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Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Beat Writers Recap: Cowboys-Eagles II

By Calvin Watkins


The season is now over, at least for the Cowboys following their 14-13 victory over the Eagles last Sunday at The Linc. Instead of breaking down the game as normal, we thought we'd take advantage of ESPN Stats and Information to provide you with a final statistical breakdown of the 2010 season.

Quarterbacks

*The Cowboys used three quarterbacks this season, Tony Romo, Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee, and we noticed one thing among the trio, especially with Romo and Kitna, is the lack of success on completing passes of 21 or more yards. Romo completed just seven passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Kitna completed just nine for 308 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. With the speed the Cowboys had at wideout with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, it's a little surprising the Cowboys didn't have more success here. There were times we thought the Cowboys should take shots down field, and interim coach Jason Garrett said he called for deep passes but sometimes things wouldn't connect.

*Romo was very good against five or more pass rushers. He had the second-highest quarterback rating in the league at 114.1 and was sacked just once this year against that front. He threw five touchdowns and one interception. Kitna was sacked nine times against five or more rushers.

*The Cowboys like to use the shotgun. It's a staple of the franchise, and Romo had the third-highest quarterback rating (91.5) in the league in that formation. Kitna was pretty good too with a 94.3 rating. Tom Brady led NFL quarterbacks with 23 touchdowns out of the shotgun.

Wide receivers

You want to know who the most reliable receiver on the Cowboys was in 2010: Dez Bryant. At least 95.7 percent of the passes directed toward the rookie from Oklahoma State were completed. He suffered only two drops. Roy Williams was second on the team with a 92.5 completion rate. Miles Austin came in a disappointing third with a 87.3 rate. But Austin led the wide receivers with the most targets at 118. Austin was one of 27 receivers that were targeted at least 100 times this season.

*Dropping the football became a messing thing for the Cowboys. Numerous passes bounced off receivers to fall incomplete or go into an opposing defenders arms. Austin led the Cowboys with 10 drops, second to Wes Welker, who led the league with 11. Williams was credited with three drops. As a team, the Cowboys had 24 drops.

Running backs

*You want another reason why Felix Jones will start in 2011? He led the Cowboys with 540 yards-after-catch. Jones used the screen well to set up his blocks and get down the field for big gains in 2010. The Cowboys also had 2,259 YACs, second in the NFL.

*When it came to getting a touchdown on goal-to-go situations, Marion Barber had 18 carries and produced three touchdowns. Jones had just one touchdown out of eight carries. Barber led the team with the most goal-to-go carries because he's a physical back able to knock defenders away. The Cowboys also have one of the biggest offensive lines in the league, but sometimes that line wasn't athletic enough against linebackers who came up and made plays in short-yardage situations inside the 10.

Defense

*When the Cowboys lost Wade Phillips as not only the head coach but the defensive coordinator, it meant Paul Pasqualoni took charge, and out was an aggressive style. Pasqualoni tweaked the defense a little bit and used more zone coverages and fewer blitzes. He'd rather let teams drive the length of the field instead of trying to beat his group deep in man coverage. Sending five or more rushers hurt the Cowboys this season. When it happened, they got 15 sacks and three interceptions, but quarterbacks compiled a league-high 112.5 rating. The Cowboys allowed the third-highest completion percentage at 63.3 percent when five rushers came at the quarterback. You can attributed this to the secondary not making plays and the pass rushers not getting there fast enough. Quarterbacks also used three step drops and quick releases to avoid the pass rush.

Notes:The Cowboys used a two-tight end set 412 times, seventh most in the league. The Cowboys were in three-wide receiver sets 175 times. ... We like Jay Ratliff at nose tackle. He's gone to the Pro Bowl the last three seasons from that position. But would a change to defensive end help the pass rush? Maybe Josh Brent or Sean Lissemore could start at nose for the Cowboys next year. ... If the Cowboys release Roy Williams and don't re-sign Sam Hurd, Kevin Ogletree is the leader in the clubhouse as the No. 3 receiver. ... The two best training camp battles for 2011 are: Stephen McGee vs. Jon Kitna and John Phillips vs. Martellus Bennett.