Last week for the Dallas Cowboys wasn’t pretty and something that, honestly, we'd all love to erase from our memory. That loss to the Denver Broncos was disappointing and it seems to have brought this once surging Cowboys team back down to earth a bit. That, along with being bit by the injury bug once again.
The Cowboys now shift their focus towards the Atlanta Falcons. A team that the Cowboys could have been overlooking if it weren’t for their loss last week. The Falcons are also coming off a big win against the New Orleans Saints and now look to upset the Cowboys as well.
Let’s take a look at this Falcons team and see what the Cowboys are going up against.
2020 Record 4-12 Current 2021 Record: 4-4
Last Meeting: 09/20/2020 - Cowboys 40 - Falcons 39
Head Coach: Arthur Smith
Key Additions: WR/RB/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, RB Mike Davis, CB Fabian Moreau, OLB Brandon Copeland
Key Losses: C Alex Mack, S Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee, S Ricardo Allen, G Justin McCray
Offensive Statistics and Analysis
Offensive Ranking: 21st (ppg)
Passing Offense Ranking: 12th
Rush Offense Ranking: 29th
This Falcons offense was dealt a major blow when star receiver Calvin Ridley announced that he was taking time away from football. The Falcons were able to overcome that announcement as they were able to pick up the win last week against the Saints. As long as quarterback Matt Ryan is under center this offense has a chance to be a threat. The addition of a do it all player like Cordarrelle Patterson has helped this offense in the running game and in the passing game with all their injuries throughout the season at wide receiver. He gives Ryan a weapon that can line up all over the field and is a player the Cowboys most certainly will be focusing on this week.
This offense overall, even after bringing in Patterson and Mike Davis this season, has leaned more on Ryan’s arm to move the ball as they rank ninth in the league in pass attempts compared to just 25th in rushing. Ryan has done his part completing 69% of his passes with 15 touchdowns, five interceptions, and averaging 269 yards a game on the year. This is mainly due to this team's inability to run the football consistently averaging 80 yards per game and just 3.4 yards per carry on the season. This should help the Cowboys as they will look to focus on stopping Ryan and forcing this poor rushing offense to beat them this week. For a defense looking to redeem itself, they have a very good chance to do so.
Defensive Statistics and Analysis
Defensive Ranking: 28th (PPG against)
Pass Defense Ranking: 13th
Run Defense Ranking: 24th
This Falcons defense is a unit that likes to get up the field on the defensive line quickly in order to disrupt the passing game and running game. They may not have the volume of sacks that other teams around the league do with only 11 on the season, but they have quite a few tackles for loss (29), quarterback hits (33), and (55) quarterback pressures. Led by defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and Dante Fowler Jr. (if he returns this week from injury), this is an aggressive unit that likes to blitz and has done so 120 times. That pressure has allowed this secondary to look good at times and slow down opposing passing games.
That aggressiveness has a flip side to it and teams have been exploiting it by running the ball. Teams are averaging 4.4 yards per carry against this defense and the Cowboys have two running backs who are averaging more than that; Ezekiel Elliott at 4.9 yards per carry and Tony Pollard at 5.6 yards per carry that should be able to carve up this defense. That should force the defensive line and pass rushers to slow down a bit which in turn will give the Cowboys Dak Prescott and his receivers more time to make plays down the field. The key this week for the Cowboys should be to establish the run early on then let Prescott carve up the secondary.
All stats are from Profootballreference.com
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