At halftime of their Week 4 matchup, Advanced NFL Stats gave the Dallas Cowboys a 76 percent chance to take down the San Diego Chargers. With zero points and relatively little offense to speak of in the second half, however, Dallas went down 30-21 to fall to 2-2. Thanks to the Denver Broncos and their win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys are somehow still in first place in the NFC East. That might very well change next week when Denver comes to Dallas.
Until then, let’s break down this horrific Week 4 Dallas loss, position by position.
1 – Tony Romo
2 – Kyle Orton
You’re going to hear all week that quarterback Tony Romo “took what the defense gave him.” That was the case in both Week 1 and Week 2 as well when Romo, despite a high completion percentage, was quite inefficient in terms of yards per attempt.
On Sunday, Romo again padded his completion percentage, connecting on 27 of his 37 attempts (73.0 percent). Completions aren’t valuable in and of themselves, of course, and Romo managed only 244 yards on those passes (6.59 YPA). Let me save you the suspense—if that’s the sort of efficiency we can expect from Romo all year, the Cowboys will be lucky to go 8-8.
Romo is an outstanding quarterback and more than capable of leading the Cowboys as far as they want to go, but not like this. If the Cowboys don’t start throwing the ball downfield, there’s very little reason for fans to be optimistic. Yes, he protected the ball again, but eventually, the team will need to realize that the same style of play that can lead to interceptions is also what makes Romo a great quarterback.
The ‘Boys seem content to employ a low-variance strategy, through which Romo does everything in his power to not throw interceptions, even if it means not moving the offense.
1 – DeMarco Murray
2 – Lance Dunbar
3 – Phillip Tanner
4 – Joseph Randle
The Cowboys had a bit of success running the ball early, and running back DeMarco Murray actually averaged five yards per rush on the day with 14 carries for 70 yards. He added five more receptions, keeping him on pace for 80-plus grabs. That’s what will happen when the offense doesn’t attack vertically.
There will inevitably be qualms that the Cowboys didn’t “stick with the run,” but the real issue was not getting the ball downfield. With the way Dallas has been using the passing game, the majority of Romo’s passes have basically been extended handoffs anyway.
1 – Dez Bryant
2 – Terrance Williams
3 – Dwayne Harris
4 – Cole Beasley
Wide receiver Dez Bryant had two highlight reel touchdowns, but the Cowboys simply didn’t get him the ball enough on Sunday. He ended up with six catches for 81 yards, 34 of which came on one of his scores. Bryant has proven again and again that he can be trusted to win in jump-ball situations, but he just doesn’t get the looks downfield, even though they’re there.
Rookie Terrance Williams hauled in seven passes for 71 yards, but he struggled at times, dropping multiple passes and fumbling right at the Chargers’ goal line near the end of the game. There are things to like about Williams, who filled in for the injured Miles Austin, but he doesn’t appear to be too confident right now.
1 – Jason Witten
2 – Gavin Escobar
3 – James Hanna
What happened to all of the “12” personnel and other two-tight end looks we were supposed to see? The Cowboys’ tight ends totaled 43 yards, all of which came from Jason Witten. He struggled the majority of the game, failing to gain much separation from safety Eric Weddle and racking up most of his numbers late in the game once the Cowboys’ fate had been sealed.
Through the first quarter of the 2013 season, Witten is on pace for 84 receptions for 768 yards. That actually shouldn’t be a surprise given that Witten’s play has been declining for years, yet no one wanted to admit it. That’s why I projected him at 88 catches for 880 yards in the preseason.
LT Tyron Smith
LG Ronald Leary
C Travis Frederick
RG Brian Waters
RG Mackenzy Bernadeau
RT Doug Free
RT Jermey Parnell
Part of the reason that the offensive line has looked better in 2013 is just that Romo has gotten the ball out faster. They’ve improved, too, but it’s much easier to block for 2.5 seconds than 3.5 seconds.
On Sunday, the line did a decent job in the running game. Murray averaged 5.0 YPC, but he appeared to leave some yards on the field, too. The running back was one of my preseason breakout candidates, but he isn’t running with any sort of authority right now.
Romo was sacked three times, although he wasn’t pressured quite as much as that number suggests.
1 - Jason Hatcher
1 - Nick Hayden
2 – Drake Nevis
2 – David Carter
One of the defining traits of this game was the Cowboys’ inability to pressure Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Defensive tackles Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden couldn’t do much on the inside, racking up six total tackles and no sacks. Newly acquired Drake Nevis was surprisingly active, but he recorded just a single tackle.
1 – DeMarcus Ware
1 – George Selvie
2 – Kyle Wilber
2 – Edgar Jones
There are times when it seems like defensive end DeMarcus Ware just disappears from games, and this was one of those contests. With just a single tackle on the day, Ware has only nine tackles all year. He’s a shell of his former self as a run defender. Ware also had a crucial offsides penalty at the end of the game that cemented the win for San Diego.
Defensive end George Selvie continues to impress, however. He had four tackles and another sack—his third on the year. He was really the only Cowboys defender to get pressure on a consistent basis.
1 – Sean Lee
1 – Bruce Carter
1 – Justin Durant
2 – Ernie Sims
2 – DeVonte Holloman
2 – Kyle Bosworth
Lee was absolutely all over the field on Sunday. He had a ridiculous 15 tackles, 12 of which were solo. That’s five more solo tackles than anyone else on the team. Lee also had the game-changing interception return for a touchdown—a score the Cowboys needed to even keep the game close by the end—although he also let up a long touchdown to tight end Antonio Gates.
Bruce Carter, on the other hand, had perhaps one of his worst games as a pro. He totaled five tackles but he was atrocious in coverage, allowing two touchdowns. Running back Danny Woodhead had five catches for 54 yards and two scores and Gates added 10 grabs, 136 yards, and another touchdown.
The Cowboys might want to consider handing over starting duties to veteran linebacker Ernie Sims. He had six tackles against San Diego—all solo—compared to just one assist from starter Justin Durant.
1 – Brandon Carr
1 – Morris Claiborne
2 – Orlando Scandrick
2 – B.W. Webb
Despite 401 passing yards from Rivers, the Cowboys’ cornerbacks didn’t have a horrific game. The Chargers’ top wide receiver was Keenan Allen with 80 yards, and Eddie Royal had only 42 yards. All told, only 40.6 percent of the Chargers’ receiving yards came from wide receivers. The Cowboys’ cornerbacks were also active as tacklers—Claiborne alone had six of them—but that’s typically not a good sign.
1 – Barry Church
1 – Will Allen
2 – J.J. Wilcox
2 – Jeff Heath
3 – Danny McCray
Safeties Will Allen and J.J. Wilcox combined for just two tackles, but Barry Church made up the slack. He’s really an amazing fit in Monte Kiffin’s scheme, playing underneath on the majority of snaps. Church had eight tackles on Sunday, bringing his season total to 26. He’s currently on pace for 104 tackles on the year.
K Dan Bailey
P Chris Jones
LS L.P Ladouceur
Kicker Dan Bailey uncharacteristically missed the only field goal he attempted. It was a 56-yarder that the Cowboys really shouldn’t even have attempted since, on fourth-and-six, the numbers overwhelmingly suggested to go for it.
Punter Chris Jones was also poor, averaging only 40.6 yards on his five punts, a few of which were noticeably miskicked.