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Crunching stats in the big Cowboys win over the Jaguars

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So many numbers. So many points.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys
The incompletion in the end zone overshadowed this play, and it was significant.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes it can be a chore to look at the stats from a Dallas Cowboys game. But there is nothing but delight in digging into the numbers from the 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. While there are a couple of things that are worth watching going forward, most of these are really pleasing. Let’s dive in.

3-9-DAL 29 (11:47) (Shotgun) D.Prescott pass deep left to M.Gallup pushed ob at JAX 44 for 27 yards (A.Bouye). Pass complete on a Deep out.

This is a bit different, since it is the description of one play early in the first quarter. But there is a lot to consider here. First, here is the video of the play.

Michael Gallup has gotten off to a slow start, but this play shows why the Cowboys drafted him. He would just miss on a second great catch later in the game when he could not get his second foot down for a touchdown, but this is something the team needs: A player who can go up on a contested ball and bring in the catch.

Look at the situation. It was third and nine. Dallas has struggled to convert third downs all season. That was a big one, keeping the drive alive as well as starting a bit of a trend in the first half when they would go six for nine on third downs, plus get a fourth-down conversion and a penalty on another that gave them a new set of downs. The result was that the Cowboys did not fail to score on any drive in the first half, and this catch made that possible.

It was also a deep throw, another thing that Dallas has struggled with. The combination of factors in this one catch seemed to give a boost to the entire offense. They took the lead on a field goal on this drive, and never came close to relinquishing it. One play, with a huge impact.

The first half edge.

The Cowboys came out a bit flat in the second half - but they were up 24-0 at that point, and there was no reason to take any risks or worry too much even when the Jaguars put together their lone scoring drive of the game. Up to that point, the dominance of Dallas was absolute (and it should be noted they still put 16 more points on the board after that one Jacksonville touchdown). Here are some notable numbers from the first 30 minutes of play.

Yards gained: 251 to just 64 for the Jags. It wasn’t just the offense that was clicking, the defense was nearly impenetrable.

First downs: 17 to 3. At one point near the half, the Cowboys had as many first downs (16) as the Jaguars had total plays on offense.

Time of possession: 19:48 to 10:12

Red zone efficiency: 100% (3 for 3)

Penalties: None, to three for the Jags.

It was hardly a game in the first half, and the second half was, to a degree, just extended garbage time - not that Jacksonville was able to do much with it.

Fumbles made and recovered by Dak Prescott: 2

This is something that is easy to overlook because both happened in the first half, but both were potential drive-killers. Both times, though, the ball bounced right back into the quarterback’s hands. Sometimes, it is as if the football gods just smile on a team or a player.

Turnover margin for Dallas: Plus 2

Those mythical deities of the gridiron weren’t done with their favors, either. There is a certain chance element in many turnovers, and there certainly were for both of the ones the Cowboys got in quick succession in the third quarter. The first was a pass breakup by Byron Jones covering Dede Westbrook that bounced right into the waiting arms of Jeff Heath. Heath has a knack for being in the right place at the right time on his interceptions, and this was just another example.

Then on the next Jaguars possession, Jaylon Smith knocked the ball loose from Keelan Cole. It looked like it would skitter out of bounds before a diving Jourdan Lewis could grab it, but he got it with one hand maybe half an inch from going across the boundary. The refs on the field signaled Dallas ball, and there was not enough evidence on replay to overturn it. It was a split-second difference that worked out for the Cowboys.

Just as a side note, with Chidobe Awuzie out for the game, Lewis had by far his best performance of the season. He also had two tackles, the first stopping the third-down play for the first three-and-out of the game, and the second one ensuring the Jaguars would end the first half with no score.

The rushmen snap counts

Rod Marinelli likes to send his defensive linemen in waves, and in this game, that was really what happened. Demarcus Lawrence and Maliek Collins were playing hurt, but the rest of the D line, with the return of David Irving and the first real contributions from Randy Gregory, did an outstanding job all game. Here are the percentages for all of the rushmen.

Tyrone Crawford: 67% (his contributions continue to be overlooked, and it was nice to see him split a sack with Antwaun Woods)

Woods: 56%

Lawrence: 50%

Taco Charlton: 50%

Irving: 46% (he had a big play right out of the gate, forcing Blake Bortles to throw the ball away, and nearly blocked a punt if not for being tackled and drawing a holding penalty)

Dorance Armstrong: 44%

Gregory: 35% (and his first sack of the season)

Collins: 27% (he got the first sack of the game on one of the nastiest spin moves you will ever see)

Daniel Ross: 21%

That is truly pass rush by committee, and Bortles was under pressure the entire game. This group is starting to look as deep as we thought they were.

No Sean Lee. No problem.

Last season, the absence of Sean Lee was basically a disaster for the defense. But now, the gamble taken on Jaylon Smith and the decision to invest a first-round pick in Leighton Vander Esch are paying off big time. They were the two leading tacklers, combining for 19 total, plus that forced fumble by Smith and a pass defended by LVE. Suddenly, the Cowboys look very well prepared for the inevitable end of Lee’s career.

The receiving corps is, shall we say, uneven.

Let me use some work done by our own One Cool Customer here.

The demarcation between those top four targets and the rest of the receiving corps is remarkable. Against the Jaguars, the Cowboys clearly made it work, but despite some vocal protests from some of the receiving group (cough) Allen Hurns (cough), the rest of these players need to do some work. However, that play by Gallup may be a sign that there is at least one other receiver that is about to step up. And Rico Gathers is starting to flash a little of that ability so many are longing to see from him.

This is a bit of a good news/bad news thing, though, especially in light of the way Cole Beasley just embarrassed the Jaguars’ pass coverage and how Geoff Swaim continues to grow in his role. There is still a problem with the corps overall, but for one game, at least, Scott Linehan and Dak Prescott figured it out. Now we have to see if they can keep it up in Washington. We’ll be back next week to see what the stats have to say about that.