Cowboys Lead the League in Total Defense

The Dallas Cowboys have led the NFL in total defense four times. This stat is based on total yards allowed.

Three of those four seasons were quite memorable: 1977, 1992, and 1994. The last time was 2003, when the Cowboys made it to the playoffs but fell to Carolina in the wildcard round.

Yes, I’m getting way ahead of myself, but after giving up just 166 yards to Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Cowboys rank first in yards allowed, giving up 250.0 per game. The Cowboys’ next opponent, Chicago, ranks sixth.

The offense has continued to slide and now ranks 20th in total yards. After picking up 297 yards on Sunday, the Cowboys have averaged 342 per game.  The rushing attack ranks even lower, as the Cowboys’ per-game average of 76.7 ranks 27th in the league.

As far as individuals, Tony Romo‘s passer rating of 89.3 is lower than any rating he’s had during six previous seasons as a starter. He is currently on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards, but he has only four touchdown passes in three games.

DeMarco Murray‘s 213 rushing yards ties for 14th in the league and is just ahead of Washington’s Robert Griffin III.

Former Arkansas Razorback standout Felix Jones has two carries for zero yards. He shares identical rushing statistics with Oakland punter Shane Lechler. No, not a compliment.

Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree are both in the top 40 among NFL receivers. Dez Bryant is not at this point, but thank goodness for his punt return on Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Lastly, Sean Lee  managed only six tackles against Tampa Bay and fell out of the league lead in tackles. His interception on Sunday, though, was crucial in the Dallas win.

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Dallas 16, Tampa Bay 10: Winning While Regressing

Sean Lee was a hero yet again, picking off a pass on a deflection the first quarter. The play set up the Cowboys’ lone touchdown.

We’re using the following to define regression2. Relapse to a less perfect or developed state.

We use that word today because of this—

  • 13 penalties for 105 yards.
  • An interception in Dallas territory in the first quarter, which led to a Tampa Bay touchdown.
  • Two fumbles, one of which was very stupid and most likely cost the Cowboys some points.
  • The Cowboys should have had the game put away with a 16-7 lead, but Tampa managed to pull to within a possession.

Nevertheless, the Cowboys are 2-1 thanks largely to a solid defensive performance/inept Tampa Bay offense. Even with a late drive that went 70 yards, the Buccaneers only managed 166 total yards. The Cowboys, on the other hand, controlled time of possession and still managed to gain 297 yards despite a bunch of mistakes.

Jason Witten has been the heart and soul of this team for some time. At this point, he is a liability. He was targeted six times yet only managed two receptions for eight yards. On the final play of the third quarter, Witten had the ball in his hands and would have wound up inside the 10. Instead, he dropped the ball. Dallas later settled for a field goal. It was Witten’s third drop of the game.

Meanwhile, the current heart and soul of this team is Sean Lee. With the Cowboys down 7-0 in the first quarter, Lee came up with an interception in Tampa territory, setting up a DeMarco Murray touchdown that tied the game.

Dallas very nearly suffered the second blocked punt in two games when Dekoda Watson ran right up the middle at Chris Jones. However, Watson missed the punt and was called for roughing the kicker. Even worse for Tampa Bay, Jordan Shipley muffed the punt, and Dallas recovered. The Cowboys managed a field goal to take a 10-7 halftime lead.

For a short time, it looked like Dallas would take control. The offense moved to the Tampa Bay 17. However, on second down, Romo pulled a Romo and tried to shovel a ball to DeMarco Murray to avoid a sack. Instead, replays showed that Romo fumbled the ball, and the Cowboys lost their scoring chance.

On a play later in the second half, Romo fumbled again when he was hit hard on a sack. Tampa took possession at the Dallas 31, but the Buccaneer offense went backwards.

The defense continued to stuff Tampa in the second half, and when the Cowboys pushed the Bucs back to their own 1, Tampa had to punt. Dez Bryant took the punt return around midfield and returned it to the Tampa Bay 6 with less than five minutes left. The play set up a field goal that gave Dallas a nine-point lead.

Tampa managed to convert a 4th-and-11 play with less than two minutes left, and the Buccaneers were able to drive into field goal range. However, their onside kick attempt failed, and the Cowboys were able to kill the clock.

The Cowboys and Giants are both 2-1, while the Redskins fell to 1-2 after a loss to Cincinnati today.

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1976: Expansion Seahawks Give Cowboys a Scare

Review the Cowboys’ first trip to Seattle in 1976.

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