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Sacks by Quarter: Where Do the Cowboys Need to Get More Pressure?

John Williams

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Will Benson Mayowa Lose His Starting Job This Season? 2
Tim Heitman - USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys struggled to get to the quarterback at times during the 2016 season. There were times they came up with the big play, like against Tampa Bay. And there were times, cough-Green Bay-cough, where they came up empty. Heading into this offseason, we knew that the Dallas Cowboys needed to do something about their pass rush.

In what quarter, though, do they need to improve in the sack department?

I looked at Pro Football Reference to see just where Dallas ranked in terms of sacks by quarter and I was a bit surprised by the numbers. Perhaps you will be too.

Dallas Pass Rush Can Improve in 2017

First Quarter Notes

  • Looking at the chart you'll see that in the first quarter, Dallas was abysmal at getting to the quarterback.
  • The league average for sacks in the first quarter was 6.9. Three is just horrendous.
  • 18 of the NFL's 32 teams had more than the 6.9 league average.
  • Something shocking to take away from this is that the Denver Broncos also had only three sacks in the first quarter of games. The difference is that Denver ranked 3rd in the NFL in total sacks, while Dallas ranked 13th. The Broncos made up for it elsewhere.
  • Dallas was the second worst team (to the New York Jets) in amount of yards given up per play in the first quarter. This led to shorter 3rd down distances, making it more difficult to think pass only.
  • With the keep away, ball-control style Dallas plays, the defense isn't on the field as much and sees fewer opportunities to rush the passer.

Second Quarter Notes

  • In the second quarter they were about average (10.03) with their 10 sacks.
  • I've always believed that if the Dallas Cowboys could just be average on defense, with their offense, they would be a contender.
  • While they were average at sacking the quarterback, they were well behind the league leader, the Carolina Panthers, and their 19 sacks.

Third Quarter Notes

  • The league average for sacks in the third quarter was 8.5. Dallas finished just above the league average here with 9.
  • As they did in the first quarter, the Arizona Cardinals led the league in third quarter sacks with 14.

Fourth Quarter Notes

  • Dallas' 18 sacks in the fourth quarter ranked second only to Denver's 21.
  • Dallas was well ahead of the league average of 11.09 sacks.
  • This success is a testament to the Cowboys' ability to get a lead. When a team has a lead, they will see more passing situations, which leads to more opportunities to create pressure and sacks.
Benson Mayowa

Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Benson Mayowa (93) sacks Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

So, what are we to make of all this?

As you can tell by the chart, the second and fourth quarters' league leader had many more sacks than the first and third quarters' league leader. Likely do to the frequency of passing that happens in the last two minutes of the half, with teams in hurry up mode.

Like most teams, the defense can rush the passer better when it has a sizable lead. The split second it takes to diagnose the play prevents a pass rusher from getting up field to the quarterback when they have to think run also. When teams have to pass, defensive coordinators and pass rushers can get after the quarterback without having to think about the run.

While the fourth quarter numbers look good, watching the games, we know that the team can be more consistent in creating pressure. They were good at coming up with the big play most of the time, but there were also times when the quarterback had forever to throw the ball.

Where Can the Cowboys Improve?

Arizona, who led the league in sacks in 2016, finished inside the top seven in the NFL in total sacks per quarter. They were consistently good regardless of the time of the game.

The Dallas Cowboys need to be better at getting to the quarterback. Whether it's the first quarter or the fourth quarter. If they can stop the run with greater consistency in the first three quarters, then they should get teams in longer third down situations. That will create more sack opportunities.

To become a championship defense, the Dallas Cowboys are going to have to be more consistent at getting to the quarterback. While the defensive line has a lot of question marks at this point, there is also a lot of promise.

Which defensive lineman will lead the team in sacks in 2017?



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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6 Comments
  • Derek Robinson

    Dallas needs to get more pressure up the middle. And Malik Collins should solve that problem.

    • John Williams

      True, they also need to get more consistent winning around the EDGE as well. Rod’s defense is designed to win with 4. The front four needs to win more.

      • Derek Robinson

        Well John, I think with D-Law Healthy and the addition of Taco, and the right combination of guys. We both can have our cake and eat it to. But my sleeper is Malik Collins.

        • John Williams

          I think Maliek is about the only sure thing on the DL at this point. He showed enough in the second half of 2016 for me to think he is destined for a Pro Bowl selection in 2017.

          I’m putting him at about 7 sacks. Love Maliek. He will make the job easier on everyone as well if continues to progress. I think he is the guy we’ve been wanting Tyrone Crawford to be on the inside.

          • Derek Robinson

            Hey, John. What about Charles Tapper is it?

          • John Williams

            Tapper is an unknown my friend.

            I love the potential and he certainly produced in college even when out of position, and as an OU fan, I’m pumped for him to get his opportunity, but he’s still an unknown. We have to see him play.

