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Cowboys @ Eagles: The Day After, By The Numbers

An extended look at the Cowboys surprisingly dominant win at the Linc on Sunday afternoon. By the numbers, of course...

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

In last week's "by the numbers" post, the lead-in was that the Cowboys had managed an important division win, but it came at great cost. I'm afraid I'm going to have to recycle the same lead-in this week. I'll get to that later. In the meantime, I'll start with the good news:

10: the number of consecutive road games won by the Cowboys, a tally that ties the franchise record for longest regular season road game winning streak. For years, the Cowboys were a team that tended to wilt under pressure and fold in the face of adversity (recall the 34-14 loss to the Rams the week after Romo broke his hand in 2008). Under Jason Garrett, they have developed the mental toughness that is so high on the list of traits he wants his team to possess - and this is nowhere more evident than this statistic. In two weeks, they will have an opportunity to go into New Orleans, extend the streak, and fashion a new franchise record in the process.

-4.2. DeMarco Murray's average yards per carry during at 30-minute stretch of gametime, from the late first quarter through the late third quarter. During that period, on five consecutive totes, he was repeatedly tackled in the backfield, losing a total of 21 yards.

In addition, Darren Sproles, who was thought before the game to be the Eagles' scariest big-play threat, had only one carry for minus-four yards. That's some special sauce.

29: DeMarco Murray's number. Also the number of his sideline rants that were caught on camera Sunday afternoon. I was listening to Philadelphia sports talk radio on Monday morning, and one guy who was on the Eagles sideline during the game reported that Murray was furious all afternoon, yelling and pacing the sidelines for the duration. Before the game, neither party would acknowledge that they really, really wanted to shut down Murray (Cowboys) or run all over the Dallas defense (Murray). DMM's behavior on the sideline belied this pre-game cool. He's been waiting for months to show the Dallas front office that they made a mistake, but the Cowboys defense was simply too good for him to realize that dream.

1.31: the Eagles' average yards per play in the first half, when they ran 16 plays for 21 yards, their lowest first half yardage total since another 21-yard effort against the Cardinals back in 1994 - a nice, symmetrical 21-year hiatus. The first-half goose egg made it five times in 34 games the the Eagles have been shut out in the opening frame under Chip Kelly. Only one team - the woeful Titans - has suffered more first half shutouts in the same span.

5: the number of players on the Cowboys' defense that made a tackle for loss on the afternoon. In total, the Cowboys registered an impressive seven TFLs on the afternoon. Six of these came on the aforementioned runs by Murray and Sproles; the seventh was an Anthony Hitchens sack of the heavy-legged Bradford. For two quarters, when the game was still in doubt, the Cowboys, especially their front seven (the four down linemen, two nickle linebackers and Barry Church), played in the Philadelphia backfield.

2: number of "splash" plays (runs of 10+ yards; passes of 20+ yards) surrendered by the Cowboys' defense, only one of which - a 22-yard Murray catch and run - came with the game still in doubt. The other was a 32-yard Jordan Matthews catch-and-run. Other than that, the Eagles simple could not manufacture any chunk yardage. In last December's big win at Philly, 170 of the Eagles' 294 total yards came on five "big" plays. I'd bet the Cowboys defensive coaches believed that, if they could delimit those splash plays, they could shut down the Eagles high-powered offense. Ans it turns out, they were correct.

14: Sean Lee's tackles on the afternoon. In what may well have been the best game of his professional career, The General registered 9 solo stops, 2 tackles for a loss (both on a frustrated Murray), 2 pass breakups and an interception. The idea to move him to the weakside linebacker position in this defense was inspired. For the second week in a row, an uncovered Lee was everywhere. He now has 20 tackles (16 solo), three for loss, and a pick on the young season.

53: the rushing yards per game allowed by the Cowboys defense on the season. In two games, the Cowboys have allowed 106 rushing yards on 41 attempts, for a neat 2.5 yards per carry. The one stretch where they failed to be imposing against the run was during the Giants' final drive in week one, when the defensive line seemed to be a bit pooped after a preseason filled with inactivity. As they round into game shape, we should see fewer of these series, other than garbage time.

