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Mailbag: Offense As Explosive As Stats Suggest?

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I heard a stat today that the offense is actually ranked 24th in the league in the first half of games. Is it possible that they aren't as explosive as the numbers suggest because they are racking up most of their yardage and points in the second half (normally fourth quarter) after they are already trailing by double digits and opposing defenses have gone into a soft prevent type of game plan? — MARK SOMMA / GAINESVILLE, VA

Nick: I know Dave and I don't agree on this one. Yes, I think the numbers are a bit hollow because it's all happening at the end of the game when the goal is to try and make the Cowboys take more time off the clock. Now, that's not working either because we can see how explosive the offense is. You have to give them credit for the ability to score quickly. I think we all would like to see them open the game up that way and reel off a bunch of points in the first half instead of the end when their playing uphill.

David: Eh, I'm not buying it. When this game went to halftime, Dak Prescott had completed 13-of-16 passes for 197 yards and the Cowboys had 50 rushing yards – averaging five yards per carry as a team. The offense looked just fine jumping out to a 14-7 lead, they just sank the entire game plan when they fumbled on two consecutive series. They also had a 14-13 lead at halftime against the Rams, and the 30-15 deficit they faced in Seattle was not big enough for the Seahawks to start playing prevent. If you need evidence, look no further than the three 40+ yard touchdowns Dak Prescott threw that day. The offense has been just fine at moving the ball in both halves. They just need to play cleaner and stop turning the ball over.

It seems over the past several years that the Cowboys defense has been especially susceptible to trick/gadget plays by the opposing team, i.e. the Beckham reverse TD that sealed the game on Sunday? Am I correct in this assessment, and how can a defense be prepared for these types of plays? — JEREMY BAREWIN / CHICAGO, IL

Nick: I don't know if I can go with you on that assessment. Yes, in the game the Browns were successful at times but the reverse wasn't why he scored. It should've been a 10-15 yard play but the entire defense whiffed on trying to get him down. Over the years, I can't recall a lot of trick plays working against them. It just comes down to discipline and the ability to have awareness and then to react to the play.

David: It's a good question. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to answer it without running the numbers on every trick play faced by every defense in the league over the past few years – which sounds like a daunting task. What I can say is that I think you have a point, because the Cowboys have been an undisciplined defense for the past couple years. They're susceptible to overpursuit and misdirection, and I'd argue that's been a theme since at least 2018. This is not the most talented defense in the league, but they could go a long way toward improving by simply being a bit more disciplined.

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