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What we think: Lions game is crucial to a couple of Cowboys coaches
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It’s only the fourth week of the NFL season. That is way to early for us to be talking about coaches losing their jobs. Right?Uh Womens Customized Dallas Cowboys Jerseys , maybe not. The Dallas Cowboys are stuck in a rut offensively. They are only one game behind the co-leaders in the NFC East, but faith in the team has plummeted. A crucial part of this is how we have been told since the end of last season how the team was making some big changes to the offensive side of things to return to the productivity we saw just a couple of years ago. So far, those promises have not just been empty, the level of failure has dropped Dallas to the bottom of the NFL stats. And belief is growing that the reason for that failure was that the changes did not reach high enough. While a lot of new faces were brought in on the coaching staff, head coach Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan retained their jobs, and it seems obvious that they must have had a lot of input to the changes in the roster as well. Now the Cowboys are scrambling to try and eke out another win to stop the bleeding. But a narrow win in a low scoring game is not likely to change things much. The big issue on a team where the defense is clearly playing better overall is the paltry offensive production, particularly on the scoreboard. So what will it take to start changing things?It is going to take points. Points off touchdowns, to be specific. Dallas has only scored four of those in the first three games, two each throwing and running. One of those “passing” scores came off a shovel pass, which is really just a running play where the handoff cannot be ruled a fumble. And total yardage is just as bad. When you are in the bottom five in almost every offensive category, well, you wind up looking to place blame. And the crosshairs are on Garrett and Linehan, especially the offensive coordinator. What will it take in the game against the Detroit Lions to turn down the heat a few degrees? That is really all they can do in one game, because Detroit is 26th in the NFL in points allowed, giving up 29.3 per game. Whatever they do this week will not have a large impact unless they both score near or over that average and then show it was not an aberration by repeating it. So the benchmark looks pretty clear. The Cowboys need to score at least three TDs with some field goals tacked on, or get to four. This appears to be a tall order. Sure, Linehan and Dak Prescott are both talking about taking more shots and having some more “wrinkles”, but you know the various sayings about talk and backing it up. Further complicating things is the way the Lions defense is performing so far this year. They are the best in the league at limiting passing attacks - and dead last in stopping the run. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have shown themselves to be very vulnerable so far to stacked boxes, with a glaring inability to hurt the opponent through the air. The loss to the Seattle Seahawks showed some signs of the running game coming around, but there still was precious little evidence that they could go over the top or convert on third down. Ezekiel Elliott may be hitting his stride as a runner. The obvious problem is that a one-dimensional team is easy to stop by even poor defenses when there is virtually no support form the aerial game.Both teams have a blueprint for how to attack the other, with Detroit looking to have an advantage. Just disregard the pass until Dallas does something there and go all-in on bottling up the ground game. So it comes back to Prescott and the passing game. Having Dak use his legs at times can also help, but the risks involved there make that something that can only be used in spots, not a viable approach from opening kickoff to final whistle. While the question of whether coaching or player execution is the biggest culprit remains open, the current mood of the media and fanbase alike is to put the blame on Linehan. Both his game plan and play calls have been heavily criticized.Linehan simply has to find a way to move the ball through the air. That is for both his sake and Garrett’s. It also means he has to figure out how to help Prescott and the so-far lackluster receiving corps succeed. The evidence from around the league is that it can be done. The Thursday night game showcased how the Los Angeles Rams are doing it. The Kansas City Chiefs certainly have figured it out so far. And those are just the most obvious examples. It’s not like there are any secret plays or something that lead to success offensively. All you have to do is look at the video of the successful passing offenses and see what they run. Those kinds of plays are in the Dallas playbook, because every now and then we see them run one, as they did early in the game against the New York Giants when they scored on their single long play of the season. They have also put together a handful of long drives with multiple first downs. The issue is that they do those things with no regularity. Quarterback performance has certainly been a problem so far, but even there www.cowboyscheapauthenticstore.com , the onus is at least partly, if not mostly, on the OC. He has to grasp what his passer is doing, and find ways to help him. Just doing the same thing over and over without change is by definition a bit insane. Again, we are hearing promises, but now we have to see delivery. Even if the Cowboys manage a narrow win in a low scoring game, the pressure is not going to lessen appreciably. That is simply not a sustainable formula in the NFL where there are so many high-scoring offenses out there. The defense can help, but it is increasingly hard for it to carry a team in a league that keeps tweaking the rules to favor the offense. Just look at how the latest changes to roughing the passer calls has punished pass rushers for plays that just last season would have been highlights. This isn’t just one writer’s view, either. Our Michael Sisemore had his own take on this, which comes to a very similar conclusion:If the Cowboys don’t get a win against the Lions with a solid offensive performance, the doubts and calls for new blood at the top of the coaching staff are just going to grow. Garrett is very involved in coming up with the game plan and scripting the first part of the game, so he is handcuffed to