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Cowboys vs. Falcons: When Stats Lie

I've only watched a complete Atlanta Falcons game once this year, which was last week against the Chicago Bears. Watching that game, I came to some conclusions about the team from the Dirty South, but I wanted to get a fuller picture of them. So I started diving into their year-to-date stats and found this team an interesting study.

I think of the Falcons as a team that can score, and they can. They average just about the same amount of points per game as Dallas does, a little over 24 points a game. So I thought they would be one of the top offenses statistically in the league. Not the case. They are 18th in yards per game, 15th in passing, and 24th in rushing. With numbers like that, you would think they would struggle to score. The key - when these guys get into the redzone they convert. Plain and simple.

They have twice the number of ‘3 and out' drives as the Cowboys do on the year, so they aren't a team that is just moving the ball up and down the field on people. They will give you an opportunity to take control of the game, but their defense has held (more on them below), and then Atlanta will get a drive or two going, and they'll put seven on the board. Michael Turner's stats are way down this year (3.5 YPC); the Falcons are struggling to run the ball. But Turner has six TDs because when they get to the redzone they convert. Suddenly, they can run the ball. Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White are their main weapons in the passing game, and they utilize Gonzalez well in the redzone.

Here's a few more things the Falcons have going for them on offense. Matt Ryan has been sacked twice this year. Yeah, you read that right, twice. They do an excellent job in pass protection, and Ryan is very good about getting to his reads and getting the ball out of there. The Cowboys will have a real challenge in creating pressure on Ryan. Also, Atlanta is +5 in turnovers, so even though they have turned it over some, their defense is making up for it.

Speaking of their defense, it's very similar stats-wise to their offense. They're #24 overall in yards against per game. #21 in passing and #23 against the rush. You look at that and you'd think their defense stinks. But they don't, because they are #4 in points against. Look at that jump from the yardage stats to the scoring stats. They are making teams kick FGs or they are getting turnovers in the redzone. The game against the Bears was probably instructive, as Cutler slung it to the Falcons a couple of times. You can move the ball on this defense, but you better take advantage of the opportunities given, or else they'll make you pay in the end.

For a 4-1 record, the Falcons statistically look shaky. Or, another way of looking at it - they come through when it counts. They don't make mistakes at the important times in a football game. They sound like the opposite of us. We can move the ball up and down the field all day, but when it comes to scoring, well, we've spent the past few weeks documenting those woes. Penalties, dropped passes, questionable play-calling, if you can think of it and it's bad - we've probably done it. On defense, the Cowboys can play well for 55 minutes, then fall apart at the end. Just when they're needed most, they have played their worst. (In truth, our defense is also a better scoring defense than yards allowed defense, we have done well for the most part in defending the endzone.)

The Cowboys need to take a lesson from the Falcons, they're a team that closes the deal when they get opportunities.

They don't shoot themselves in the foot. We like to take a 12-guage shotgun to ours.