Yin-Yang: the concept used to describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.
In sports, there is no winner without a loser.
The results of sports competitions are divided into events that went right and wrong from the perspective of one side.
From the Cowboys perspective
1. DeMarco Murray rushed 14 times for 70 yards.
2. The lack of the pass rush exposed the Cowboys defense.
3. Too many mistakes by good players.
4. Only one takeaway.
Observations into next week:
The Cowboys struggled against the Chiefs and the Chargers because they failed to win enough battles at the line of scrimmage. While Dallas is currently third in the NFL yielding a mere 77.8 rushing yards per game and has accumulated 14 sacks through four games, the pressure has been intermittent at best. Opposing quarterbacks are posting an outstanding 99.6 passer rating against this defense.
A healthy DeMarcus Ware (4.0 sacks), George Selvie (3.0 sacks), and Jason Hatcher (3.0) have played well. Unfortunately, injuries have robbed Dallas of the depth necessary to produce consistent pressure and fill the necessary holes along the line of scrimmage.
With Ware suffering through a back strain, San Diego doubled Hatcher for a great deal of the game and controlled him for all but a handful of plays. That left Selvie, who left the game in the second half with a suspected concussion.
The lack of pressure left Rivers with enough time to survey the field. He was able to diagnose the many mismatches that existed down the field. Carter, Claiborne, and Lee (once) were found in unfavorable match ups that led to big plays.
This iteration of the Dallas defense is dependent upon obtaining takeaways. The inability to secure the ball from the opposing offense multiple times will magnify the deficiencies existent on this defense.
Not surprisingly, the key for this defense to procure takeaways lies on the line of scrimmage. When the defensive line can consistently win their individual battles and either fill holes or apply pressure, the Cowboys defense functions at peak efficiency.
The 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys are currently playing with two starters on the defensive line, and the best one is currently limited secondary to injury. The starting strong side defensive end and the starting one technique were not on an NFL roster at the end of last season.
Where this severely impacts the defense is when the reserve linemen enter the game to relieve the starters. The equivalent of the 40th man on the roster is now pitted against a starting quality offensive lineman.
Only the most optimistic fans can believe that street free agents can consistently win individual battles against offensive linemen that are better or at worst of the same ilk. The symbiosis that exists between the front four, the linebackers, and the secondary is a fragile equilibrium. When one aspect of the system is not performing adequately, the negative impact cascades across all levels.
Blitzing only further exposes the weaknesses in the secondary. When a second year cornerback is struggling and a third year linebacker is having a bad game, the defense collapses at all levels. A talented, but inexperienced rookie safety also makes a defensive scheme reliant on great safety play look ineffective.
All of the defensive warts, however, are concealed when takeaways are obtained. The inconsistent nature of the defensive line limits the opportunities for takeaways. By producing intermittent pressure, good quarterbacks will be able to take advantage of what the Dallas defense yields.
With the secondary playing off to protect against the big play, short passes will be available throughout the game. While the Rams had to convert an average of third and eight, the Chargers faced third and six on average. The Chargers finished converting 41.7% of third down attempts, most in the second half (the Rams converted less than 8% of their third down attempts).
This defense is undersized and relies upon speed rather than power to disrupt opposing offenses. When the game is close, opposing offenses can wear them down with continued rushing attempts and short passes in the zones. Teams that find themselves down by enough that they are forced to attempt downfield passes, risk passing into the teeth of this defense. And require more time for an inconsistent pass rush to manage some pressure.
This defense is designed to play with a lead or make big plays. It is a philosophical shift towards big rewards that could lead to success. In the absence of producing takeaways in a close game, this defense plays at a disadvantage.
At this moment, however, the Cowboys are woefully undermanned at the most important defensive positions. Ratliff's return may offer a significant improvement, but the development of younger, relatively inexperienced players such as Carter, Nevis, Wilber, and Rayford throughout the season may provide the boost Dallas needs to make a playoff run.
In lieu of the injuries along the defensive line, however, the likelihood of Dallas winning more than eight games is diminished. In 2013, 8-8 may win the NFC East outright and tie breakers could help a team win with a 7-9 record. Though unimpressive, remember that the only team to win the division with a 9-7 record won the Super Bowl a few years ago.