Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
En route to their 5-1 record over the last six games, the Cowboys have had to increasingly rely on backups and free agents brought in off the street - especially on defense. A look at the individual snapcounts shows just how much the Cowboys have had to lean on these players on Sunday.
The Cowboys defense yesterday played with only five of its opening-day starters. Seven players who took snaps on the Cowboys defense yesterday were not part of the 53-man roster at the start of the season.
344 of the 660 total defensive snaps went to players who started the season as backups or not on the Cowboys' roster. But that patchwork defense still held the Steelers to 24 points and delivered game-changing plays when they were most needed.
Here's an overview of who took snaps yesterday on defense. You may want to print out a copy of the latest team roster to make sure the names aren't simply made up, but are those of actual Dallas Cowboys players.
|Cowboys' Defensive Snapcounts vs Steelers
|Defensive Tackles||Defensive Ends||Outside Linebackers||Inside Linebackers||Cornerbacks||Safeties|
As you review all the different names in the table above, keep this in mind: a lot of the current backups are getting extended and meaningful NFL snaps right now, that they may not have gotten otherwiese. This should bode well for next season, on both defense and offense.
The situation on offense looks a lot better. In fact, outside of center Phil Costa, this is the line-up that the Cowboys wanted to start the season with:
|Cowboys' Offensive Snapcounts vs Steelers
And the benefit of of having most of the offensive personnel on the field and (relatively) healthy is palpable: over the last six games, in which the Cowboys have put together a 5-1 record, they have scored 177 points, third most in the league behind the Patriots (244) and Seahawks (210).
Stuff like that gets you a winning December record for the first time in a long while, and stuff like that keeps your playoff hopes alive.