Dallas Cowboys: Protection is the key to wildcard victory
By Brad Austin
There is more than one way for the Dallas Cowboys to taste playoff glory on Saturday, but sound protection is key to any winning strategy.
Sound protection is often a critical component to winning in the NFL playoffs, which especially holds true for the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday.
When the Cowboys offensive line reasonably protects Dak Prescott and the offense protects the football, there’s a good chance Dallas will defeat any opponent. Fielding the NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott and 6th ranked defense allows that luxury.
The second meeting with the Seattle Seahawks features new components significant enough to discard the Week 3 loss as mostly irrelevant. However, the Cowboys absurd failure in protection remains an important lesson from the 11-point loss.
The Dallas line allowed Prescott to get dumped five times, while the offense handed over three turnovers. On the other side, Russell Wilson was sacked only twice and the Seahawks never gifted any extra possessions.
Seattle completely dominated both areas of protection and thus handily won the game. It’s not necessary to win the turnover or sack margin to triumph on Saturday, but they must stay within reason for other Dallas advantages to own the night.
KEEPIN’ DAK OFF HIS BACK
Anyone who’s seen Dallas play knows Prescott will hit the deck a few times. However it must be kept within reason. The record in relation to sacks allowed says it all.
2 or < sacks = 3 wins, 1 loss (75%)
3 or < sacks = 6 wins, 2 losses (75%)
4 or < sacks = 9 wins, 3 losses (75%)
5 or > sacks = 1 win, 3 losses (25%)
No offense desires to allow multiple sacks, but apparently the Cowboys can survive a non-catastrophic amount and still win 75% of the time. However, when the sack total eclipsed four, like in Seattle, only 25% of those games ended in victory.
Fortunately, the full Dallas offensive line that started the run winning 7 of their last 8 games will be intact and ready to prevent the pocket protection failures of Week 3.
CHRISTMAS IS OVER, LOSE THE GIFTS
In the first meeting the Cowboys finished a disastrous -3 in the turnover battle. Dak threw two interceptions, Zeke lost a fumble, and Seattle exchanged no gifts in return. It was the team’s worst turnover deficit of the season.
Of the three games Dallas lost this battle by two or more turnovers, they fell twice. While winning seven of their last eight games, they only finished above -1 in turnovers once.
Solid protection is not a guaranteed winning formula, but does increase the odds of winning substantially. Paired with a significant homefield advantage and inspired play on Saturday, it’ll provide a golden ticket to advance past the Seahawks.
Protect the passer, protect the football, and the Cowboys will protect their house.