IRVING, Texas – Head coach Jason Garrett reminds his players that unlike in Ultimate Frisbee, they're allowed to run once they catch the ball.
The Cowboys trail their opponents in rushing plays of more than 10 yards and in passing plays of more than 20 yards this season. Garrett said the Cowboys can benefit more from big plays by gaining more yards after the catch more so than heaving the ball downfield.
"A ton of the big plays are made by guys throwing the ball way down field, but there are a lot of plays made by guys throwing the ball from me to you and breaking a tackle and making a big run," Garrett said. "That's a big part of our game and we need to be better at that at the receiver position, we need to be better at that at the tight end position and the running back position."
The Cowboys have registered 14 rushing plays of 10 yards or more this season, with only three in the past three games. Their opponents have 20 rushing plays of 10 yards or more, including nine in the last three games.
Long passing plays have occurred more frequently, with Dallas recording 27 plays of 20 yards or more through the air this season, while its opponents have 28. Both Dallas and its opponents registered 12 passing plays of 20 yards or more in the last three games, with most of those Cowboys plays coming in catch-up mode against the Giants. Dallas trails its opponents by three long passing plays in the last four games.
More of these game-changing plays would help the Cowboys put points on the board, given their struggles in the red zone. Dallas is sixth in total offense and third in passing offense, yet 26th in the league in scoring offense.
"You obviously want to be the team that's making the big plays and the little plays and certainly the playmakers have a lot to do with that, but as a coaching staff and a football team you'd like to think that preparation and being on top of things and being ready to make those plays is a part of that as well," Garrett said. "So we work very hard at that and also try to empower our players to make those plays."
The Falcons recorded three more 20-plus yard receiving plays than the Cowboys last Sunday, including a critical play by Jacquizz Rodgers, who broke a third-down tackle for a 31-yard gain on Atlanta's final drive.
"I don't know that we're deficient in those areas, but we can certainly make a lot of plays that way," Garrett said. "You see it around the league. We emphasize the importance of tackling on defense for that very reason. They might throw the ball underneath in front of the chains, we've got to tackle that guy, get him off the field. It's certainly a big emphasis."