Dallas Cowboys

Next Day Rant: Too Many Letdown Games Under Jason Garrett

Jess Haynie

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Jason Garrett

Yesterday's 23-0 shutout in Indianapolis was one of the ugliest losses the Dallas Cowboys have had during Jason Garrett's tenure as head coach. Even though it probably won't cost them a playoff spot this year, let alone the NFC East title, it still reminds us of a painful history with Garrett's teams.

It takes me back to those 8-8 seasons during  Jason's first three years as head coach, when playoff hopes were dashed time and again by that inevitable letdown loss in December.

In 2011, the Cowboys were 8-6 with two games to go. The NFC East was all bunched together, with the division title and playoffs in reach. Dallas fell flat in a 20-7 home loss to the Eagles, then got walloped 31-14 in New York.

2012; Dallas is again 8-6. They lost at home, in overtime, to a Saints team that finished the year 7-9. It robbed them of the chance to make their Week 17 finale against Washington, the eventual division winner, a meaningful game.

2013; Dallas is 7-5 after Thanksgiving. They go 1-3 to finish the year, losing to two teams who finished the year with just 8 wins each.

This loss reminded me of those years, where the team just didn't look hungry or emotionally prepared to play despite having everything to play for. For as much as we've credited Jason Garrett for his work as a motivator and leader, these blemishes can't be ignored.

Colts

The Indianapolis Colts ran over the Dallas Cowboys in their 23-0 shutout victory (Week 15, 2018).

To be fair, yesterday's game was a recipe for a loss. The Cowboys were riding high on their five-game win streak. They knew that all they needed was one win in their next three games to clinch the NFC East.

Meanwhile, the Colts are part of a cluster of teams vying for the last Wild Card spot in the AFC. One loss could be the difference between playing football in January or preparing for the offseason.

One team was comfortable and maybe a little complacent, and the other was desperate. Throw in home field and having a better quarterback, and Indianapolis was rightly favored to win the game.

But that 3-point spread was one thing, and Dallas losing 23-0 is another.

Other than their upset win over New Orleans, the Cowboys haven't exactly been taking on the cream of the NFL crop during this win streak. Atlanta is 5-9 and the Eagles and Redskins are both just 7-7.

This Colts game was a chance for Dallas to show its mettle against a legitimate playoff contender. They'd failed throughout the year, losing to Carolina, Seattle, Houston, and Tennessee. But that was before they got hot and got Amari Cooper going.

This game needed to be different. But instead, it was very familiar.

Once again, Jason Garrett's Cowboys couldn't seal the deal. They got outclassed by a team which, by all appearances, is equal to them in talent.

Is the Cowboys 2018 Season Circling the Drain? 1

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Panic mode is silly when it comes to Dallas making the playoffs. If they can't get a win over the next two weeks with the Bucs and Giants on the schedule, they don't deserve to be there anyway.

The Cowboys should still win the NFC East regardless of what happened yesterday, but now the concern is if this team is really ready for the playoffs. Because a legit playoff team just made us look like hot garbage.

In the 2014 and 2016 seasons, we've taken solace in how close those games have been. If the Dez catch had been called correctly, or if Aaron Rodgers hadn't pulled that throw to Jared Cook out of his butt, the Cowboys might have very well advanced to the NFC Championship. They were contenders, and they took those games down to the wire.

But is this Dallas team a contender, or are they going to be the champions of a weak division? Will they compete in January?

That's the scary thought that yesterday's disaster leaves me with. On average, Jason Garrett has these guys motivated to play. Even when you question the X's and O's, the team almost always seems to play hard.

But they didn't in Indianapolis. They appeared to be resting on the laurels of their win streak and seemingly inevitable division title, and that's concerning with playoff games on the horizon.

Maybe this game was exactly the kind of wake-up call that this young roster needed. This isn't 2016 again; you're not rolling into the playoffs as a 13-win juggernaut.

A good coach uses a game like this to help his team learn and grow. It's actually great for them if it eradicates any potential complacency that had set in.

But that means Jason Garrett has to overcome his history. We've been let down too many times already.



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Nation, It’s Time To Take a Deep Breath

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Warts And All, Dak Prescott Shows Why It's Not So Easy To Move On

It's difficult to find the words after watching the Dallas Cowboys perform (if you can even call it that) the way they did against the Indianapolis Colts. The team's five-game winning streak came to an end in a disappointing showing in literally every phase of the game. The Cowboys walked away from this game with zero points on the board... zero. It's the first time this franchise is shutout since 2003.

And despite such a bad game, guess what? There's no need to panic. No, the Cowboys' season is not over. No, it's not the end of the world. Even if Cowboys Twitter tries to tell you otherwise. I'm here to ask you to take a deep breath...

The Dallas Cowboys are still one win away from being the 2018 NFC East Champions.

Now, granted, the loss was definitely painful and disappointing. It would've been great to watch Dallas get a statement win on the road against such a hot team. With the defense playing lights out all year, it was odd to watch them get picked apart by Andrew Luck and crushed by Marlon Mack. Tackling was disastrous as was the lack of pressure on the opposing quarterback.

