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Rob’s Figure 4: How Well Do Cowboys’ Next 6 Opponents Defend The Run?
(Editor’s Note: DallasCowboys.com senior writer and pro wrestling aficionado Rob Phillips’ new column, “Figure 4,” identifies four key statistics each week that impact the Cowboys’ on-field performance.)
FRISCO, Texas – It’s a Zeke-centric stats column this week on the heels of Monday night’s court ruling that reinstates Elliott's six-game suspension.
Pending further appeals, here’s a closer look at what the news means for the Cowboys’ offense, and defense, moving forward:
1. 4th And Go
The Cowboys have confidence in their backup trio of Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden. But there’s no denying Elliott’s elite skill set – and how much the team trusts him in critical situations.
The latest example: the coaching staff electing to hand Elliott the ball on fourth-and-1 at its own 48-yard line against the Redskins. Don’t get it, and it’s terrible field position for the defense trailing 10-7 in the first quarter.
Elliott got it. He always does. This season, the Cowboys are a perfect 6-for-6 on fourth-and-1, and a perfect 13-for-13 since Elliott joined the team in 2016. Seven of those conversions were Elliott runs. Only one other time did the offense go for it inside its own territory: last December from the 42-yard line.
If indeed Elliott is not on the field for six games, the Cowboys will have to replace his big-play ability – and his short-yardage proficiency.
2. The Next Six
What are the Cowboys’ replacement backs facing these next six games, conceivably, without Elliott? Here’s how the next six opponents are defending the run this season:
Chiefs: 131.1 yards per game (28th); 4.9 yards per carry (29th)
Falcons: 102.1 yards per game (11th); 4.0 yards per carry (16th)
Eagles: 70.4 yards per game (1st); 3.8 yards per carry (12th)
Chargers: 135.1 yards per game (31st); 4.6 yards per carry (28th)
Redskins: 105.1 yards per game (13th); 4.0 yards per carry (18th)
Giants: 120.7 yard per game (23rd); 4.2 yards per carry (20th)
3. Short Fields
A Zeke-less offense could certainly use more of those. After a three-game stretch without a defensive takeaway, the Cowboys got three in back-to-back games (San Francisco, Washington) for the first time since December of last season.
The Cowboys suddenly rank mid-pack with 10 takeaways. The win over Washington marked the 13th time they’ve recorded at least three since Rod Marinelli became defensive coordinator in 2014.
The Cowboys’ record with at least three takeaways in a game over the last four seasons: 13-0.
One issue this week: Alex Smith and Sunday’s opponent, the Chiefs, don’t turn it over much. They’re tied for the league-low in turnovers (three), and according to Elias, Smith is only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 15 touchdowns without an interception to start a season.
4. Chief Objective
Like the Cowboys, Kansas City’s offense thrives with an elite, versatile running back. According to Elias, Chiefs rookie Kareem Hunt set an NFL record with at least 100 yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) in the Chiefs’ first seven games – the longest streak ever at the start of a player’s career.
Monday night, the Broncos held Hunt to 68 total yards (46 rushing, 22 receiving) but the Chiefs still won the game to improve to 6-2. Undoubtedly, containing Hunt will be a top priority for the Cowboys’ defense.
At this point, it appears the Chiefs won't have to game plan for Elliott. Read