208: the passing yards per game the Cowboys' defense has yielded in 2015. In two games, the Dallas D has held opposing quarterbacks to a 58.9 completion percentage, a 68.1 passer rating, picked off two passes, and surrendered only one garbage time passing TD. In addition, Rod Marinelli's boys have held opposing offenses to a 33.3 touchdown percentage in the red zone, and are allowing just 14.5 points per game (29 points, 14 of which came on a 1-yard drive against the Giants and a meaningless final drive to the Iggles).

3: the Cowboys overall defensive ranking after two games. At this time, Dallas has the eighth ranked pass defense, the first ranked run defense. Obviously, its early, and there's a long way to go. But, for a unit playing without arguably four of its top six defensive players (Hardy, McClain, Scandrick, Gregory), that's good news. As the "Romo-Bryant" watch gets underway, its this group that we'll have to hang our hats on.

21: Kickoff return yardage allowed by the Cowboys special teams this season, on one return. Dan Bailey has had ten kickoffs, and nine of them have resulted in touchbacks. Add to this 20 punt return yards (on the two of Chris Jones' six punts that were returned), and Dallas has given up a grand total of 44 return yards in two games. Only 22 hidden yards a game? I'll take that, happily.

52.5/ 45.8: Chris Jones' yards per punt and net punting averages. In a game that was nothing if not a field position battle, Jones uncorked beauty after beauty, and did a superb job keeping the ball away from the dangerous Sproles, and twice pinning the Eagles inside their 20 yard line (he would have had a third, but for Jeff Heath's heel touching the end zone line). For years, Cowboys fans have been calling for the team to find a replacement for Jones; on Sunday, he showed why the team values him.

11: number of first downs generated by the Philly offense in the first 55:47 of gametime, which spans the Eagles' first eleven drives. Of those, three were by penalty. In the first half, Chip Kelly's boys logged exactly one first down, thanks to a questionable pass interference on Mo Claiborne. As a result, the Cowboys limited Philadelphia to 2-11 third down conversions, a stingy 18%. On the season, opposing offenses are 8-25 on third down, a neat little 32% clip (good for 10th in the NFL, and a nice improvement from last year's 43.6 conversion rate (incidentally 32% would have led the league last year).

1: As my boy Jim Scott posted earlier today, this was the number of Philadelphia drives of more than 2:52. The Eagles drive chart shows a bunch of very brief possessions. Check it out:

First half:
Drive 1: 0:50 (punt)
Drive 2: 1:45 (punt)
Drive 3: 1:20 (punt)
Drive 4: 1:13 (punt)
Drive 5: 1:43 (punt)

Second half:
Drive 6: 2:25 (blocked punt)
Drive 7: 0:22 (punt)
Drive 8: 4:20 (interception)
Drive 9: 2:16 (field goal)
Drive 10: 0:00: (fumble)
Drive 11: 0:24 (interception)
Drive 12: 2:52 (touchdown)

Eagles averaged 1:38 per drive. As a consequence, the Cowboys enjoyed a 70-55 play advantage (and it was 68-41 before the Eagles' final, meaningless drive) and the Eagles' defense was on the field for 40:30. At one point in the second half of the broadcast, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman commented that the Eagles had stopped playing with their typical high tempo. I'd say this was a direct result of numbers like these; Chip Kelly had to realize that his offense's ineptitude was going to kill his defense. I'd say that such a philosophical shift for a guy who believes that tempo is everything is tantamount to giving up.

71: La'el Collins's number. Not only did the rookie see his first NFL snaps, he also made the afternoon's most important under-the-radar play. In the Early in the fourth quarter, Gavin Escobar fumbled after a short reception and the ball bounced directly to the Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins, who began to sprint down the sidelines. A hustling Collins managed to push Jenkins out of bounds at the Cowboys' 30 yard line; had he not, Jenkins would have scored, the Cowboys' lead would have been cut to 13-10 with Tony Romo on the sidelines, and an Eagles fanbase newly whipped into a frenzy. On the next play, the Cowboys escaped without any damage when Jason Kelce's snap hit Sam Bradford in the chest, with Nick Hayden recovering. That they were in position for this lucky break is a testament to Number 71's hustle.

