A potent lineup requires a great lead-off hitter. Batting first...the great Bob Sturm:
Sturm's weekly "Decoding Linehan" article is one of his best in a long while, as he conjures up some stats from last year's games against the NFC's heavyweights - Seahawks and Packers - to compare those efforts with what has transpired this year. One key difference? Third down conversions:
Back to 2014, in those games where they physically battered the Seahawks and Packers, they were 14 of 25 on 3rd downs. 56% in a league where 50% leads the league, you can see that Romo and the offense were able to play fantastically when they had to move the chains.
Well, in these two matchups against the same two defenses, but substituting Cassell for Romo, they also had 25 3rd down situations in the two matchups with Green Bay and Seattle. How did they do? Well, 5 for 25 for 20%. 20% in a league where 37% is average and 25% is the worst team.
Sturm then concludes that this might just boil down to the absence of Number Nine: "maybe the style of the Cowboys is just fine. They simply are missing the one spot you cannot be without."
Archer channels his inner rabblerousr and comes up with his own "by the numbers" post. Here, he zeroes in on what is probably the least-anticipated drop-off from 2014: 6.9
The Cowboys can’t make any explosive plays in the passing game. They have just 27 pass plays of 20 or more yards this season. They have had two games, including the loss to the Packers, in which they had none. They had 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more through 13 games last season.
Big plays translate to points. On 38 of their 41 big plays last year, the Cowboys scored points, including 31 touchdowns. This year the Cowboys have scored points on 24 of the 27, but eight of those drives ended in field goals.
Cowboys quarterbacks are averaging just 6.9 yards per attempt. Last year Tony Romo and Brandon Weeden averaged 8.4 yards per attempt. The last time the Cowboys QBs averaged fewer than 7 yards per attempt was in 2003 with Quincy Carter as the starter (6.56 yards per attempt).
The Babe responds to a some questions; this one is about his on-field QB doppelganger, Matt Cassel:
there is now a body of work with Cassel as the Cowboys' QB, and it hasn't been great. Tough to get thrown into an offense during the regular season like he did after the trade took place, and add to that Dez Bryant has not been Dez Bryant. You can count on two hands the number of days Cassel and a healthy Bryant have had to practice together and still have a few digits left over. But the bottom line is that the inability to get the football in the end zone and lack of big pass plays (last in the NFL in both categories) have been devastating.
Phillips writes that it just wouldn’t make practical sense to hand Kellen Moore his first career start on a short week against Darrelle Revis and arguably the toughest defense the Cowboys will see all season, drawing on history for support:
Here’s a quick lesson from Thanksgiving 2004: Bill Parcells gave rookie Drew Henson his first NFL start on a short week with 40-year-old starter Vinny Testaverde nursing a sore shoulder and back. Henson spent three years in baseball after college and hadn’t made a football start in three years. He lasted one half against the Bears that day, completing only 4 of 12 passes for 31 yards, before Parcells pulled him for Testaverde....Henson wasn’t ready, and maybe he never would’ve been. That Thanksgiving game was his first and only pro start.
Moore (David, that is) really hits it on the head in this piece about Moore (Kellen, that is). Here, he explains the basic psychology behind Cowboys fans wanting to see the former Boise St. product on the field:
Here is what's at work: there's no true groundswell to see Moore. Fans simply want to see someone other than Matt Cassel. They are tired of the veteran's struggles and frustrated with a season that will soon end without a playoff berth.
No one can argue Moore is a better option. Fans just want something different. They want to be entertained. They want a reason to follow this team over the final three games.
That's not a good enough reason for a head coach to make a change.
The Cowboys released nickle corner Tyler Patmon on Tuesday. His head coach explains why:
"Performance-related," Garrett said. "This is just an evaluation of the body of work and what we’re asking our nickel to do. Over time, he’s gotten a lot of opportunities and we feel like we’re going to give someone else an opportunity to do that job right now."
Archer hypothesizes about Patmon's replacement:
Byron Jones would be the natural pick to take over as the nickel corner for the final three games while continuing to start at free safety. The only other healthy cornerbacks on the roster are Brandon Carr and Deji Olatoye. Terrance Mitchell was added to the practice squad on Dec. 2.
