartening loss to the Seattle Seahawks, 24-13, while the Detroit Lions got a big win at home against the New England Patriots, 26-10.

If these two teams results from week three could be represented as a romantic comedy, the Detroit Lions are the guy who got the girl at the end of the movie. America's Team, however, is heading back to their studio apartment rejected and dejected. If this were Bridget Jones' Diary, the Dallas Cowboys would be Hugh Grant and the Detroit Lions Colin Firth.

Basically, the two teams are in very different places emotionally as we head into week four. The Lions are riding high with a ton of confidence after beating the Patriots by more than two touchdowns. The Dallas Cowboys are down in the dumps, failing take advantage of a Seahawks team that was struggling itself.

This matchup could certainly send one team toward a magical ending in 2018, or it could cement 2018 as a looking to the future type of season.

The Detroit Lions though have a bit more hope, as they're starting a new era with a new head coach in former New England Patriots Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia. The Dallas Cowboys on the other hand are in the eighth season of the Jason Garrett era. Unlike Patricia, Garrett seems to be coaching for his job in 2018 and the way this week's matchup turns out is going to go along way toward Garrett's future with the Dallas Cowboys. Many in Cowboys Nation are ready to move on.

The History

The Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions have faced off 27 times in their history with the Dallas Cowboys holding a 15-12 edge in the all-time series. Under Jason Garrett, the Dallas Cowboys are 3-2, against Detroit, including the Wild Card playoff win in January of 2015.

Only once in the series since Garrett took over in 2010, has one of the teams failed to score at least 20 points. The Dallas Cowboys are averaging 32.6 points per game in the last five matchups, including a win in 2016 where they scored 42 points. The Detroit Lions are averaging 25 points per game in that same time span.

That game was much closer at half than the final score indicated with Detroit leading 21-14 in the second quarter before the Dallas Cowboys went on to score the final 28 points for the win.

In that game, Dak Prescott was 15 of 20 for 212 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden combined for 129 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns, both by Elliott.

Reviewing the Stats

Dallas Cowboys vs Detroit Lions: Inside The Numbers for Week 4 2

Per Pro Football Focus

Notes

  • You don't have to look long at the chart above to notice that the Detroit Lions, statistically, are a better offense than the Dallas Cowboys. Between Matthew Stafford and their trio of wide receivers, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay, the Detroit Lions boast a very strong passing attack.
  • Quarterback Matthew Stafford is a better passer than Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott and as such, the Lions passing offense is going to put up better numbers than the Cowboys.
  • If there's an area where the Cowboys can make their mark this week it's in the red zone where the Detroit Lions rank 32nd in red zone scoring. Dallas will have to look out for the big plays that Detroit can muster, but if they can prevent the Lions from hitting any big plays, they should be able to hang around and could win the game.
  • Golden Tate is the player to watch in the Detroit Lions passing game. He's one of the best wide receivers in the NFL when operating out of the slot, which is where he's ran 71% of his routes. From the slot, Golden Tate has 21.5% of the time and has averaged 2 yards per route run through three games this season, ranking fifth in the NFL. Anthony Brown will have quite a challenge on his hands come Sunday.
  • The Dallas Cowboys are one of only two teams in the NFL who haven't intercepted a pass in the first three games of 2018. The other team is the San Francisco 49ers. Kris Richard's group has a chance to get their first one of the season this week as Stafford's thrown the most interceptions in the league in 2018.
  • The Lions at 23.3 points per game have scored nearly 10 more points per game than the Dallas Cowboys 13.7 points per game.
  • Where the Dallas Cowboys have to take advantage of the Detroit Lions this week is in the running game. The Lions have allowed the most rushing yards per game this season. They've allowed 149.3 yards per game. The Dallas Cowboys have rushed for the 7th most yards this season and have the highest yards per attempt. Ezekiel Elliott is the NFL's leading rusher so far and he's only receiving 16 carries a game.
  • If the Dallas Cowboys can keep the game within a score, they'll have a chance to put up some big numbers on the ground.
  • One of the other key matchups will be the Dallas pass rush against the Lions passing offense. The Lions have allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL this season; only one a game.

More Notes

  • As I noted previously, Golden Tate ranks fifth in the NFL in yards per route run. Cole Beasley is ninth in that category. Tate ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards from the slot and Cole is 12th.
  • Matthew Stafford has thrown six touchdowns and five interceptions on the season. His 6.6 yards per attempt is only a few spots better than Dak Prescott's 5.7.
  • Per Pro Football Focus, Stafford has only thrown a pass further than 20 yards down the field on 10.4% of his attempts. Dak Prescott has only thrown deep on 5.7% of his throws, which is down from his 2017 number that was 8.8%.
  • Stafford's quarterback rating of 76.7 ranks ninth in the NFL in passer rating while under pressure.
  • In total drop backs not under pressure, Matthew Stafford ranks second. Could be a tough task getting to him this week.
  • DeMarcus Lawrence is 20th in the NFL with 2.5 sacks. Detroit has two players with three sacks a piece in Linebackers Devon Kennard and Eli Harold.
  • Rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch leads the Dallas Cowboys in tackles in 2018 and hasn't missed a tackle yet, according to Pro Football Focus.

Overview

Just in looking at the statistics from the first three weeks of the season, it's easy to see that the defense is going to be tested. In particular the secondary. The Lions don't give up a lot of pressure to Stafford and he hasn't been put on the ground much this season and so the secondary is going to be under siege.

The Cowboys secondary has to play well this week to come away with a victory. The three-headed monster of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay is going to be tough to deal with.

Week four is going to be a heartbreaker for one team. Hopefully it's your Dallas Cowboys that are riding on high at the end of this story.



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1 Comment
  • Ervinlang318

    Can We Please for the Love of Red Head Jesus Stop
    Accepting the ball first to start the game. Any player of Madden knows
    you always want the Ball to start the Second Half for Momentum sake.

Game Notes

Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Less Is More For Sean Lee And Cowboys' LBs?

The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.

We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.

Dallas Cowboys

  • TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
  • DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
  • WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
  • OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
  • DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable

Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.

Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving.  Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.

Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.

Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.

While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.

Indianapolis Colts

  • G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
  • LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
  • S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
  • WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
  • TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
  • S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable

The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.

Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.

Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.

Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.



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Game Notes

Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

Sean Martin

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Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.

The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.

David Moore on Twitter

Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.

Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.

While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.

Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.

The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.

Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.

The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.

Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.

Tell us what you think about "Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts" 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

#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone

Kevin Brady

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Fantasy Football - Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings - Week 2 2
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.

This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.

In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.

There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.

For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.

Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.

Bob Sturm on Twitter

I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.

Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.

Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.



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