Big Plays Are a Big Problem on Both Sides of the Ball

It doesn't take a PhD in Football to diagnose what accounted for the difference between the Eagles and Cowboys on Sunday night. The game came down to big plays because the Eagles made enough of them to pull past a Cowboys team that outplayed them for long stretches of the game.

The Eagles made five pass plays of more than 20 yards and saw LeSean McCoy scamper 56 yards on one of his carries. The Cowboys, on the other hand, didn't make any big plays of note. Their offense had a decent game, but they never made any backbreaking plays down the field like the ones DeSean Jackson pulled off for the Eagles.

That's nothing new. In the last four weeks, Jon Kitna has tried just seven passes of 20 or more yards and he's completed none of them. It's easy to write that off as an intrinsic problem associated with starting a backup quarterback, but that doesn't do a good enough job. Kitna had no problem strafing the Giants last month and defenses won't get beaten by offenses dinking and dunking their way down the field.

Think back to the New Orleans game if you don't believe that. The Cowboys, desperate to move the ball into scoring position late, could only come up with short passes into the flat. They failed, obviously, and the team lost the game. Kitna is part of the problem, so is Dez Bryant's injury, but the biggest reason why the team can't attack is the offensive line. There would likely be more deep throws in recent weeks if Kitna had more time to throw the ball, something indicated by the uptick in his rushing numbers in the last few games. 

Defensively, the problems can be traced to the play up front as well. The Cowboys pass rush simply hasn't been good enough this season, which allows quarterbacks to be far too comfortable in the pocket. Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman haven't been any good this season, but they haven't gotten much help from the guys in front of them either. 

Nor has there been much help behind them. Alan Ball and Gerald Sensabaugh have been awful this season, a sign that getting better at safety is just as crucial to the Cowboys future as getting better on the offensive line. Those aren't things that can change this season, but they should be at the top of the list of alterations made in the offseason as the Cowboys start building themselves back to respectability.

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