The Dallas Cowboys' defense has become an immovable object. They have done something no one else in the NFC has been able to accomplish—their defense has yet to allow a single receiver or rusher to go over 100 yards in a game. The only other team to do that in the NFL is the Houston Texans.
The #Cowboys defense has not allowed a pass catcher or a rusher to go over 100 yards in any game this season— Brandon Loree (@Brandoniswrite) October 30, 2023
Opponents Top receivers from each game:
• Wk 1 - Darren Waller (3 rec, 36 yds)
• Wk 2 - Garrett Wilson (2 rec, 83 yds)
• Wk 3 - Michael Wilson (2 rec, 86 yds)… pic.twitter.com/MTd2wAaGI8
On Sunday, the defense faces an unstoppable force in Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown. He set a new NFL record with six consecutive 125+ yard games, breaking Calvin "Megatron" Johnson's previous record. While there's no scientific way to determine who will come out on top, we can analyze some statistics to try and find an answer.
The Dallas Perspective:
The Cowboys could have the advantage in Sunday’s matchup because Brown isn’t the only great receiver they’ve faced this year.
Week 2: Garrett Wilson
Week 5: Deebo Samuel & Brandon Aiyuk
Week 6: Keenan Allen
Week 7: Cooper Kupp & Puka Nakua
It is worth noting where each player stands on the receiving yards leaderboard. Nakua is currently in the third position with 795 yards, Allen ranks eighth with 643 yards, and Aiyuk is tenth with 620 yards. The next closest player on this list is Wilson—30th with 469 yards.
It is interesting to note that out of the Cowboys' first seven games, they have faced three of the top ten leading receivers.
However, these stats only provide a partial picture of their games against Dallas. If Justin Herbert, the quarterback, had thrown the ball more accurately in Allen's direction, he could have gained over 100 yards. The same goes for Aiyuk if the game against the 49ers had been more competitive. Nonetheless, the fact that these elite receivers were held at bay is impressive, especially considering that the secondary was missing its most crucial piece, Trevon Diggs.
DaRon Bland in single coverage:— PFF (@PFF) November 1, 2023
89.9 coverage grade (1st)
6 catches allowed
6 forced incompletions
7.5 passer rating allowed pic.twitter.com/jfW7XZuX4D
The Cowboys' starting cornerbacks have their strengths, but it’ll be interesting to see who has the most success against Brown.
DaRon Bland has been excellent in single-coverage situations. He’s allowed six catches, has three interceptions, six pass deflections, and has given up a passer rating of 7.5. For Stephon Gilmore, he played Brown very well last season when he was with the Indianapolis Colts. He gave up a few big plays, but that was due to Philadelphia’s play design to get Brown in space—an area Gilmore struggles in.
However, when it came to one-on-one coverage, Brown tried to put a double move on the veteran corner, and Gilmore didn’t fall for it. He also had a pass breakup against the Eagles receiver in the endzone.
The Brown Perspective:
A.J. Brown was still trying to click with Jalen Hurts at the beginning of the season, but everything started to come together over the last six games at the aforementioned historic pace.
Brown is second among receivers with 939 yards on the year, only trailing Tyreek Hill by 75 yards. He’s averaging 117.4 yards per game and has 17 receptions that have gone for at least 20 yards or more, which leads all receivers. To say he’s Philadelphia’s best offensive weapon would be an understatement.
So how do the passing defenses Brown has faced rank among the rest of the league?
Week 3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers - (22nd in pass yards allowed; 16th in quarterback rating allowed)
Week 4: Washington Commanders - (29th in pass yards allowed; 31st in quarterback rating allowed)
Week 5: Los Angeles Rams - (16th in pass yards allowed; 14th in quarterback rating allowed)
Week 6: New York Jets - (3rd in pass yards allowed; 4th in quarterback rating allowed)
Week 7: Miami Dolphins - (19th in pass yards allowed; 27th in quarterback rating allowed)
Week 8: Washington Commanders - (29th in pass yards allowed; 31st in quarterback rating allowed)
The most impressive game he had was against the top-ranked New York Jets passing defense, but it comes with an asterisk. The Jets were missing their top two cornerbacks, Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed, for the game.
Facing the Commanders twice is just dominating against an inferior opponent whom the Eagles are head and shoulders above. There’s no denying what Brown has done this season and how he should be in the conversation for MVP, but the Dallas passing defense will be the best he’s faced all season.
Week 9: Dallas Cowboys - (2nd in pass yards allowed; 3rd in quarterback rating allowed; 4th in passing yards allowed per game)
Finding a Solution:
On the field, the question of who wins between an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object won't be solved with beakers or test tubes. Rather, it will come down to the game plan prepared by each side. Depending on who executes better in this matchup alone, it could determine who wins.
If Brown manages to reach over 100 yards receiving, the Eagles are likely to enter the bye week with a win. However, if the Cowboys' defense manages to prevent Brown from continuing his streak, it could be the reason why Philadelphia's offense struggles and ultimately hands Dallas the victory.
Just like good scientists, we need to put this question to the test. We will have our answer by the end of Sunday night.