Pass Rush Might Hold Key For Dallas Cowboys
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at the Dallas Cowboys defense and ask, “Where are they going to get their sacks from?” Especially since they lost the most successful pass rusher (DeMarcus Ware) in Cowboys history, and their leader (Jason Hatcher) in sacks last season. In fact, the team lost exactly half of their sacks, 17, with the departures of Hatch and Ware, so it’s natural to wonder where the pressure is going to come from.
Dallas knew they needed a pressure player badly, so they traded up to select DeMarcus Lawrence in the second-round of the draft. The self-proclaimed ‘QB Hunter’ needs to have a big impact on the pass rush if the Cowboys are to improve on defense. Winning the sack battle was instrumental to the success of the Cowboys last year and it could hold the key to the team’s playoff chances in 2014.
So how important was the Dallas pass rush last season? The team record might not tell us much because they were only 4-3 when they had more sacks than their opponents, but digging a little deeper and the Cowboys could very well have been 7-0 in those games.
Dallas’ three losses when they won the sack battle came against the Kansas City Chiefs week 2, the Detroit Lions in week 8 and to the Philadelphia Eagles in the season finale. The Cowboys should have beaten the Chiefs, but left way too many opportunities on the field in that loss. There is no question the team should have defeated the Lions until they imploded in the final minutes. There can be a debate about whether or not they should have beaten the Eagles in the last week of the season, but either way the Cowboys gave themselves chances to win when they out-sacked their opponents.
Also, the Dallas defense played much better when they got to the quarterback. In games where the Cowboys got more pressure than their opponents, the defense gave up 389 yards per game, lower than the 415.3 they averaged on the year. Take out the aberration that was the Lions game and give their offense the 415 yards Dallas averaged giving up on the year, and the defense only would have given up 359.2 yards per game. If they got that kind of pressure all year long, it would have been good for 21st in the NFL, and likely would have made enough of a difference to make the playoffs.
Now we can see why the Cowboys made selecting Lawrence, supposedly the last of the elite pass rushers in the draft, such a priority. When they get to the quarterback, Dallas usually has a very good chance to win the game. It’s a different story when they fail to put pressure on an opposing team’s offense.
The pass rush might hold the key for the Dallas Cowboys and their playoff chances in 2014. If they don’t get to the quarterback, they’ll likely be watching the most important games of the NFL season, again.
As someone once said; “The opposing quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard.”
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