Linehan. This is an opportunity to show that they can figure things out. They have to take advantage of it, or pay the price. It’s pretty much just that simple.Cowboys vs. Texans: Can Cowboys capitalize on matchup advantages at Houston? Last week, the Cowboys offense finally found a little rhythm in their 400+ yard performance thanks to Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. More importantly, it got the Cowboys to a record of 2-2, and though this week’s opponent is 1-3 it feels like they should be much better. This Texans offense averages over 400 yards per week, mostly by the arm of Deshaun Watson and his fantastic array of receivers. Houston’s problem has been their defense, which is routinely allowing opponents to match those offensive numbers. Statistically speaking, this Sunday night’s Cowboys-Texans game will feature very few clear strength-versus-weakness matchups. In fact, more often than not we may see lots of strengths-on-strengths and weakness-on-weakness. The question will be if the Cowboys can find a little offensive consistency on the road where they are 0-2. So far, they average 23.5 points at home but only 10.5 in their away games.Can the Cowboys take advantage of Texans’ bad red zone defense?78.6% of red zone attempts vs. Houston’s defense end in scoresThat’s right, the Texans defense is allowing conversions by the bunches in the red zone this season. On 14 attempts, opponents have scored 11 times and the Texans haven’t played a single team ranked higher than 15th in total offense. Houston is 29th with an average of 3.5 red zone trips allowed per game and 2.8 trips are ending in touchdowns. Even the Giants offense went 4-for-4 on Houston.40% is the red zone conversion rate for the Cowboys offenseThe Cowboys have just 10 trips to the red zone, only five teams have less and two with fewer points scored. Four of the six touchdowns the Cowboys have came in the red zone but the team has eight field goals. It doesn’t help when you also have penalties or the quarterback takes unnecessary sacks. The Cowboys have a real opportunity here but have to stay out of their own way.Can Cowboys defense limit the Texans explosiveness?54% of explosive plays allowed by Cowboys came in last two gamesOver the last two games, the Cowboys have allowed seven plays of 20+ yards or more, two of them were over 40+ yards. They are the third-best defense in the league at limiting these plays with only 13 on the season. The seven in the last two games make up 54% of the season total. 11 of the 13 have come on big passes courtesy of busted coverage by defensive backs. Overall, only three defenses allow fewer yards per play than the Cowboys at 4.9 yards on average. The Cowboys are getting killed a lot on third downs, where they allow the seventh-worst conversion rate of 45%. 48% is the completion percentage of Texans 20+ yard pass attempts (second in NFL)Overall Dallas Cowboys T-Shirt , of Deshaun Watson’s 92 completions, 19 passes have gone for 20+ yards, that’s 21% of the Texans total offense. Their 20 explosive plays are tied for fourth-most in the NFL, 70% of their passing gains are split between three receivers. That’s 815 yards between DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and burner Keke Coutee. Much like the Lions, the Texans present a difficult matchup for the Cowboys secondary.The only saving grace is that Houston’s offense is only converting 40% on third down and is sixth-worst in red zone efficiency at 44%.Which is stronger - Cowboys ability to run or Texans ability to stop the run?17% of rushing attempts against Houston result in first downsOut of the 109 attempts against the Texans run defense, they have only allowed 19 rushing first downs, tied for the eighth-fewest with Washington. They have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher and have allowed only one rushing touchdown. The Texans are only allowing 94.2 yards per game (ninth best). Running backs average 3.5 yards per carry, which ranks Houston fourth in the league, it will be the best run defense the Cowboys have faced.28% of Cowboys rushing attempts have resulted in first downsNo disrespect intended but the Texans haven’t faced the league’s leading rusher or a Top-10 rushing team for that matter. Though Saquon Barkley only had 17 attempts for 82 yards, he averaged 4.8 yards against Houston. The Cowboys have 30 rushing first downs on just 101 attempts, Ezekiel Elliott accounts for 67% of them. Zeke’s the only running back averaging over 100+ yards per game and his 5.8 yards per carry is a league best. Dallas is also getting an average of 3.9 yards per rush before contact. Can Cowboys’ pass rush wreck the Texans plan on offense?11.1% of passing attempts against Cowboys defense ends with a sackThe Cowboys defense ranks third in sacks with 14 on just 126 pass attempts (fifth-fewest). Just about every nine pass attempts, the Cowboys defense is sacking the opposing quarterback. They are also registering pressures every three pass attempts with 42 on the season. The only issue is that nine of Dallas’ sacks have come at home and they average only 2.5 sacks per game on the road. Both Maliek Collins and David Irving will not be making the trip to Houston, which is sort of surprising as they were both thought to be on the track to play. That means that Tyrone Crawford, Antwaun Woods, Daniel Ross, and Caraun Reid will have to step up.11.5% of Deshaun Watson’s pass attempts have ended with him being sackedWatson has attempted 148 passes (13th-most) but has been sacked 17 times, which is second-most in the league. So, just about every nine attempts, Watson is taken down, perfect timing for the Cowboys.Now, Texans analysts will say similar things as analysts have about Dak Prescott: Watson needs to stop holding the ball! The Texans quarterback is one of just two to have more time per throw than Prescott with 3.16 seconds per Next Gen. Sacks haven’t been the only problem as Watson has been hit a league-high 43 times, that’s a hit for every six snaps. This is the clearest advantage that Cowboys are going to get.The Cowboys and Texans rivalry is typically more one-sided as the Houston crowd will be extremely fired up for this one. A lot of the issues the Cowboys have been struggling with on offense are areas to attack on this Houston defense. The same can be said the other way as well. In the NFL, it’s all about who can take advantage of the matchups, that makes this game a real toss-up.
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