The Dallas Cowboys have won three of their last four games to get back to .500 after a 3-5 start. Sunday’s opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, have been playing much better as well, winning each of their last four games following a four-game losing streak.
The biggest difference for the Cowboys has been an offense that has topped 30 points in three of the last four games after not scoring as many as 29 in any of its first eight contests. The Bengals’ winning streak has not come against the NFL's elite. Though the Bengals defeated the NFC East-leading Giants, each of their other wins during their current streak came against AFC West cellar-dwelling team with a combined record of 9-27.
Here are four other statistical areas to watch Sunday:
While the play of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has been a catalyst for their better play on offense, the return of DeMarco Murray has made Romo even more effective, especially on play-action passes. Romo was 4-of-5 with two touchdowns on play action in Week 13 against the Eagles. When Murray has been available this season, Romo is 21-for-28 passing with four touchdowns and 10 yard per pass attempt using play action. Without Murray, Romo was 12-for-19 passing on play action but had two interceptions, only one touchdown and averaged just 3.9 yards per pass attempts.
The Bengals’ A.J. Green and Dez Bryant of the Cowboys rank first and second, respectively, in touchdowns receptions on passes outside the painted numbers this season. Green, who also has league-leading 49 receptions on outside-the-numbers passes, has the most targets (79) without a drop on such throws, while Bryant’s four drops are tied for third most in the NFL.
The Bengals have averaged a sack once every 12.2 dropbacks this season, the best rate in the NFL. The Bengals are tied for first in sacks overall with 39, including 26 using a standard four-man pass rush. Nineteen of the 28 sacks the Cowboys have allowed this season have been with four or fewer pass rushers.
Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his last three games. The only Bengals player to produce four consecutive games with at least 100 rushing yards was Paul Robinson, who did so in 1968. Over the past three games, Green-Ellis has picked up 292 of his 348 yards rushing between the tackles. The Cowboys have allowed 5.5 yards per attempt on 37 rushes between the tackles the last two games.