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Crunching Cowboys stats: Anatomy of a total turnaround

The numbers are beautiful this week for the Cowboys.

Atlanta Falcons v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

What a difference a week made for the Dallas Cowboys. After a humiliating 30-16 drumming at the hands of the Denver Broncos, they looked like an entirely different team in taking out their frustrations and more, pounding the Atlanta Falcons 43-3. It was the very definition of a total, complementary team win. All three phases of the game were dominated by Dallas.

To try and digest just how impressive this win was, here is a comparison of some of the key stats from each game.

Broncos/Falcons comparison

Stat vs Broncos Falcons
Stat vs Broncos Falcons
Third down conversions allowed 8-15-53.3% 1-11-9.1%
Own fourth down conversions 0-4 3-3
Gain per passing play 5.2 9.1
Turnover margin Minus 2 Plus 2
Yards gained 290 431
Yards allowed 407 214
20+ yard plays allowed 6 1
Time of possession 18.48 37.41
Points off of blocked punts 1-0 1-8
Missed tackles (per Dan Quinn) 14 3.5

You would be hard pressed to find a bigger one game turnaround ever, and not just for the Cowboys. If you were looking for some evidence that the stinker against the Broncos was an aberration, there you are.

If you went back and only looked at the numbers for the Denver game leading up to the 30-0 lead in the fourth quarter, the difference would be even more stark. It is marked enough just looking at that entire game, garbage time and all.

This was an impressive job by the coaches. Whether you consider motivating the team with some Monkey Butt or the scintillating play-calling by Kellen Moore, Dan Quinn, and John Fassel, it worked almost to perfection. But this is a game played by the eleven men on a side each down. As you can expect from the results, there were a lot of them who were completely outstanding. In the spirit of celebrating this win, here are some of the more impressive notes from the game.

Grouping those three tweets together indicates a bigger point. The cornerback room for the Cowboys this year has the potential to be an historic group. While Diggs has been getting so much coverage for his league-leading interception total, he is joined by what is becoming an amazing lockdown pair of players in Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis. Lewis may have been the most important defender on the day, as his back-to-back pass breakups that led to a Falcons turnover on downs was the point at which that game really turned for the Cowboys. Brown’s three picks this year has him tied with eleven other players for the eighth most in the NFL. After years of seeing the Cowboys burned repeatedly in coverage, this is almost too good to believe. It does lead to a very interesting thought.

There is no doubt this is a radically different year for the Dallas secondary.

We can all agree that Micah Parsons is now the prohibitive favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. He plays with a combination of speed, power, and intelligence that might truly be generational - all with just half an NFL season of experience. It may be time to start looking at even bigger goals for him - like Defensive Player of the Year. He is that good. Of course, he may have to overtake some pretty stiff competition, including that fellow with eight interceptions so far.

Of course, CeeDee Lamb wasn’t done, snagging a second TD from Dak Prescott later in the game. This is still clearly worth noting. And it may be tied to the return of Michael Gallup to active duty. With Amari Cooper, the Cowboys may have the best top three wide receivers in the league, with pretty good depth behind them. That is rather good for a team with big ambitions.

You simply cannot discuss the Falcons win without mentioning the impact Prescott had. He led the pregame huddle and then firmly established that his bad start against the Broncos was a fluke. In the second half, he added one more touchdown to get to the coveted 40 burger. It caused our hearts to be in our throats as he fought through defenders to take it in himself. But that is something we have to live with. He is one of the fiercest competitors in the league, and that is fortunately just baked into his DNA. Still, we need him to stay healthy if our dreams of a deep playoff run are to remain intact.

The breakout game from Dorance Armstrong could not have come at a better time. With DeMarcus Lawrence still working his way back after being injured at the beginning of the season and Randy Gregory now also out for a few games, there was much trepidation about what Dallas would do at defensive end. The failure to set the edge in the running game against the Broncos was one more place where the Cowboys reversed their fortunes, as the Falcons had little to no ground attack. Part of that, however, was due to them falling behind so much in the first half and having to go almost entirely with the pass. But there, Armstrong was more than capable, adding a team high three QB hits to his stat line.

Roster depth has been something the Cowboys have been able to rely on this season far more than any other one in memory. The next man up has worked over and over. It is an often underappreciated quality of championship teams that must weather the long, violent season. And that brings us to the last thing we will consider in this look at what are really just the highlights of a game that was so badly needed and so very, very good.

Forced to move to left tackle when Tyron Smith was ruled out for the Broncos game, Steele had a rough time. But, as often happens, a game of playing under fire and another week in practice led to a major step forward. Steele may be carving out a role as the swing tackle for Dallas, unless he is lured away by some tackle needy team in free agency after next season. His now proven ability to cover both sides of the line is invaluable, and there are certainly teams in the league where he could win a starting job. It should however be remembered that he is a restricted free agent, and the Cowboys will at least have the opportunity of making a matching offer to retain him. In any case, he is so far this season outplaying his UDFA contract and in some ways may have saved the season with the disappointing performance of Ty Nsekhe, who was supposed to be the answer at swing tackle.

As all of this indicates, it was a fantastic bounce back for Dallas. But coaches and players have to have a short memory in the NFL. That applies to wins as well as losses. The team can enjoy this win, but they need to get their eyes off the rearview and focus on the road ahead. Fortunately, that may not be as rough as we feared just a few short days ago.