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Eagles @ Cowboys Snap Counts: Is Defense Overreliant On Offense?

When the Cowboys offense can't stay on the field, the 2014 Cowboys defense is in trouble.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

If you want to get a feel for the ups and downs of the Cowboys 2014 season, you probably don't need to look much further than the weekly snap counts (which is one reason why we post them every week). For the sixth game in a row, the Cowboys defense was on the field for more snaps than the offense, and it's no coincidence that the Cowboys are only 3-3 over that stretch after starting 5-1.

Cowboys Snap Count by Week

Offense 69 80 56 66 76 75 62 65 64 60 54 61
Defense 58 49 76 61 59 49 63 67 67 71 73 77
Difference +11 +31 -20 +5 +17 +26 -1 -2 -3 -9 -19 -16

The defense was on the field for a season-high 77 snaps, and got off comparatively easy with 33 points allowed, in part because the defense managed to hold the Eagles to only one TD in five red zone possessions. Overall though, those 33 points on 77 snaps translate into 0.43 points per snap, the fifth time that value has been above 0.4 this season.

Points per snap
OPP Week Pts per Snap Result
San Francisco 1 0.48 L: 17-28
Seattle 6 0.47 W: 30-23
Philadelphia 13 0.43 L: 10-33
Arizona 9 0.42 L: 17-28
St. Louis 3 0.41 W: 34-31

It's no coincidence that the Cowboys have given up the highest points per snap against the four NFC playoff contenders they've faced. And it's not a surprise either: nobody expected the 2014 defense to be world beaters. But you're not going to win a lot of games if you only score 17 points or less.

The 2014 Cowboys are overreliant on their offense. They need their offense to score a lot, and they need the offense to keep the defense off the field. When the offense can't deliver, there's not much this defense can do.

Here's what they did do, at least in terms of snaps.

Cowboys' Defensive Snap counts vs Eagles
Defensive Tackles Defensive Ends Linebackers Cornerbacks Safeties
Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps
T. Crawford 44 Mincey 52 Hitchens 72 Carr
77 Wilcox
Hayden 43 Selvie 42 R. McClain
49 Scandrick 76 Church 65
T. McClain 36 D. Lawrence 32 Carter 41 Moore 56 Spillman 17
Melton 31 Spencer 28 Wilber 12 Pellerin
2 Hamilton

On offense, the Cowboys went 4-for-12 on third downs, which is not a ratio that's conducive for scoring a lot of points. The really worrying thing is that the third down malaise has been going on for a while, as Rabblerousr wrote earlier today:

After sitting atop the NFL pile (and not just the 2014 pile, but the history-of-the-league pile) in this key category after seven games (when they had a 59% conversion rate), the Cowboys have fallen off in this regard, and drastically. In the last five games, the Cowboys are 20-58 in third down conversions, which translates to .35, or just a hair above one in three.

Cowboys' Offensive Snap counts vs Eagles
Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps
Romo 61
Smith 61 Murray 48 Witten 61 Bryant 51
Leary 61 Randle 6 Hanna 21 Williams 47

Frederick 61 Dunbar 6 Escobar 19 Beasley 29

Martin 61 Clutts 4 Street 8

Free 61

Harris 4

Parnell 1

And finally, on to special teams:

Special Teams Aces
Player Snaps Player Snaps
26 Church
Spillman 20 Hanna
Harris 19 Carter 15
Lawrence 19 Tow tied at 13

Orlando Scandrick is this week's ironman. He played on all but one of the 77 defensive snaps and added 11 snaps on special teams for 87 total snaps, the most of any player on the team.

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