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Colts @ Cowboys Snap Counts: Switching To Cruise Control

Want to know which Cowboys players were on the field for how many snaps? Look no further.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With the way the game against the Colts played out last night, there is no way to look at the snap counts that can do the game and its flow any justice. By halftime, the Cowboys were up 28-0, had been on the field for 36 plays to the Colts' 24, and had notched 17 first downs to the Colts' 4. Didn't take much longer before the Cowboys went into cruise control.

So today's review of snap counts is more of a statistical reckoning than any exercise from which we can glean much meaning. But we'll push on anyway, because even this is part of the process.

Cowboys Snap Count by Week

Offense 69 80 56 66 76 75 62 65 64 60 54 61 62 82 63
Defense 58 49 76 61 59 49 63 67 67 71 73 77 69 55 62
Difference +11 +31 -20 +5 +17 +26 -1 -2 -3 -9 -19 -16 -7 +27 +1

Going by the snap count above and the previous experience with snap counts of this magnitude, one could have expected a tightly contested game behind the numbers. It was anything but.

Last week, we marveled at how the Cowboys were able to put up 38 points on the Eagles while only going 5-for-13 on third downs. On Sunday, they put up 42 points on the hapless Colts, but they only converted five third downs again, though their percentage was better, as they went 5-for-10 on third downs.

Against the Colts, the Cowboys piled up 25 first downs anyway (note that a score also counts as a first down achieved). So how did that happen?

First down Conversions
Down Pass Run Penalty Score
1st 1 2 - - 2 passes, 1 run
2nd 8 3 1
1 pass
3rd 2 2 1
1 pass
Total 13 7 2 5

The Cowboys kept the ball moving because they converted on second down and got some help with timely penalties from the Colts. That's how you have success against what was previously the 1st ranked defense on 3rd down:

On to the snap counts on offense

Cowboys' Offensive Snap counts vs Colts
Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps
Romo 57 Smith 63 Murray 31 Witten 55 Bryant 48
6 Leary 63 Randle 22 Hanna 30 Williams 42

Frederick 63 Clutts 15 Escobar 18 Beasley 17

Martin 57 Dunbar 8

Harris 15

Parnell 63

Street 11

Bernadeau 6

Hills 3

When you lead 42-0 after 55 minutes against a previously 10-4 team, there really isn't much you've done wrong - on either side of the ball. And that also applies to Jermey Parnell, whom Jerry Jones described as one of the better backup tackles in the league prior to the game:

"I like him, Jones said. "I don't think anybody has a better swing, backup tackle, because he can play both tackles. I don't think there's a better backup situation in the NFL."

Turns out that Jones guy was right.

On to the defense.

Cowboys' Defensive Snap counts vs Colts
Defensive Tackles Defensive Ends Linebackers Cornerbacks Safeties
Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps Player Snaps
T. Crawford 34 Mincey 34 Hitchens 30 Moore 55 Wilcox
Melton 33 Spencer 33 R. McClain
29 Scandrick 48 Church 40
Hayden 29 D. Lawrence 32 Wilber 21 Carr 46 Spillman 22
T. McClain 29 Selvie 21 Carter 20 Patmon
25 Heath 20

Lawrence 20

Smith 20

If you've been keeping count, you'll notice that the Cowboys trotted out all 46 players on the active list during the game. Every defender got at least 20 snaps yesterday. Notice also that Sterling Moore had the highest snap count of all Cowboys defenders, and with Brandon Carr stepping up his game yesterday, there may be hope for the Cowboys secondary yet.

The defense created three turnovers, and special teams created another when this weird fake punt went horribly wrong for the Colts:

The net result of all this helped give the Cowboys an advantage in field position that played a big role in the outcome of the game.

Against the Colts, the Cowboys had a cumulative starting field position of 422 yards, a staggering 178 yards more than the Colts, the largest field position differential they've generated all season.

Field Position Differential

Opponent 317 226 221 259 308 387 297 296 374 336 273 371 249 294 244
Cowboys 180 307 233 339 268 286 306 214 253 460 353 294 400 470 422
Difference -137 +81 +12 +80 -40 -101 +9 -82 -212 +124 +80 -77 +151 +176 +178
Result L W W W W W W L L W W L W W W

In every one of their losses this year, the Cowboys have lost the field position battle. They won two other contests, an overtime win against the Texans and a surprising upset on the road against Seattle, despite losing the field position battle.

Over the last six games, with the exception of the Thanksgiving loss to the Eagles, the Cowboys have dominated field position. In a game of inches, this is how you win football games.

And finally, the special teams snap counts.

Special Teams Aces
Player Snaps Player Snaps
17 Wilcox
Wilber 17 Heath
Lawrence 17 Patmon
Spillman 17 Hanna 11

This week's ironman award has got to go to DeMarco Murray, regardless of his snap count. How do you play 31 NFL snaps and run the ball 22 times with a broken hand you had surgery on six days earlier?


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