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Five Takeaways: Dallas vs. Chicago

Taking a look back at the victory over Chicago.

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Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Busted ribs have dominated the headlines, but there is more to takeaway from Thursday's game than Tony Romo's Iron-Man status. The NFL may be worried about injury reports; but we here at BTB have actual football to analyze. From Hobbits on the rise to pass rushers on the decline, here are five takeaways from Dallas' win over Chicago.

1.  He's More Man Than Machine Now: How much money would you pay to see a DeMarco Murray training montage? The man has to be one of the most well-conditioned athletes in the NFL. We know the numbers of course; 41 total touches, 228 total yards. That's amazing. But what's even more amazing is when he got those yards. 37% of his total yardage came in the fourth quarter. His 26th carry of the game was his longest, a 40-yarder off the left tackle. His 29th carry of the game was his second longest gain, a 26-yarder. Excluding the two kneel down plays to end the game, every offensive snap in the fourth quarter involved DeMarco Murray.

Here are his fourth quarter numbers:

8 carries, 63 yards, 7.9 ypc. And remember, that's on his 26th through 31st carry. I was one of those calling for reducing Murray's touches, fearing he would be worn down by season's end. I'm not worried anymore, because this isn't how DeMarco Murray trains. It's just how he warms up.

2.  These Aren't the Pass Rushers We're Looking For: The stats look pretty similar. Chicago recorded one sack and two QB hits on Thursday, and Dallas recorded three QB hits. Of course Chicago got their three pressures on 27 Romo dropbacks, meaning they got pressure on 11% of their pass rushing opportunities. Dallas meanwhile got their three pressures on 46 Jay Cutler dropbacks, meaning we got pressure on 7% of our pass rush opportunities. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is pathetic.

Cutler literally had all the time he wanted to in the pocket. Our friends at ProFootballFocus record hurries in addition to hits and sacks. We had three against Jay Cutler. On exactly three plays did we force him to get rid of the ball before he wanted to. For comparisons sake, let's look at the Giants game from two weeks ago. No one would confuse that game for a dominant pass rush showing, but we managed to hurry Eli Manning 13 times on 43 dropbacks.

So what's going on with the pass rush? The biggest problem is our two best rushers happen to play the same position. Henry Melton didn't record a pressure, but he managed to bat down two passes on 25 snaps. His fellow 3-tech, Tyrone Crawford, accounted for exactly half of our pressures, (one hit, two hurries). But that's it. And for those who are calling for more blitzes; there were 14 pass rush snaps logged by linebackers and defensive backs, exactly one every three plays. None of them resulted in a pressure.

3.  Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!: Dallas scored five offensive touchdowns against the Bears. Four of those touchdowns were scored by "rotational players", those complimentary skill position players who rotate in and out of the game. So in the game 80% of our TD's came from a player not named Williams, Witten, Murray, or Bryant.

That may not sound like a big deal, but it really is. Prior to this game Dallas had scored 30 offensive TD's and 25 of them, (83%) had been scored by the "core" offensive players. We've often complained that Dallas's offensive scheme can seem stale or simple. The more we can diversify our offense, and the more we show that every player is a threat to score, the harder it is for defenses to plan for it. Our offensive role players are stepping up, and none of them are stepping up bigger than...

4. White Men Can't Jump: Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for our very own Cole Beasley who registered his very first two touchdown game, (and was within a foot of having three), and who may have very well jumped Terrance Williams on the hierarchy of team weapons.

Now I'm not saying that Beasley is going to jump Williams on the depth chart, or take away his snaps. That's not going to happen; Williams is firmly entrenched as the "number two" WR. But when it comes to who Tony Romo targets? That's a different story. Chew on these numbers:

In the first four games of the season:

  • Terrance Williams was targeted 20 times (5 targets/game)
  • Cole Beasley was targeted 10 times (2.5 targets/game)

In the past four games of the season:

  • Terrance Williams was targeted eight times (2 targets/game)
  • Cole Beasley was targeted 13 times (3.25 targets/game)

I'm not saying that Cole Beasley is a better WR than Terrance Williams. Williams is the team's only real deep threat and has nearly double the production of Cole Beasley on a similar amount of receptions. But it appears that Tony Romo is gaining trust in Beasley and losing trust in Williams. There could be a number of factors here; Williams is somewhat banged up for instance. But for whatever reason, it appears that the Hobbit is stealing Williams touches, if not his snaps.

5.  On My Signal, Unleash Hell: That was the big worry after Dallas lost to the Redskins in Week 8; that teams would copy the Skins gameplan and just blitz Tony Romo to death. Well the Bears tried, blitzing on 38% of Dallas dropbacks. And Romo shredded them, completing 90% of his passes and gaining 11.4 yards an attempt.

So blitzing Romo might not be the best idea after all. But please other teams continue to try. According to ESPN Tony Romo is currently completing 65.7% of his passes against the blitz, good for 6th best in the NFL. Unleash hell indeed.

And A Bonus Thought! There's been a lot of anguish about Chicago's supposed "near comeback". I'm not going to add anything to it, except to leave you with these two images.


12/4/2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears box score at

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