On the other side of the ball, an already concerning unit managed to scare us even more. Play calling remains unbearable to watch, Dak Prescott continues to hold the ball for too long as he refuses to throw it away, and the offensive line's downfall continues With Zack Martin out, Connor Williams didn't really help much as the entire unit got consistently beat by the Colts' defense. Not even Amari Cooper, who had been owning the NFL since week 9, was able to put up a decent showing this time around.

Everything that could have gone wrong, went horribly wrong. And yet, the Cowboys control their own destiny.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Indianapolis 1

They don't depend on the outcomes of any third party as they did in 2017. Sitting at 8-6, abandoning all hope on this team makes no sense. In today's NFL, every football franchise is bound to have a bad game from time to time. That's why the Seattle Seahawks (who currently have a Wild Card spot) fell this week to the 4-10 San Francisco 49ers. That's also why the New England Patriots have suffered losses in back-to-back weeks. Even the Los Angeles Rams, the second seed in the NFC at the moment, were stunned by the Nick Foles-led Philadelphia Eagles!

It's a competitive league. It's as simple as that. If there's one thing we've learned this season is that once January football is on, any given team can beat any other on the Playoffs. The New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, and Los Angeles Chargers have all proven to be beatable teams.

The Cowboys falling on the road against a very legit threat in the AFC is far from the end of the season. It's high time we learn to avoid recency bias and stop making our final judgments on teams or players based on the last game we saw.

The Dallas Cowboys can still run the football. They have an offense capable of controlling the time of possession. And their defense is still a great unit with a quality pass rush and a great set of linebackers.

So, Cowboys Nation, I invite you to take a deep breath and repeat after me: "The Cowboys are still one win away from the NFC East title and are one pretty good football team." Seriously, the season is far from over.

On to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Nation, It’s Time To Take a Deep Breath" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Indianapolis

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Indianapolis

In a game we all hoped would clinch the NFC East division, the Dallas Cowboys instead got shut out by the Indianapolis Colts in one of their worst performances of the season. It was a deplorable performance in every aspect of the game and something we hope to never see again.

I knew sooner or later the Dallas Cowboys self-inflicted wounds would catch up to them, and that's exactly what happened against the Colts. They had far too many penalties and mental mistakes once again and it allowed Indianapolis to take over the game. The Cowboys beat themselves plain and simple.

Before I get on a rant about yesterday's game, I better stick to the topic at hand and share with you what I believe to be The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys. As always, please feel free to use the comment section located at the end of the article to share any of your thoughts and opinions on this topic.

The Good

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

In a game where just about everything went wrong for the Dallas Cowboys it sometimes a little difficult to find any kind of silver lining. That was the case this week after the Cowboys were shut out by the Indianapolis Colts. But, the good for me is that Dallas still holds their playoff fate in their hands, despite the embarrassing loss.

Any thoughts of sitting any of the starters for the Cowboys has now gone out the window. They absolutely have to play to win to close out the 2018 regular-season, because they failed to do what needed to be done against the Colts to secure the NFC East division title. Luckily though, it didn't close the door on their playoff aspirations.

With the Buccaneers and Giants left remaining on their schedule, the Cowboys will have to find some way to get back to their winning ways. Hopefully this was just the slap in the face they needed in order to put things in perspective. They simply can't afford another showing like they had against Indianapolis at any point moving forward.

The Bad

Xavier Su'a-flio

Dallas Cowboys LG Xavier Su'a-flio

I knew exactly what I was going to put in the section as soon as it happened during the game. The bad this week for the Dallas Cowboys against the Indianapolis Colts for me was without a doubt their banged up, patched together offensive line.

The Cowboys were forced to go with a patchwork offensive line for the majority of the game against the Colts yesterday afternoon after Xavier Su'a-flio left the game after an eye injury, forcing the Cowboys to go with their third string offensive guard Adam Redmond. Su'a-flio immediately had to leave the stadium to have his eye examined by an optometrist, suggesting that it was a pretty significant injury.

Unfortunately, another injury on the OL for the Cowboys leaves them severely thin depth wise at the most inopportune time. Hopefully a week of rest has done Zack Martin's injured knee some good and he will be able to return to the lineup as soon as possible. That would allow Connor Williams to move back to LG and hopefully solidify the offensive line once again.

The Ugly

Marlon Mack, Chidobe Awuzie

Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack

Maybe I underestimated the Indianapolis Colts offense or maybe I just overrated the Dallas Cowboys defense, but something was clearly off yesterday afternoon on the defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys. After being so good nearly all season, they were just plain ugly against Indianapolis.

The Cowboys defense didn't have an answer for the Colts offense, especially in the running game. Marlon Mack, a solid runner although not spectacular, completely gashed the Cowboys usually stout run defense. He ran for 139 rushing yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns, something that's been unheard of against Dallas' run D.

I was honestly completely shocked he had so much success. There were far too many missed tackles and blown assignments to my liking and I believe the coaching staff will make sure to focus on clearing that up moving forward. This team can't afford to let opposing offenses control the clock with their rushing attack. That's the Cowboys MO.

What's your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against Indianapolis?



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