By Matthew Asher
This Sunday Big D comes to the Georgia Dome with hopes of giving the Falcons their first loss of the season. While Dallas may be just 3-4 for the season, don’t count them out of the game. From a purely statistical standpoint, Dallas and Atlanta have a lot in common.
Both teams have offenses that thrive in the passing game. Dallas averages 297.3 yards in the air, the third most in the league while Atlanta throws for 270.7 yards each contest, the eighth most in the league. Both teams struggle running the ball. Dallas’ 86 yards per game is the fifth worst in the league while Atlanta’s 95 yards each game is ninth worst.
The big difference between the teams? Scoring. Dallas averages just 19.6 points a game which is the tenth worst in the league. On the flip side, Atlanta averages 28.7 points each contest which is the fifth best in the league.
One of the most interesting comparisons between these two teams is the similarity in statistics. If you look at both teams without considering touchdowns, this contest looks to be very close.
What kind of similarity in statistics? Let’s start with the two quarterbacks. Tony Romo has completed 186 of his 283 passes for 2073 yards. Matt Ryan has thrown for 2018 yards completing 182 of his 265 attempts.
The running back situation is nearly identical. Dallas’ top two rushers, DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones, have combined to rush for 498 yards, averaging more than 4.0 yards per carry. Atlanta’s top two backs, Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers have rushed for 552 yards with an average of 3.8 yards per carry.
The similarities don’t’ end there. The top two Cowboy receivers, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, have caught 75 passes for 1049 yards, averaging almost 14 yards per catch. Atlanta’s top two receivers, Roddy White and Julio Jones, also have 75 catches between the two of them for 1090 yards, averaging 14.5 yards per catch.
Yet when you take touchdowns into the equation, you can easily see which team should have the better record. Dallas has thrown for 10 touchdowns with the top two receivers catching six of the touchdowns. On the flip side, Atlanta has thrown for 17 touchdowns with their top two receivers catching nine of them. Incidentally, the both teams have three rushing touchdowns each between their top two rushers.
Still, all it would take for Dallas to beat Atlanta is to play great defense on Sunday. Atlanta coach Mike Smith knows that definately a possibility, because he is very familiar with Dallas’ defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan. “Believe it or not, Rob, myself, and Rex all at one time were all in the same conference coaching college football,” Smith said. “They were some battles. Rob’s a darn good football coach. Got a great defensive mind.”
The game should come down to which secondary can shut down or limit the opposition’s receiving corps. For Dallas, cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne should be matched up against Roddy White and Julio Jones. For Atlanta, Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson should line up against Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.
The other question regarding the passing matchup is if Samuel, with 46 career interceptions, will be able to exploit Tony Romo who currently leads the league with 13 interceptions thrown so far this season.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.