Stats & Info preview: Cowboys vs. Bucs

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
11:00
PM ET
The Dallas Cowboys should be able to move the ball through the air Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have allowed a league-high 801 passing yards through two games, including 510 yards to the Giants in Week 2.

Big plays have burned the Buccaneers. They have allowed seven pass plays of at least 30 yards in their first two games and 21 completions of 11-plus yards, both of which are the most in the NFL. Tony Romo had three 30-yard pass plays in the Cowboys’ Week 1 win over the New York Giants but none in last week’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Here are three other statistical areas to watch Sunday:

* Josh Freeman struggled to throw the ball deep last season, but he's off to a better start in 2012. The Bucs' quarterback has completed eight of his first 14 pass attempts of at least 15 yards downfield this season, including a pair of touchdowns. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson could be making the difference in Freeman’s deep passing success. Jackson already has six receptions of 15-plus yards in two games. Since the start of the 2011 season, Jackson leads the NFL in targets (72) and is third in receptions (33) on such passes. Jackson had 128 receiving yards last week against the Giants, the first Buccaneers wide receiver with at least 125 receiving yards and a touchdown reception since Antonio Bryant in Week 16 of the 2008 season.

* The Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray has shown the ability to pick up rushing yards between the tackles and outside of them this season. The Buccaneers’ run defense has been especially tight on rushing attempts outside the tackles in their first two games. The Buccaneers have allowed just 15 yards (tied for second fewest in the league) on 10 rushing attempts outside the tackles. Last season, teams consistently rushed outside the tackles with success against the Buccaneers as they allowed a league-high 969 yards on such attempts, including 16 rushes of 20-plus yards, which was also the most in the NFL.

* Lost in the high number of passing yards the Buccaneers have allowed is the fact they are tied for the league lead in passes defended with 14, including 10 against the Giants in Week 2. The Buccaneers' Aqib Talib is the individual league leader in passes defended with five. Since the start of the 2008 season, Romo has averaged 11.8 pass attempts per pass defended.

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