While dissecting the St. Louis Rams’ season stats, the findings were far from what I expected. The Rams’ skill players have vastly different DNA from their Cowboys’ counterparts, yet the results are almost blood related.
By solely browsing names on the St. Louis starting offense, it would seem no contest against the offensive talent in Dallas. I do realize some stats are not quite telling at this early point, but there is weight there also.
If we discard the names and take the position stats at face value, the Rams’ offense stacks up oddly comparable to the Cowboys. For that matter, they look like a slightly more proficient version.
Conventional NFL wisdom says that Sam Bradford is a young, talented, starting QB in the league who is heading in the right direction. His upside is high, though surely he’s yet to make it to Tony Romo’s level. So far the stats are close, but the results are in Bradford’s corner.
With more passing yards and yards per attempt off 7 fewer completions, Sam Bradford is a) throwing further downfield and/or b) his receivers are gaining more yards after catch.
The answer in this case is b). The Rams’ receivers are doing more with their catches (illustrated in the receiving section). Both QB’s are performing efficiently yet St. Louis is creating more. Let’s not forget Romo has been sacked 5 times to Bradford’s 0.
WIDE RECEIVERS (TOP 3)
In this matchup we will compare the total numbers for the trio of Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Terrance Williams against the Rams’ top 3 in Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, and Tavon Austin. Strangely enough, 3 of those 6 players are named Austin.
The catches and yards per catch average are obviously close. The advantage comes into play in the efficiency of the Ram’s receivers. The Rams are hauling in passes and creating more yards with their grabs, even finding the endzone twice more.
This is where the comparison takes a large turn in one direction. One would think with constant Pro Bowler Jason Witten in the conversation, advantages would surely lean his way. That’s oddly not the case.
With almost double the yards and 3 fewer catches, Jared Cook is lighting it up in the yac department. Either he’s had blown coverages, or he’s flat out beaten guys on open field routes. My guess is his speed occasionally overwhelms coverage.
Cook’s longest reception was 47 yards while Witten’s was less than half that at 21. The difference here is likely the limited routes Witten is given to run.
Witten has often been hit on short passes in the flat (not his best talent) with little gain, or when the defender is right with him. There’s nothing wrong with connecting in tight coverage, it’s a crucial part of the game he excels in.
Yet I also believe Witten is not being asked to stretch the field in the 2013 offense. It seems Callahan and Dallas are out to minimize the time Romo has holding the ball by shortening routes. It helps to some extent, yet also limits big plays.
Now for the good news, Cook had ONE huge game. In the first game at Atlanta he had only 1 catch for 10 yards. Apparently he found a mismatch with Arizona that led to 10 catches, 141 yards, and 2 TDs.
Don’t look for that to be his norm. In 4 years with Tennesse (TE friendly offense), his best annual totals were 49 catches, 759 yards, and 4 TD’s. That’s childsplay for Witten. This is one area where the stats were too limited to tell the story.
I saved the worst for last. Neither team is doing much to speak of on the ground. The Rams have a skewed pass/run play selection of 93/42, which is 68% pass heavy. Dallas shows even less balance with a 91/39 ratio at 70% passing.
Both teams are well aware they are far too pass dependent for maximum effectiveness. Yet running the ball just for the sake of running it is not a winning strategy.
Cowboys’ fans must remember one thing this week, to win you must take what the defense gives you. It’s a simple mistake to force the run when it’s not the best option.
St. Louis’ defense is ranked 6th against the run, 27th vs. the pass. The Cowboys certainly must make a strong effort to run the ball, yet if it’s not there, don’t force it.
In the Rams’ last 2 games the opposing defenses are now ranked…3 rush / 21 pass (Arizona) and 9 rush / 29 pass (Atlanta). Dallas’ past 2 opponents look like this on defense…16 rush / 19 pass (Giants) and 2 rush / 7 pass (Chiefs).
Only one of those rush defenses is outside the top 10, and the Cowboys did a decent job running on the Giants. The 3 other defenses won’t be allowing most opponents to form a consistent running game this season.
Dallas must take the mindset this Sunday of a skilled boxing champion. Always be ready to exploit whatever the defense offers. Gain the most yards possible out of every situation, hunt the endzone. There’s no point in forcing a 3-yard handoff, when Dez has an off corner and a 7-yard stop route is easy money.
The urgency to press the issue and score in an abruptly determined mindset must return to keep their NFC record clean.
One final important thing to consider, offenses can’t play with urgency when stacking up penalties and fumbling the ball away. Play hard, play fast, and clean it up.
A loss here would be very damaging to the fanbase, team record, and the NFC playoff hunt. Don’t tell us this year is different, show us on the field, we are aching to believe.
DALLAS 31, ST. LOUIS 23
This is a statement game for Dallas. They match up very well with their opponent on both sides of the ball. Not only do the Cowboys win by 8, the last TD will be a very late desperation score by the Rams to keep it respectable.