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Rob’s Figure 4: Dominant Defensive Performance; Red Zone Woes; More
(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 – Put aside the playoff-related help the Cowboys got around the league before kickoff on Christmas Eve – the Bengals beating the Lions, the Saints beating the Falcons.
All that was quite generous, indeed. Those two scores nearly put the Cowboys in control of their own destiny against the Seahawks.
Yet, with their wild-card chances on the line Sunday, the Cowboys simply got in their own way.
In the process, they squandered arguably the best performance of the season by the defense. That’s where we start this week in the stats column:
1. Defensive Strength
When’s the last time the Cowboys lost a game holding an opponent under 200 total yards? The 2010 season, three weeks before Jason Garrett became interim head coach. That year, the Vikings beat the Cowboys 24-21 despite gaining only 188 total yards.
This past Sunday, the defense did an incredible job of preventing Seattle’s Russell Wilson from wrecking the game with his arm and his feet. Wilson threw for only 93 yards and rushed for 29 yards. The entire offense gained only 136 yards, a season-low total allowed by the Cowboys.
In fact, a Dallas defense hadn’t allowed fewer yards in a game since 2005, when the Eagles gained only 129 in a 33-10 loss to the Cowboys.
2. Elliott At 20
If you told me before kickoff that the defense would allow only 14 points and Ezekiel Elliott would get 24 carries for 97 yards, I’d guess that the Cowboys would grind out a victory.
Christmas Eve was an exception, even though Elliott broke a tie with Herschel Walker for the sixth-most games of 20-or-more carries in Cowboys history.
The Cowboys are now 15-5 when Elliott gets at least 20 carries, but only 5-3 this season. Usually Elliott tops 20 while protecting a lead and wearing down a defense in the second half of games. This time, the Cowboys were playing catch-up in the fourth quarter, and they weren’t efficient where it counted most.
3. Seeing Red
No surprise there has been much outside debate over whether the offense should’ve simply handed Elliott the ball on first-and-goal from the Seattle 3 trailing 21-12 midway through the fourth quarter. They didn’t and ended up settling for a 34-yard field goal attempt that Dan Bailey pushed to the right.
That left the Cowboys without a touchdown on two red zone trips in the game. (The other ended with a Bailey field goal in the second quarter.) It’s the second time this season that the offense failed to find the end zone from inside the 20.
And, it marked only the seventh game since Scott Linehan began calling plays in 2014 (then as passing game coordinator) that the Cowboys didn’t capitalize on a single red zone trip. The Cowboys’ record in those games: 0-7.
4. Lost Possessions
Aside from those red-zone struggles, turnovers are what ended the Cowboys’ playoff hopes.
It marked the second time this season that the Cowboys committed at least three turnovers in a game (three in a loss to Green Bay in Week 5).
The Cowboys are now 3-12 under head coach Jason Garrett in 2010 when committing at least three turnovers. Tough to win games that way. Read