The Dallas Cowboys played their best game of football Sunday afternoon in an impressive 28-17 victory over a quality Kansas City Chiefs’ team. The offense, defense and special teams all contributed to the team’s third consecutive win, putting the Cowboys in the thick of the NFC playoff race. The following numbers tell the story:
32 - Number of plays on three consecutive mid-game touchdown drives
Through the first 28 and a half minutes this had been a surprisingly defensive-minded contest. Two of the league’s high-octane offenses had combined to score only 10 points. The Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-15 from their own 13-yard-line and most observers expected a safe play designed to force Kansas City to use their final timeout before a Dallas punt.
Instead, Dez Bryant made a brilliant leaping catch of a high Dak Prescott throw for a clutch 21-yard gain and a first down. That would be the first in a string of dominant offensive plays that would see Dallas score 21 points on three consecutive possessions spanning the second and third quarters.
Prescott followed up the Bryant completion with a patented scramble and deep toss to Terrance Williams for a 56-yard gain. Three plays later Dak would run the final 10 yards for a 14-3 Cowboys lead.
Then, following the end-of-half debacle and a long Chiefs’ touchdown drive, the Dallas offense faced a real test. Dallas now trailed by three with Kansas City having seized momentum on consecutive touchdown drives. Prescott and the offense responded with two signature drives; the first went 12 plays for 75 yards and the second went 13 plays for 87 yards. Those two drives surrounded a forced punt by the Dallas defense and restored the 11-point lead as the Cowboys’ seized firm control of the game.
Those 32 plays featured the Dallas offense at its best:
- Prescott combining ad-libbed big plays with safe passes to his wide-outs and then adding clutch third-down and red zone plays with his legs.
- A balanced attack that saw the Dallas rushing game gain 75 of the team’s 162 yards on the two final drives.
- Outstanding red-zone execution as all three drives resulted in red-zone touchdowns.
Speaking of the red zone...
28 - Points scored on 4 red zone opportunities
The Dallas offense had only nine drives total in Sunday’s tilt and only three in the second half. And yet they continued their season-long trend of taking advantage of red zone opportunities, scoring touchdowns all four times they reached the Chiefs’ 20-yard line.
The Cowboys’ are the most lethal team in the NFL in the red zone. The dual rushing attack of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott combined with two hard-to-defend targets (Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley) and a Hall of Famer final option in Jason Witten gives opposing defenses more than they can handle.
Dallas has now converted 20 of their last 25 (80%) red zone opportunities into touchdowns. In addtion, they’ve kicked three field goals, had one missed field goal and really didn’t attempt to score late in the game against San Francisco. For those counting that’s zero red zone turnovers.
The team’s red zone success throughout the season has, arguably, been the team’s greatest asset in 2017. It should continue as the offense is absolutely deadly near the end zone.
127 - Passer rating on passes thrown to wideouts Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley
A couple BTB articles last week outlined the struggles of the Cowboys’ receiving corps in 2017. Perhaps the players themselves knew there was room for improvement because collectively they easily had their best game of the season:
The three combined for 19 catches, two touchdowns, 9.2 yards per target and a 127 passer rating. Bryant made a number of big catches but none bigger than his 3rd-and-15 grab late in the first half that ignited a three-drive, 21-point scoring splurge.
Beasly had only four catches for 24 yards but caught two touchdown passes, doubling his season total.
But it was Terrance Williams who had the most impact on Sunday’s contest. He caught all nine balls thrown his way and finally exhibited the big-play capabilities that have been a hallmark of his game. His 141 yards was the third best total of the fifth-year veteran’s career.
95.7/107 - Dak Prescott’s QBR/passer rating
Prescott did not have a great game last week against Washington. His 38 QBR and 82 passer rating were his second-lowest numbers of the season (behind the Denver game). Sunday he responded as he has seemingly every time he’s struggled in the NFL. He was efficient, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt while also throwing for two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
But it was the plays with his legs that really stood out. His ability to avoid the KC pass rush and ability to roll right enabled him to hit a streaking Williams for a key big play. He added three runs for 27 yards, each run resulting in either a first down (twice) or a touchdown (once).
And after having four interceptions in four games Prescott has now gone three consecutive games without a pick. He’s also yet to lose a fumble this season. The Cowboys have only six turnovers through eight games this season and Prescott’s ability to protect the ball has become a foundation of success for the team. (Note: officially Dallas has eight turnovers on the season but two of those came on the last play of the game against Green Bay when both team’s combined to fumble the ball three times on one of those ridiculous lateral plays that all teams seem to run now. I don’t consider those real turnovers).
16 - Average Chiefs’ starting position following a Chris Jones punt
Five times Cowboys’ Chris Jones punted Sunday and four times the Chiefs took over inside their own 20-yard line. These are the Chiefs’ starting positions following a Dallas punt:
Jones has been an unheralded weapon throughout the season for the Cowboys. Dallas currently ranks first in the difference between their own starting position and their opponents. Seven times in eight games this season Dallas has enjoyed better starting field position that their opponent (with only the Rams an outlier). Jones has been aided by special teams stand-out Kavon Frazier, who had another big game, snuffing out a trick punt return and nailing Chiefs’ returner De’Anthony Thomas on a terrific play.
Jones routinely pins teams inside their 20-yard line while almost never kicking touchbacks. Add the fact he’s a willing tackler and can run for the occasional first down and his contributions are far greater than your average punter.
Dallas now has three consecutive victories, has scored 28+ points each of the last five games, has given up an average of 16 points over the last three games and has put themselves in good position for a playoff spot. A victory next week against a struggling Atlanta team (four losses in five games) would set up a pretty important matchup against Philadelphia in two weeks. The team has righted the ship following two home losses that left them at 2-3 after five weeks in the season.