18: the number of Cowboys penalties on the day, for a nasty 142 total yards. The biggest culprits were the offensive line and tight ends, who were penalized twelve times for 75 yards. These served to put the Cowboys perpetually "behind the chains," into situations where the threat of a run all but disappeared. Here are the twelve accepted penalties (a Zack Martin fourth-quarter hold was declined) and the down-and-distance after the penalty:

1: Mackenzy Bernadeau, false start (second and eighteen)
2: Travis Frederick, delay of game (third and 21)
3: Bernadeau, false start (first and fifteen)
4: Tyron Smith, illegal formation (third and seventeen) - negated first down
5: Zack Martin, ineligible downfield (first and fifteen)
6: Jason Witten, false start (second and fifteen)
7: Doug Free, false start (second and fifteen)
8: Martin, holding (second and thirteen)
9: Smith, false start (second and nine)
10: Geoff Swaim, holding (second and eleven) - negated first down
11: Bernadeau, holding (first and 20)
12: Free, false start (first and fifteen)

Looking at this litany of horrors, I have several questions: is the O-line's early malaise a byproduct of their not getting many snaps together in training camp and the preseason? how much are they missing Bill Callahan, whose offensive lines in Washington have carved out a league-leading 171.4 rushing yards a game? and, finally, did the offensive penalties put the Cowboys in too many situations where Romo was exposed to the fierce Philadelphia rush?

3: consecutive seasons in which the Cowboys have had to start a game without their franchise quarterback. Per the fine folks at ESPN Stats and Info, 2015 will be the third straight season that the Cowboys have had more than one quarterback start a game, due to Tony Romo's injuries. In 2013 and '14, he missed only one game each year, but the Cowboys were 0-2 in those games. he upcoming stretch will mark the first time Dallas will use multiple starting quarterbacks in three straight years since they did so in five straight seasons from 1998 through 2002. You might remember those seasons; we remember them as The Dark Ages.

21: the number of consecutive games in which Tony Romo had a completion percentage of 60% or higher, including playoffs, a total that set a new NFL record. In a game in which he was constantly behind the chains and his offensive line was getting outplayed by the opposing front seven, Romo still managed to be precise and consistent. Because most of those completions were short, his streak of seven consecutive games with a passer rating in excess of 100 was ended, but he and Brandon Weeden combined for a nice 106.0 QBR. When juxtaposed against Sam Bradford's woeful 65.6 rating, the Cowboys enjoyed a healthy 40.4 advantage in QBR differential, which our resident statmaster, O.C.C., had deemed the "Robitussin of stats" due to its strong correlation to winning.

And this after enjoying a sizable 29.6 QBR differential against the Giants. The question is whether or not they can continue to generate such a differential with Romo out of the lineup - and with opposing defenses having a full week to gameplan for Weeden. Which brings me to:

10.4: Brandon Weeden's average yards per attempt on Sunday. Subbing in for Romo, the former Oklahoma State product was a perfect 7-7 for 73 yards, and finished with a quarterback rating of 149.7. And, curiously, he is now 29-of-36 (80.6 percent) in his short Cowboys career targeting all players other than Dez Bryant (he is 2-12 when targeting Number 88). #WeedenBoyz!

5: Drew Stanton's number. Why do I bring up the Cardinals' back-up quarterback at this point? Well, in the wake of the final gun, the Twitterverse was all a-flutter about the performance of back-up quarterbacks in recent history who had been forced into extended game action due to injuries form franchise-level starters. Stanton's name came up, and it was pointed out that he was 5-3 as a starting in relief of the injured Carson Palmer in 2014.

I did a week bit of research and discovered that the Cardinals enjoyed a +10 turnover differential in the five games Stanton was credited with a "W" (they generated eleven turnovers and had but one giveaway in those five contests). If the Cowboys are going to have similar success with Weeden at the helm, they'll have to channel some of last December's turnover magic, when they created a hefty 12 takeaways and only gave the ball away three times. In December, that resulted in the most prolific scoring month in team history; in the next few weeks, it might be enough for the games to matter once Tony Romo and Dez Bryant return to the lineup.

Follow me @rabblerousr


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