The average number of plays per game in the NFL is 64.3 through the first nine weeks of the 2014 season. Going by that measure, the Cowboys had a pretty average game, with 64 snaps on offense and 67 snaps on defense. If you thought the defense was on the field way too long, you're right as a matter of principle, but not right as a matter of fact. Here's what Sunday's snap counts look like compared to the previous games.
|Cowboys Snap Count by Week|
On to this week's snap count review, starting with the defense.
|Cowboys' Defensive Snap counts vs Cardinals
|Defensive Tackles||Defensive Ends||Linebackers||Cornerbacks||Safeties|
|T. Crawford||50||Mincey||43||R. McClain||60||Scandrick||65||Wilcox
Couple of thoughts about these snap counts:
- Week in and week out, Tyrone Crawford and Rolando McClain are at the top of their position group in terms of snap counts. This makes their knee injuries much more concerning than an injury to a backup player would be.
- Interesting that the Cowboys chose to keep Bruce Carter as the strongside linebacker and replaced Justin Durant on the weak side with Anthony Hitchens. This obviously limited the amount of snaps for Carter, as the Cowboys spent a large part of their defensive snaps in a nickel defense, occasionally even fielding a dime defense.
- DeMarcus Lawrence got a solid 27 snaps in his first start. But it was in inauspicious start, with only two tackles against his name on the official stat sheet. Pro Football Focus shows him with three tackles, all of which constituted a defensive stop, and a QB hurry, which makes for a solid start to his NFL career.
- The real story here is Henry Melton, who looks like he's back to his 2012 Pro Bowl form. In just 26 snaps, Melton managed 1.5 sacks, two tackles and three QB hits. PFF lists Melton as the defensive tackle with highest Pass Rush Productivity rating in the league.
On to the offense:
|Cowboys' Offensive Snap counts vs Cardinals
Except for Brandon Weeden subbing for Tony Romo, there's really not much different in this table compared to pervious games, but what a difference that one change made:
- Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams were targeted 17 times, but only came up with four receptions - and all four were in garbage time on the last drive.
- The Cowboys were 3-11 on third downs for a conversion rate of 27%, the lowest rate in any game so far this season. In their previous eight games, the Cowboys had conversion rates of 50% or higher in seven games, dipping below 50% only once with a still respectable 40% against the Redskins.
- You don't win a lot of games when you only score once on three red zone possessions, and that one TD they did score came in garbage time anyway.
- Having said all that, you've also got to wonder how much the Cowboys missed Doug Free and Ronald Leary.
And finally, on to special teams:
|Special Teams Aces|
|Lawrence||18||3 with 12 snaps|
Barry Church walks away with this week's ironman award, having played a total of 75 snaps, 63 on defense and 12 on special teams.