Poetic justice for the Tampa Cowboys?

Patrick [No C] Walker joined the Dallas Cowboys digital media group as a writer and media personality in July 2022, having professionally covered the NFL and more specifically the Cowboys since 2007.

He most recently did so for CBS Sports via 247Sports, where he also spent time delving into college recruiting and ultimately became known for his unapologetic level of objectivity, labeled by many as his own unique brand of “science.” “of soccer.

Welcome to “The Science Lab”, a place where football facts and in-depth analysis always trump sentiment.

FRISCO, TX There is no exquisite beauty without a certain strangeness in proportion. Those words from the incomparable Edgar Allen Poe ring magnificently true when assessing how the 2022 version of the Dallas Cowboys got to this point. And now, on the precipice of fly or sink, it’s time to find out what this season’s sculpture will finally look like.

As the Cowboys gather to travel and take on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s the weirdness in the proportions of their 12-5 season that has to become fuel for what is now four one-week seasons.

And so it happens that the Cowboys’ regular-season lessons abound that they can harness to avoid another one-off postseason:

The opening day loss to the Buccaneers. The loss in Philadelphia to the Eagles. Losses in overtime at the hands of the Packers and Jaguars. The first half against the Lions. The first three quarters against the Colts. Everything but the last two minutes against the Texans.

“I went insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” -poe

Each of those situations carries more than enough damage for the greater good, if channeled correctly, and as efforts ramp up at The Star in Frisco with their season on the line and Tom Brady pulling the other end, let’s have a look ahead. the Cowboys face off in the NFL Super Wild Card weekend.

In dissecting what the Buccaneers do right or wrong, it quickly became apparent what should excite the Cowboys versus what they’re better off facing in Tampa.

This should be a point of emphasis for Dallas, big time, at various points in the game.

This is a game where they will have a chance to set up the drive (more on that in a bit), but the Buccaneers aren’t exactly off to stop the pass. The key for the Cowboys will be in the hands of Prescott, who is responsible for most of his interceptions since he returned from injury, but also his receivers, who are responsible for the others.

Prescott needs to take what the defense is giving him and live to fight another play, because there will be opportunities for big plays later if he does.

  • t-31 passing TDs allowed (29) behind only the Chiefs (33)
  • t-27 on INT account (10)
  • 5th in sacks earned (45, 2.6 sacks per game)

Do you see green? Take off and gain yardage to move the chains or create third or fourth-and-close to allow offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and head coach Mike McCarthy a chance to make a decision instead of taking it off their hands with a gift; and a combination of getting the ball out quickly and using the game action pass will go a long way to keeping that pass rush at bay.

And so will the return of three and four tight end sets, something that has been very productive for the Cowboys before they began to rebound in December. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him fully unleashed again in Tampa, especially considering that it would also inherently help the running game (linebackers would start playing backwards and not forwards).

I get it, the Cowboys had trouble running the ball against the Buccaneers in Week 1, but let’s keep the same energy here to understand that this isn’t the same running attack that Tampa’s front faced to open the season. Not the same offense at all, in fact. The addition of TY Hilton to the mix adds another threat for Todd Bowles to worry about, and that makes it harder to collapse in the box in the rematch.

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Plus, the Cowboys were just as committed to running the ball in the first meeting as the late Hugh Hefner was to being faithful.

Elliott had a team-high 10 carries and Pollard was only allowed six on the day, and that was combined with issues in the passing attack (one still trying to find his way re: Lamb as WR1, absent Michael Gallup due to injury and, as stated, did not have Hilton).

  • 15th in rushing yards allowed (2,052 total, 120.7 per game)
  • 23rd in rushing yards allowed per carry (4.5 per carry)

This time around, the Zeke + Pollard combo is arguably the most dominant in the league, both also healthy, and Prescott’s arsenal also includes the rise of rookie tight ends Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot.

Assuming Tyler Biadasz is back at center, the offensive line should also be more efficient at both running and passing, so Prescott has a responsibility to avoid throwing interceptions and having his receivers create their own version of them. If the Cowboys can take advantage of a Bucs front that allows nearly 120 rushing yards per game and nearly four yards per carry, the passing game can begin to close the coffin.

Considering the Bucs have allowed 150+ rushing yards or more in a game on seven separate occasions this season, well, it’s science, but it’s not rocket science.

Ah, Mr. Brady, the core of the football tumor that needs to be removed on Monday.

Many talk about clashes but, to be honest, I don’t care about all that. I’m a big fan of catharsis and that means going through the best to prove you’re better than them. Brady’s team is struggling in 2022, sure, but it’s still the best and that’s not up for debate. And yet, while that’s true, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer isn’t doing anything he can’t hold back.

