Cowboys at Rams: Dallas defense must prevent chunk plays
The Dallas Cowboys defense has a clear mission in the divisional round of the playoffs. They must stop the explosive L.A. Rams from making big, chunk plays.
The Dallas Cowboys defense has been amazing in 2018. With defensive geniuses Rod Marinelli (defensive coordinator) and Kris Richard (passing game coordinator/defensive back coach) at the helm, Dallas fielded an elite defense during the regular season. This unit ranked sixth in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing just 20.3 points per contest to opposing offenses.
Yet, the Cowboys defense is prone to give away big plays from time to time. Against the Seahawks in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the Dallas “D” gave up a 53-yard pass to wide receiver Tyler Lockett that led to a touchdown and pulled Seattle within two-points of tying the game with only 1:18 left in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, this has been a disturbing trend for a defense that has otherwise been elite. Similar chunk plays have been given up by the Cowboys’ defense all season.
Here are just some recent examples:
- Week 11 against the Atlanta Falcons: A 34-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Julio Jones with under 2:00 minutes left, tying the game, 19-19.
- Week 13 versus the New Orleans Saints: A 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kirk Kirkwood scored with 1:08 left in the contest, bringing the Saints within a field goal of tying the game.
- Week 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A 25-yard reception by wideout Jesus Wilson with 2:35 left that led to a touchdown on the very next play, making it a one-score game.
The Dallas defense has a tendency to relax at the end of ballgames. And their offense often lacks the firepower to give this team comfortable leads. Despite playing near perfect football for most of the game, one or two chunk plays could determine what many believe will be a close contest against the Rams.
According to NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund, explosive-play prevention will be key to Dallas pulling out a playoff victory while in Los Angeles Saturday night. Frelund defines big plays as rushes of 10-plus yards and passes of 20-plus yards. Here what she wrote about the upcoming divisional battle on NFL.com recently.
"“The Cowboys’ defense allowed the second-fewest big plays during the regular season (82) … And that’s what makes Saturday night’s matchup so enticing, as the Rams led the NFL with 133 big plays during the regular season. Explosive plays off of play-action define the Rams’ offense when it’s operating at its best. Who will win the battle of big plays? Well, that might just be the game’s deciding factor.”"
The Dallas Cowboys defense will be tested against a high-powered Los Angeles Rams offense that averaged 32.9 point per contest during the regular season, the second highest average in the NFL. Limiting their explosive plays, especially down the stretch, is a must.