Everybody has theories about what went wrong for the Dallas Cowboys in their loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Our own Tom Ryle has proposed the Theory of Everything (in a nod to Stephen Hawking), where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Not a bad assessment. Let's now take a more microscopic view, let's look at some individual performances, as observed by a neutral party.
Pro Football Focus has graded out the game and shared some of the Cowboys information with BTB.
· All three Cowboys' running backs produced plus games. Lance Dunbar led the way with a +3.0 grade.
I think this was pretty much to be expected. Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden did solid work when provided room to run. They also managed to put the ball into the endzone. Lance Dunbar has continued his breakout season, doing his best Darren Sproles/Reggie Bush imitation. In the second half, the Cowboys offensive line faltered, and so did the running backs.
· 21 of Brandon Weeden's pass attempts did not travel further than 9 yards downfield. He completed 20 of those for 193 yards, no TD's and no INT's.
This has caused a lot of consternation around the Cowboys campfire this week. A checkdown offense does not stretch the defense, causing logjams in the running game. This week, the Cowboys will have to stretch it out a tad more while simultaneously making sure Weeden doesn't become a turnover machine.
· LG La'el Collins started and played all 54 snaps. Finished with a -1.3 grade, and -1.2 run block grade. However, allowed zero pressures.
All in all, not a bad debut for the rookie. The Cowboys are likely to go back to Ron Leary if he is healthy, but it's good to know that Collins should pan out once he is inserted into the starting lineup.
· Terrance Williams has a poor game. Thrown to twice, dropped one, and finishes with a -2.1 overall grade.
Williams has had a slight case of the dropsies early this season. He also is not flourishing without Dez Bryant, but that may be because without Tony Romo the Cowboys are not looking at the wide receivers enough. Williams might need to become more forceful and demand the ball, and then actually catch it when it comes his way.
· Red grades for almost every defensive starter, with only Sean Lee, +2.4, Nick Hayden, +1.1, and DeMarcus Lawrence, +1.5, posting green grades.
It's odd to see two defensive linemen with green grades for the Cowboys in a week when the defensive line was repeatedly gashed. But that is only two linemen out of seven that played, and as we'll some of the rest were really bad.
· Sean Lee accumulates 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 9 tackles, and 4 "stops," solo tackles that constitute an offensive failure.
Sean Lee being Sean Lee. Enough said.
· Morris Claiborne was targeted the most in the game, giving up 6 catches on 11 targets for 77 yards. Beaten often, he finishes with a -2.4 coverage grade, -2.1 overall.
It's odd how the Cowboys secondary held Julio Jones in check for much of the first half, then got torched in the second half. All the way around, it felt like the Falcons coaching staff got the better of Dallas' in this game.
· 3 of the four backup defensive lineman put up red grades in limited action. Davon Coleman, -2.7, Ken Bishop, -2.4, Ryan Russell, -2.3 all in the red on 29, 25, and 33 snaps respectively. The only who didn't was Damien Wilson, who had a -0.2 grade on 2 snaps.
Here lies a big part of the failure. The Cowboys were unable to stop the run, and with all of their main pass rushers at end out besides Lawrence, they just could not generate pressure. As rabblerousr mentioned, once Tyrone Crawford got nicked up, things went downhill. With Dallas unable to control the line of scrimmage on defense and on offense, they crumbled.