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Crunching Cowboys stats: Signs of hope among the wreckage of the Chiefs loss

There was good for the Cowboys defense, and ways the offense can improve.

Dallas Cowboys v Kansas City Chiefs
At least we have Micah.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

This is not about putting lipstick on the pig of the Dallas Cowboys’ 19-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It was an absolute stinker and there are many things that need to be fixed or ways found to compensate. But now that we’ve had a chance to sleep on it, there are certainly reasons to not despair.

The W-L record is tied for the third best in the NFC after the New York Giants lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There is certainly reason to keep an eye on the rest of the NFC East, who are all having more success of late. Still, Dallas remains in a very good position for the playoffs

As you would expect from a pretty desultory loss, the stats and numbers from the game itself are not exactly pretty. Now the Cowboys need to get back to their winning ways, fast, with the annual short week of Thanksgiving upon us. Here are some things that those figures may tell us.

We’ll start with the offense, which as we’ll see later was by far the worst part of the game. The running game was particularly dismal, against a Chiefs team that should have been more vulnerable. But the return of defensive lineman Chris Jones and an overall very strong performance by their front seven largely snuffed that out. The Cowboys only gained 82 yards rushing on the day. Take away the only play to get 20 or more yards during the game for either phase of the offense, Tony Pollard’s keeper on a trick play for 31, and it is even worse. Ezekiel Elliott only averaged 3.6 yards per carry. He did seem to get stronger as the game went on, despite getting hurt on a play that looked like he would not be able to return. By then, however, Dallas was trying to overcome a two-score deficit and could not, as Joe Buck and Troy Aikman kept bemoaning, establish the run. We’ll forgo critiquing that 1990s point of view and just submit that they did indeed need far more from the ground game than they got. This is a disturbing trend now for the last few games that really needs to be addressed.

A large part of that was a very bad day for the entire offensive line. One big headline for the game was that Tyron Smith would be held out again, forcing Terence Steele to hold down left tackle. He fared poorly, but it also was a sign that the coaches might have been too hasty in benching Connor Williams in favor of Connor McGovern. Williams certainly has had a problem with the excessive penalties called on him, although it can be argued that some were not very justified. Still, the team won seven games with him at left guard. The change had to have affected the all important chemistry on that side. Perhaps that should not have been so important in the run game for a team that is so right handed on the ground. But La’el Collins and Zack Martin did not do much better. There were also some missed blocks by tight ends and wide receivers that played a part.

The line’s inadequacies were noticeable running the ball. They were glaring when Dak Prescott tried to pass. He was sacked five times. Often that is on the quarterback, but in this game the pressure was coming almost immediately all game. Jones had 3.5 sacks himself, wreaking havoc all game. The middle of the line seemed to be in Prescott’s lap all the time, keeping him from climbing the pocket. Add in that he did not have clear space to roll out most of the game, and there was little he could do.

Then you have the absence of Amari Cooper and the loss of CeeDee Lamb for the entire second half. The remaining receivers, except for Dalton Schultz, did not help much at all with several dropped passes. Prescott himself was often off target, as on the first play of the game when he overthrew Michael Gallup on a pass that could have entirely changed the course of things. His two interceptions were also at least due to the constant pressure. He seemed troubled by the windy conditions. Kellen Moore tried to help him with a lot of shorter throws, but it did not work. Prescott would not complete a single throw that went for more than 19 yards, although some seemed set up to do better if not for those missed blocks. We also have to give credit to some outstanding individual efforts by the defenders.

The Cowboys are currently expecting Smith to return this week. That will not necessarily help the chemistry element, but having a game under his belt will hopefully help McGovern. Cooper is still out, and we are holding our breath that Lamb will make a rapid recovery and clear the concussion protocol in time to face the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday. But the backup receivers just have to do better. Dallas has to find a way to get better than three field goals for their total scoring output.

We should note that the special teams also had a very bad day. They allowed 104 yards on three kickoff returns, with two going 39. This was highly uncharacteristic of them, and just one more thing that needs to be cleaned up, stat.

The defense, however, played well enough to win, only allowing 19 points to the high-powered Kansas City offense and Patrick Mahomes. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce had good, but not overwhelming, totals. Outside of the opening drive by the Chiefs, the defense kept things well in check, outside of a Tyreek Hill reverse and a handful of long passes. And they just got stronger as the game progressed.

In addition to the two takeaways, the defense also notched three sacks. This was a good enough performance that even a moderate amount of effectiveness on offense could have won the game. But the complementary play that led to the wins so far this season was absent.

Speaking of defense, there is no doubt that the team has itself a superstar. We can no longer just look at him in terms of rookie performance.

But his rookie comps are also highly impressive.

Parsons is a lock to be named Defensive Rookie of the Year. The people who hand out individual awards are hesitant to even consider a rookie for Defensive Player of the Year, but it is time for them to get over that. He is building a remarkable résumé.

We still are waiting on DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Brent Urban, and Neville Gallimore to return to the field, and none are expected this week. But when they do, this defense may be good enough to overcome some warts while the offense also strives to get back to full strength. And we may not have to wait too much longer on one of them.

There is an old saying about what wins championships. This year, the Cowboys may have just that.

The numbers are at times depressing from the loss, but there are ways that they can be overcome as Dallas returns home, and then faces another indoor game at the New Orleans Saints the next Thursday. Then they have the “mini-bye” week to further heal. After that, four of their last five games are against NFC East opponents. They can, to use another hoary adage, control their own destiny.