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Cowboys FanPost Of The Week: Outside Runs, Game Balls, and Close Games, Oh My!

Look into my eyes...you will read all the FanPosts on BTB!
Look into my eyes...you will read all the FanPosts on BTB!

Given that the Cowboys are on a slightly different schedule this week after playing on Monday Night, the weekly FanPost Awards have decided to follow suit, and have thus arrive on Thursday.

In the past seven days, we have been gifted with a snootful of shrewd scribblings, a plethora of prescient pennings, an array of ardent authorings...well, you get the idea. As always, it was a difficult task to determine which of these might be most worthy of recognition. In the end, I might be guilty of operating like an NBA referee: when in doubt, I went with the know quantities: the All-Pros got the calls.

Who are this week's FanPosting Kobe Bryants and Dwayne Wades? Before we get to them, I want to recognize an up-and-comer for what indeed proved to be a prescient penning. I'm talking about Footballbusker, who, in the lead-up to the Redskins game, offered us a FanPost on Washington's rushing tendencies. More specifically, he noted that the 'Skins success, in their first two games, exploiting the edge, where they had gained good yardage outside of the tackles. At the same time, the Cowboys has proven to be stout against the edge rush. As a result, 'busker concludes, Dallas would receive their sternest test on Monday Night.

More on 'busker's FP after the jump...

On the other side of the ball, FB noted that:

Washington's middle has been really beaten up when rushed, failing 8 times out of a 11, including a 25 yarder.  Washington's edges don't look much better, failing to defend the rush 11 out of 17 times.  This rush defense could be just what Dallas needs to get a great rushing game going..

Indeed, the Cowboys passed both tests. The Redskins couldn't generate much on the edges and, in the second half, Felix Jones exploited the Washington rushing "D" on two notable occasions. Give 'busker an honorable mention for the accuracy of his predictions. Nice work!

Now on to the FanPost All-Stars...For some time now, we have been in awe of Chia Crack's ridiculous combination of quantity and quality. This week, in the latest edition of his "Game balls" series, Crack once again combines both of these. He doles out online pigskins to a cadre of deserving Cowboys, on all three units--and reserves a little vitriol for a couple members of 2008's draft class (you'll get few disagreements with any BTBer on those, Crack). As always, Chia is a good read; his work oozes passion. Check out all of his stuff here.

Another of my required reads is anything written by out next honorable mention, Specific. I like Specific's work in no small part because his stuff belies his handle: he covers a lot of bases, from statistical analysis to observations about a single unit. Now, in the wake of Sean Lee's third straight week of unmitigated awesomeness, he takes a moment to ponder the staggering possibilities that might arise should this year's second rounder, Bruce Carter, prove to be the same kind of player as 2010's number two pick has shown himself to be. Obviously, this is a highly speculative venture; nonetheless, as Specific points out, they share eerily similar draft profiles. As I said immediately after the draft, having two such versatile players manning the middle will allow Rob Ryan's multiple defense a scary combination of flexibility and talent. Scary good, that is--just like Specific.

I fear I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I never tire of the stats-driven analysis that this week's winner, Fan in Thick and Thin, provides. Its not FiTT's numbers, but his conclusions that keep me eagerly coming back for more. Lucky for me, the season has begun, so Thick treats us to a weekly shot of statistical goodness in his "T/WMQB" series. In this installment, he considers the recently-noted fact that the last nine Cowboys games have been decided by three or fewer points--and then proceeds to puncture the balloons claiming that, because they were fortunate enough to eke out a close victory over the 'Skins, Jason Garrett's charges have somehow learned to "win close games."

To support his argument, FiTT cites Bill Barnwell, formerly of Football Outsiders, who writes:

close games are still determined overwhelmingly by luck. Why? Because ... obviously ... the closer the game the smaller is the amount of random chance that can change its outcome, regardless of the quality of the coaching, good *or* bad.

This is something that I have been suggesting in the past (I'm willing to admit that I might be giving FiTT this week's FPOTW because he agrees with me; I'm not above such behavior), in a look at last season's close loss at Arizona (the week after the Cowboys had squandered a big lead against Washington) in which I noted that Dallas had managed, for two consecutive weeks, to allow weaker teams to remain within striking distance:

Let's say that most football teams win roughly half of their close games; for good teams, the key is to limit the number of these games by winning decisively against lesser teams as often as possible. If a team can do this four times a season and split the remaining close contests, they'll finish 10-6, which is almost always good enough for a playoff spot.

As if on cue, Thick concludes by insisting that "Winning close games isn’t a sign of fundamental improvement, blowing teams out is." I couldn't agree more; in a recent post noting the similarities of this season to 2005, in fact, I claimed that, until the Cowboys get back to full strength, they will struggle to mount or to maintain leads equivalent to their full capabilities in the passing game. As a result, they will hover around .500--regardless of such factors as "mental toughness"--which is Thick's larger point as well. Congrats, Thick; it looks like you might need to invest in a larger trophy case!

As always, I urge you all to check out FiTT's entire oeuvre (go here). 

To conclude, I'd like to draw your attention to a statement I just had to share, taken from Proxy406's post-game take on Cowboys and Indians. At the bottom of a FP asking whether Monday Night's gritty victory should be characterized as a great win or an ugly game, 406 writes: 

this is a team under Rob Ryan and Jason Garrett that is reinventing itself week by week. This is a team that I am proud to call my team, and a squad I am proud to stand behind.  So is this a Great win or just an Ugly Game? I guess its a little bit of both, and I'm ok with that.

Me, too, my good man, me too.

Bring on the Lions!