The Noble Drummond revisits his preseason list of things that "must-go-right" for the Cowboys to succeed in 2015. As might be expected, very few did. For example, one of KD's M-G-Rs was that the Cowboys had to find someone (or two) to replace Dwayne Harris on special teams. Yep, that one gets a "fail":
This has been a disaster of sorts. Dallas kept Lucky Whitehead on the active roster through the beginning of the season, but chose to have Lance Dunbar return kicks and Cole Beasley to return the punts. Neither guy is very good at this job. Dunbar (24.3 yards per return), who was the sole "electric" offensive player left once Dez got hurt, was lost for the year on a kick return where he tore his ACL up. Beasley (5.8 yard avg on punts) effectively lost a game with a muffed punt turnover. Whitehead was finally inserted into both roles, and while his punt return average has been bad, he is having a great year on kick returns (33.7 on kicks, 4.2 on punts). Regardless, especially with the way Dwayne Harris is playing in New York, this replacement was an unmitigated regression.
The stats-lovin' dudes over at FO have released their Week 14 DVOA ratings, and the Cowboys are not at the top of the list. Nope, far from it...
This week's Aikman Efficiency Ratings are out, and the Cowboys continue to settle into the quagmire populated by the league's cellar-dwellers. Here's where they stand:
Archer details the reasons Dez has not enjoyed the kind of season he had in recent years. One is the change at quarterback:
he was not able to build up much of a rapport with Matt Cassel either. They have clicked the way Tony Romo and Roy Williams clicked after the receiver was picked up in a trade from the Detroit Lions in 2008.
Thanks for that memory, Archer! *shudder*
Archer's weekly "Five Wonders" piece presents some particularly juicy speculations (perhaps this is a side benefit of the team being virtually eliminated?). Here, he looks ahead to the decisions on a couple of down-roster RFAs:
I wonder what the Cowboys will do with restricted free agents Ronald Leary and Jeff Heath. The right of first refusal tender should be about $1.65 million. Leary could be a popular player in restricted free agency because of his starting experience. I wonder if the Cowboys would consider putting the second-round tender on Leary, which would be about $2.5 million. That might make a team shy away from an offer sheet. The Cowboys will need Leary because Mackenzy Bernadeau will be an unrestricted free agent. Leary can start for most teams and the Cowboys would be wise to keep him because of injuries. Heath is the Cowboys best special teamer and nobody wants to hear this: he's not bad defensively either. I can see the Cowboys paying him $1.65 million next year or even trying to give him a short extension with some guaranteed money.
The Cowboys have instituted a new set of rules that reporters have to follow while at practices. Shockingly, most reporters are reacting unfavorably:
The primary objective here seems to be to keep reporters from tweeting stuff from inside the locker room, a decree that almost certainly has something to do with Dez Bryant getting angry over some reporters live-tweeting his locker-room tirade. Because why not hamstring every reporters’ ability to do his or her job effectively for the sake of preventing minor PR headaches in the future?
I have news for you: if your "job" is to live-tweet from the locker room, then you're not a reporter, you're a hyena...
Jerry Jones responds, in his peculiar way, to those who think Jason Garrett needs to be more visibly "emotional":
"Well, Jason is a smart guy," the Cowboys owner and general manager said Tuesday morning on 105.3 The Fan's Shan and RJ show [KRLD-FM]. "He knows that if it's a sideline, he knows that those cameras are zeroed in on him....And he will bite....He's just smart enough in front of a press conference or smart enough on that sideline to be a little civil about it."
In short, Garret IS emotional, he's just not stupid enough to let the press see it, because he knows they'll respond like sharks to chum.
The Estimable Ryle with the scoop on a terrific two-part look at a rivalry dotted with Hall of Fame players. But, Ryle writes, that's not the important narrative:
the real story is how two cities with severe image problems at the time saw perceptions transformed by the unexpected agency of their pro football franchises. It is a study in the positive role a game can play in society. Whether or not you agree with the idea, we often use our identification with a favorite sports team to lift us from our day to day problems and concerns. Escapism is a sometimes vital release from stress and worry. For Dallas and San Francisco, two of the great pro football teams provided just that.
Speaking of escapism, I suggest you watch this to escape from the horror show that has been the 2015 season...
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