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Rob's Figure 4: Morris In Rhythm; Most Improved Player On The Roster?

(Editor's Note: 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 –Show of hands if you expected the Cowboys to hang 38 points on Washington last Thursday after scoring 22 in the previous three games.

Well, a lot of you probably didn't. But the Cowboys' 24-point victory over the Redskins did actually maintain a measure of consistency with the rest of their 2017 schedule – it was the ninth game this season decided by 10 points or more, and the sixth game decided by at least 20 points.

That's where start in this week's stats column, as the Cowboys (6-6) look to stay in the playoff race Sunday at the New York Giants:

1. 25 Years Since…

This is a Cowboys team known for playing tight games in the Jason Garrett era. This year, for whatever reason, they've been on both sides of several blowouts.

For the first time since 1992, the Cowboys have not played in a game decided by three points or less through the first 12 games of a season. The streak in '92 lasted until Week 15 at Washington (20-17).

That team, of course, won the Super Bowl. For a variety of reasons – injuries, suspensions, great and poor play – this year's team has dominated at times and simply struggled at others.

Could the above-mentioned streak end Sunday at the Meadowlands? Quite possible. Five of last eight games against the Giants have been decided by three points or less. The Cowboys' record in those games: 3-2.

2. Morris In Rhythm

Running backs say this often, and Alfred Morris repeated it to reporters after his breakout 127-yard game against the Redskins: He gets better the more he runs.

Backs need time to find a rhythm with their blockers up front, and typically the offensive line can wear down a defense over four quarters if the offense can commit to the run. Morris was the featured back in Washington for the better part of four seasons (2012-15), but he hadn't gotten 27 or more carries since his rookie season with the Redskins:

  • 2012: 28 for 96 yards, 2 TDs
  • 2012: 27 for 87 yards, 2 TDs
  • 2012: 33 for 200 yards, 3 TDs

Ezekiel Elliott is suspended two more games. That means two more chances for Morris to replicate his production from last Thursday against his old team.

3. Round 2 For The Defense

Sounds like linebacker Sean Lee is pointing toward his return from a hamstring injury this Sunday. It would be a big boost to the Cowboys defense, which played arguably its best game of the season in the opener against the Giants with Lee in the starting lineup.

The Cowboys' defense posted season bests in multiple categories in that 19-3 win at AT&T Stadium:

  • 3 points allowed (also a season low for the Giants to this point)
  • 13 first downs allowed
  • 233 total yards allowed

If Eli Manning is back at quarterback this week, the Giants will undoubtedly rally around their long-time starter coming off an emotional week in which he was benched for the first time in his career.

But the Cowboys are coming off one of their most productive games on defense. The Redskins gained only 280 yards and 15 first downs – the second-lowest totals allowed this season, behind only that Giants opener.

4. Special Production

Kavon Frazier was terrific with extended playing time at safety against Washington, making six physical tackles (one for loss) as part of a reworked secondary rotation.

Give credit to Frazier for his work on special teams all season, too. He forced a fumble on a punt return against San Francisco in Week 7. He downed a punt at the 1-yard in the first quarter against Washington.

And through 12 games,Frazier already has more special teams tackles (10) than any Cowboys player in the last three seasons.Dwayne Harris had 18 in 2014.

When discussing the most improved players on the roster this season, Frazier needs to be in the conversation.

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