The Dallas Cowboys will head to the desert to take the New England Patriots on Sunday.
The Cowboys have much to prove going into Week 4 after an uncharacteristic Week 3. What are some key stats to watch out for during Sunday’s game?
Ezekiel Elliott’s Homecoming
On Sunday, Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott will make his first appearance at AT&T Stadium since the Cowboys released him in March.
He said although he might not show it, this will be an emotional game for him as he considers Dallas his home.
Elliott has had a productive season with the Patriots so far, as he serves as the backup to Rhamondre Stevenson.
The team’s run game has not been able to be fully established as they have been dealing with an unhealthy offensive line, but that hasn’t stopped Elliott, as he has 28 carries for 122 yards (4.4 yards per carry).
Dak Prescott spoke about Elliott’s homecoming, saying, “I can’t imagine that he doesn’t come in and run just a little bit harder, maybe, than he naturally does. Knowing the trash talk that we all just kind of naturally do over the years, but then getting a play against the guys that you’ve trash talked for years, yeah, I’m sure.”
Dallas Cowboys vs. New England Patriots Game Preview
The Cowboys lead the Patriots in their all-time series history 8-6. But with the Cowboys coming off of an upsetting Week 3 loss, they are ready to pave their path to redemption.
The Cowboys were humbled in Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals. Mike McCarthy said the team needed to focus on the run defense, capitalizing in the red zone, and lowering the number of penalties in a game.
The team’s offensive line has struggled to stay healthy, and Tyron Smith has officially been ruled out this week. Meanwhile, Zack Martin and Tyler Biadasz are still questionable.
This all ties together for the team to score more and capitalize on opportunities in the red zone.
As for the Patriots, they have also struggled to keep a healthy offensive line. But Bill Belichick’s team seems closer to finding a cohesive unit to establish a run game to open up the passing attack.
Rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez will play a crucial role for the Patriots’ defense as he will create a challenging matchup against CeeDee Lamb.
According to the Patriots, all three of their opponents have run exactly 61 offensive plays this season. The Cowboys have run 213 so far in 2023.
Cowboys-Patriots Stats From Inside Edge
Here are some of the biggest stats to watch out for on Sunday, courtesy of Inside Edge.
- Mac Jones has averaged 37.0 pass attempts per game since Week 14 of the 2022 Season — fifth-highest of qualified QBs.
- The Cowboys have allowed just 30.5 pass attempts per game since Week 14 of the 2022 Season — fifth-lowest in the NFL.
Analysis: So far this season, the Cowboys defense has allowed 46 of 78 opposing pass attempts to be completed.
The run defense has been the weakness most amplified this season for the unit. However, with another week of working on the solution, it will be interesting to see what Dan Quinn schemes against Jones to ensure there isn’t a repeat of the team’s Week 3 performance.
- When Michael Gallup has more receptions than his average (three), his team is 7-2 (.778) since the 2022 season — sixth-best of 57 qualified WRs
Analysis: Patriots rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez is expected to be a tough matchup for Lamb. However, Belichick historically schemes against the opposing team’s strengths and eliminates them during the game.
So if Lamb is not available because of this, Brandin Cooks and Gallup will be vital for Prescott during this game to open up the passing attack.
- The Cowboys have a point differential of 341 since the 2021 season — second-best in the NFL.
- The Patriots have a point differential of 167 in the second half since the 2021 season — third-best in the NFL.
Analysis: The Cowboys need to improve this week by scoring and taking advantage of their opportunities in the red zone. This has been a point of emphasis for the team.
The issue isn’t getting to the red zone but scoring while there. Coming off of a penalty-heavy game last week, the team can put themselves ahead of the sticks by playing a cleaner game.
Brandon Aubrey has been clutch this season as he is 10 for 10 on field goal attempts, keeping points on the board for the Cowboys when they have not been able to score touchdowns.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster has averaged 6.0 yards after the catch since the 2022 season — fifth-best of qualified WRs.
- The Cowboys have allowed 4.8 yards after catch per reception to WRs since the 2022 season — fourth-worst in the NFL.
Analysis: The Cowboys’ defense has keyed in on their tackling this season, and it has been noticeable, even last week. The defense has only missed 10 total tackles within the first three games combined.
Quinn described the six from last week as being too many in one game. The issue was the team’s missed assignments more than their tackling ability. This area of growth for the Cowboys was still decent in their worst showing.
MORE: Every NFL Week 4 Injury
- Prescott has thrown the ball 10 yards or less on 76.1% of pass attempts since Week 14 of the 2022 Season — third-highest of qualified QBs.
- The Patriots have allowed an average of three yards per completion on targets of 10 yards or less since Week 14 of the 2022 Season — tied for second-worst in the NFL.
Analysis: Prescott’s release has been quick within the first three games of the season, as it seems he passes to his first read often.
Not only has he been quick to release the ball, but his footwork has been top-notch, allowing him to drop back and scramble when needed.
With the team needing more touchdowns, Prescott will likely pass to more of his playmakers to rebound from last week’s loss.
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