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Quick Take: Bears @ Cowboys By The Numbers

A quick look at the Cowboys' loss to the Bears, by the numbers:

1: The Cowboys sacked Jay Cutler on the Bear's first offensive play, seemingly a glorious portent of the pressure that he was to be subjected to all afternoon. Instead, it ended up being Dallas' only sack as Cutler, operating behind a banged-up Bears O-line (they lost starting tackle Chris Williams on the first series of the game), steadily gained confidence as the game wore on. In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were able to put only negligible pressure on Cutler; he responded by making numerous plays in the passing game

3: The number of Cowboys' turnovers. Coincidentally, this is also the turnover margin for the game. As The Ticket's Bob Sturm is always pointing out in his masterful "Live from Lewisville" blog, its very difficult to win in the NFL with a negative turnover differential, and nearly impossible when its at -3. Going in to the game, I assumed that it would be Cutler and the Bears who would have trouble with ball security. Instead, the Bears defense made plays; they forced three changes of possession with pressure, big hits, or ball awareness (are you watching, Cowboys secondary?).

9: The Bears offense was able to convert only one of eleven third down attempts, giving them a 9% conversion rate. That is, frankly, an awesome number, a championship number. Unfortunately, Wade Phillips' defense has proven on several occasions that they are capable of being a break but don't bend bunch. Indeed, the Bears couldn't sustain any drives--but they didn't need to: their scoring drives averaged less than 5 plays per drive.

 

35: Because they were playing a Tampa-2 defense, it was of paramount import that the Cowboys be able to run effectively. This is because, in the Tampa-2, the middle linebacker has coverage responsibilities in the deep middle of the field. If Brian Urlacher is concerned enough about the running game that he has to creep up and/ or honor play action, then that deep middle opens up for passes to Witten and slot receivers. Instead, Dallas managed to collect a grand total of 36 yards on 20 carries, a (drum roll, please) whopping 1.8 yards per carry.

56: The play of the game, in my estimation, happened during the Bears' first possession of the second quarter, at the end of a stretch in which the Cowboys defense had been giving Cutler and Co. fits: the Bears couldn't run the ball, they were finding themselves in 2nd and 3rd and longs, and Cutler was under constant pressure. Somehow, on a 3rd and 15, he was able to stay on his feet enough to find Johnny Knox downfield (on a pass that, had it not been underthrown, would have been a touchdown). From that point on, Wade Phillips called off the dogs, the Cowboys' defense played scared, and Culter and Martz had their way with them.

88: The Dez Bryant era has begun with a bang. Although the Cowboys made plays throughout the game, the only BIG play they made was Bryant's electrifying 64-yard punt return. On the lay, he displayed the combination of skills that makes him so dangerous: strength, speed, acceleration, and an innate knowledge of where he is in relation to other bodies on the field. Get used to it, folks, we're going to see a lot of broken field runs from this kid.

790: In the first two weeks of the season, the Cowboys have amassed a lot of yards from scrimmage yet have only three touchdowns and a pair of field goals to show for it. Clearly, last year's woeful yards per point problems were not an aberration. There are numerous explanations of this phenomenon, and all were in play today: because the defense never forces turnovers, the offense repeatedly has to drive the length of the field; they are prone to drive killers; they have difficulty converting third downs.

3,000: The number of Steelers fans that were in the sports bar where I watched the game. And, no, I'm not in Pittsburgh. I have to get Direct TV. Now.

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