Eatman: First-Down Struggles Hurt Offense From Start To Finish

Everyone likes to set the tone early, no matter what the situation is.

If it's the season, you want a good opener. Or a game, you want to start things off right.

And it's no different with a particular offensive series. You want to get things going on the right foot, if possible.

Well, if you're looking for a reason why the Cowboys struggled so mightily on offense Sunday, look no further than first down.

Overall, the Cowboys had 24 plays Sunday where they lined up for a first-and-10 play. Of those 24 plays, the Cowboys racked up a total of 57 yards for an average of 2.3 yards per play. And that includes three receptions of 19, 18 and 17 yards – that's 54 right there. So you can imagine the negative plays that are sprinkled in there. Of the other 21 first-down plays, the Cowboys picked up ... THREE yards. Not an average, combined.

And most of those negative plays occurred in the running game, and in the first half.

Check out this stat: the Cowboys ran 12 plays on first-and-10 Sunday for a total … a total of 3 yards. That's an average of .025 yard per carry. So on first down, the Cowboys are running DeMarco Murray and gaining a fourth of a yard.

In the first half, the Cowboys gave Murray six attempts on first down. After a four-yard gain on his first attempt, it was five straight negative plays of -3, -2, -1, -1 and -1.

That's a problem right there.

The offensive line had its problems all day, whether it was blocking the blitz, blocking a three-man-rush, remembering the snap count … you name it. But blocking in the running game was a big issue, too.

You want to keep your quarterback from taking a lot of big hits like Tony Romo did on Sunday? Well keep him out of second-and-long and third-and-long and maybe that'll be a start.

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