(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 – Facing their toughest test of the season to date, the Cowboys delivered their most complete performance of the season last Sunday in a decisive 11-point win over the Kansas City Chiefs. It doesn't get any easier this Sunday against the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.
This week, we're look back and forward in the stats column. Let's get started:
1. Magic 28
It's a little funny to look back to September and recall so many asking, what's wrong with the offense?
Yes, the Denver game was the outlier eyesore – a performance so poor and so out of character that two months later you almost have to shrug your shoulders.
Fast forward to November. The Cowboys have played eight total games and scored at least 28 points in the last six games, tying a club record(2007, Tony Romo's first full season as a starter).
The 2016 Cowboys had a five-game streak of 28 points or more. Both those teams (2016, 2007) won 13 games and clinched the best record in the NFC.
The 2017 Cowboys would have to win each of their final eight games to go 13-3, and Ezekiel Elliott's potential six-game suspension still looms. But right now they're challenging teams to score 30 points to beat them, and the way their defense is playing (more on that below), that's no easy task.
2. No Chunk Plays
Kansas City was, by far, the most explosive offense the Cowboys had faced all season – and the Dallas defense was downright dominant this past Sunday. The Chiefs only produced five "big plays" in the game – runs of at least 10 yards or catches of at least 20 yards. The Cowboys' offense had seven.
Plus, if you throw out the "Hill Mary" – Tyreek Hill's implausible 56-yard touchdown catch in which the Cowboys literally spotted the Chiefs 40 yards with the mother of all prevent defenses – the Chiefs didn't have a single play from scrimmage of more than 22 yards.
In their previous eight games, the Chiefs produced these types of game-changing chunk plays:
at New England
Tyreek Hill: 75-yard TD catch
Kareem Hunt: 78-yard TD catch; 58-yard TD catch
Travis Kelce: 44-yard catch
Hunt: 53-yard TD run
at L.A. Chargers
Hunt: 69-yard TD run
Kelce: 32-yard catch
Albert Wilson: 37-yard catch
Hill: 38-yard catch
De'Anthony Thomas: 57-yard TD catch
Hunt: 34-yard run
Demarcus Robinson: 33-yard catch
Hill: 64-yard TD catch
Hill: 33-yard catch
Kelce: 33-yard catch
The Cowboys mostly kept Kansas City in check, limiting big plays and getting off the field on third down (Chiefs 4-of-11).
3. "Dino" Soars
Last week, a reporter asked David Irving how many sacks he could have if he didn't start the season with a four-game suspension.
"I think about that," Irving said.
He'll never know, but we can make an educated guess. Irving has 6 sacks in his four appearances, which would've given him a league-leading 12 sacks over an eight-game pace.
Here are the current NFL sack leaders and their total games played:
Calais Campbell (11.0), eight games
DeMarcus Lawrence (10.5), eight games
Everson Griffen (10), eight games
Chandler Jones (9), eight games
Melvin Ingram (8.5), eight games
Joey Bosa (8.5), eight games
Von Miller (8), eight games
Julius Peppers (7.5), nine games
Justin Houston (7.5), nine games
Cameron Jordan (7.0), eight games
Akiem Hicks (7.0), eight games
Michael Bennett (6.5), eight games
Mario Addison (6.5), nine games
Yannick Ngakoue (6.5), eight games
Cameron Wake (6.0), eight games
Ryan Kerrigan (6.0), eight games
David Irving (6.0), four games
Clearly, Irving's work in half the time has been impressive – and a major factor in the Cowboys' three-game winning streak.
4. Takeaway From Atlanta
Sunday's opponent, the Falcons, went 11-5 last year with the league's most dynamic offense and a talented young defense. Quarterback Matt Ryan won MVP, and the team had the Super Bowl won until Tom Brady did Tom Brady things.
This year, the Falcons are 4-4, and it seems everyone outside their organization is pointing to the offense's drop-off under new coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Indeed, Atlanta is scoring only 21.3 points per game (ranked 17th), down from an NFL-best 33.8 last year.
Another change: turnover margin. Last year, the Falcons were a plus-11, tied for third-best in the league. This year, Atlanta's minus-4 turnover margin is tied for the sixth-worst in the league.
What's changed? Ryan has as many interceptions (7) through eight games as he did in 16 games last year. The Falcons' defense is also tied for the fewest takeaways (6). Two factors to watch Sunday.