Big challenge: Stopping the big play

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
8:00
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Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesThe Patriots have struggled to stop the big play.
The Dallas Cowboys' offense excels in an area in which the New England Patriots have struggled: The big play. Should it be a concern on Sunday? ESPN Stats and Info's Jeremy Lundblad explores:

PATS SUSCEPTIBLE TO BIG PLAY
Success against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday may come down to the New England Patriots' ability to prevent the big play.

Through five games, the Patriots have allowed 35 plays of 20 or more yards. That's already one fewer than the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed all of last season. It's also four more than any other team, and on pace to be historically high.

Against a Cowboys offense that seeks out the big play, this issue could be paramount.

The Patriots are allowing 20-plus yards on an average of seven plays per game. That puts them on pace to allow 112 such plays this season. It's certainly early to be multiplying that over a full season, but doing so provides important context.

In 2004, the Kansas City Chiefs allowed 85 plays of 20 or more yards on their way to a 7-9 record. That's the most by a team in the past 15 seasons, according to STATS LLC. The Patriots are on track to surpass that by 27.

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