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Rob’s Figure 4: Dak vs. Wentz; Difference With & Without Sean Lee
(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.)
It’s never good when there’s more discussion about the players you don’t have on the field than the ones you do.
The Cowboys (5-4) sound hopeful that Smith, at the very least, can return for Sunday night’s NFC East showdown against the 8-1 Eagles. But they still have Dak Prescott healthy and locked in for Week 11 – and that’s where we start in the stats column:
1. Dak vs. Wentz
Sunday will mark the third career meeting between the second-year standout quarterbacks, and only the second matchup with something at stake (Prescott didn’t play the full 2016 season finale at Philly because Dallas already had clinched playoff seeding).
Both got off to fast starts in their respective rookie years. This year, Prescott and Carson Wentz have very similar, highly-efficient numbers through 9 games. Here’s a closer look:
|Completion Percentage||Passing Yards||Passing TDs||Interceptions||Passer Rating||Rushing Yards||Rushing TDs|
The Eagles made a point to improve the skill positions around Wentz in the offseason, and his numbers have soared (16 touchdowns, 14 interceptions last year).
This year, Prescott has fewer passing touchdowns but five rushing scores, first among NFL quarterbacks and tied for the third-most in the league, period. He added another against the Falcons last Sunday, showing he’s still a red-zone rushing threat even with Elliott currently suspended.
2. With & Without Sean
Head coach Jason Garrett said Lee could miss “some time” with the hamstring injury he suffered against the Falcons. That doesn’t sound promising for this Sunday, if not longer, and there’s a clear difference in the defense’s performance when their All-Pro linebacker/captain isn’t on the field.
How different? Well, opponents are nearly doubling the rushing yardage against Dallas when Lee doesn’t play.
In the two starts Lee missed in October, the Rams and Packers allowed an average of 164.0 yards on the ground. In his first six starts, the Cowboys only gave up 80.3 yards per game.
The shift was evident in the Atlanta game, too. The Falcons had 4 carries for minus-2 yards when Lee got hurt with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter. They finished with 30 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown – even without starter Devonta Freeman for most of the game.
3. Steady Bailey
All right, last thing about the injured guys: Mike Nugent is an experienced replacement for Bailey, who’s still recovering from a groin injury, but Nugent’s 38-yard miss was a major turning point against Atlanta.
It was a 10-point swing: Instead of cutting the deficit to 17-10 late in the third quarter, the Cowboys still trailed by two possessions – and the Falcons basically iced the game with a touchdown on their next drive to make it 24-7.
Credit to Mickey Spagnola for this stat: Last Sunday marked the first time a Cowboys kicker missed a field goal try from 30-39 yards since Bailey’s failed 35-yard attempt on Sept. 22, 2013. (Bailey did have a 35-yarder blocked by Arizona in 2014.)
Since his last true miss from 30-39 yards, Bailey has made 31 straight kicks from that distance – and 55 straight from 39 yards and in. That’s consistency. They'll need that from Nugent until Bailey gets back.
4. Hitchens’ Pace
Now, some good news: Anthony Hitchens has been outstanding at middle linebacker after missing the first four games with a knee injury.
Hitchens led the defense with 12 team-credited tackles against the Falcons, and in five stars he currently ranks sixth on the team with 36 tackles – only two behind cornerback Anthony Brown for fifth place.
Do the math, and Hitchens is on a 115-tackle pace over a full 16-game season. He had a career-high 104 stops last season. As long as Lee is out, they’ll need his production more than ever. Read