His biggest attribute, aside from his clutch gene, is that he’s still doing what Prescott was also known for: not losing the ball. Therein lies the formula for beating Brady on Monday — that is, forcing him to make the uncharacteristic mistake.

Even easier, however, would be to force your targets into making mistakes (eg, knocked out of place in LOS to disrupt time, locking hip-to-hip on routes, forcing indecision on smart routes) to make even the best. Brady’s shot becomes an opportunity to take the ball.

  • 7th in passing yards (4,746)
  • 7th in TD passes (26)
  • t-4th fewest INTs in the NFL (10)

The challenge for the Cowboys is obvious, because Brady will be targeting Nahshon Wright and any other cornerback not named Trevon Diggs or DaRon Bland, making this a great opportunity for Wright to take the next step forward… or back when he passes the baton to two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

Here’s what’s interesting about the Bucs’ passing attack, though: A lot of it comes on screen plays/passes to RB from the backfield. Leonard Fournette has been targeted by Brady 83 times this season and his 73 receptions are the third most on his team, as is his receiving yardage record of 523 yards, as is his receiving touchdown tally of three. That’s very telling when it comes to how the Cowboys need to attack the Bucs, and it makes Vander Esch’s return that much more valuable.

Vander Esch will often be tasked with beating Fournette side-by-side on screens and bubbles, and I like that matchup, considering Fournette is far from a speed runner (which would be harder for an LB to cover horizontally). but more than a thug. But in case you haven’t noticed, Vander Esch also has his own punch from him, making this a matchup that will help determine the outcome of this game.

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Brady will make plays, because he’s Brady, but minimizing the number of others who do will give the Cowboys a chance to take a fourth-quarter lead, if they play fair themselves, and that lead had better be two possessions. or more. what will inevitably be a late rally by Brady with his home crowd pushing him forward.

So, at this point, I’ve told you where the Buccaneers are solid or not so solid, and where they’re very good (Brady’s passing attack), and now comes the anchor in their boat and an obvious reason why the team ended up. . with record below .500.

His rush attack is fugayzi, fugahzi, it’s a whazy, it’s a woozie.

It’s fairy dust. does not exist

  • 32nd in the NFL in total rushing yards (1,308, 76.9 per game)
  • 32nd in NFL in rushing yards (3.4 per game)
  • 32nd in the NFL in rushing gains over 20 yards (3)
  • 32nd in the NFL in rushing gains over 40 yards (0)

This levels the playing field in a gigantic way for the Cowboys, as one of Achilles’ heels for much of the season has been their fight to stop the run.

In this contest, they will not only face a Buccaneers running attack that is the worst in the entire league in every major category, but they will do so with the return of starting nose tackle Johnathan Hankins and starting middle linebacker Leighton. Vander Esch is scheduled to return.

With Hankins and Vander Esch on the field, the Cowboys allowed just two running backs to surpass 100 yards in six games (Aaron Jones, Travis Etienne), not losing those games by chance but routinely racking up some of the best in the league. —for example, David Montgomery, Dalvin Cook, Jonathan Taylor, and Damien Pierce.

The duo will return to try to stop the statistically worst running attack in the league, and one that only gets the ball 22.83% of the time on first down. That statistic also makes it easier for the Cowboys to grasp the reality that more than three-quarters of the time on first down, it’s a pass and not a run.

That’s also because of what I mentioned earlier, in that the Bucs are targeting Fournette as a receiver out of backfield (screens, bubbles, flats) to an exponential degree as a way to be an extended part of their running offense.

Stopping those quick exits to the RB would effectively neutralize his whole “Rush” attack.

And when the Buccaneers do score the traditional rush, they average just 3.4 yards per game and fewer than 77 total yards on a weekly basis. By the way, even without Hankins and Vander Esch, the Cowboys’ run defense, in a total of 18 games, has only allowed nine rushing touchdowns.

That’s the second fewest in football, period.

“Never to suffer would have been to never have been blessed.” -poe

What needs to happen for the Cowboys in Super Wild Card Weekend is based much more on their ability to beat the person in the mirror than the guy lined up in front of them, because I continually maintain that the best version of this team is virtually unbeatable for anyone other than the team wearing the star on their helmet.

All that’s left to do now is bottle every ounce of the 2022 season’s rarity and turn it into the most beautiful work of art they’ve seen since the mid-1990s.

The tournament has arrived, and as such, the time for self-inflicted wounds has officially expired.

“Said the raven: ‘Never again'”. -poe

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