Let's Talk Numbers: Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins

We're going to introduce a new feature here at Blogging the Boys; Let's Talk Numbers, a weekly comparison between the Cowboys and their opponents according to the stats. Following the jump, you will find a statistical breakdown the likes of which have yet to be seen here at BTB and while some of the numbers may surprise you, unfortunately a lot of them might not.

It's true that the numbers don't always tell the whole story but sometimes they can expose some interesting points. These weekly looks will also give us a pretty detailed analysis of what to expect from the upcoming game. It's easy to just do a comparison of the total offenses and defense but I believe it's more informative when you look at each part of the game separately. Below you will find individual breakdowns of the each teams offenses and defenses and how they compare to the unit they will be facing in this game. This is also a per game breakdown versus an overall numbers breakdown because we're not interested in the projected overall stats, I want to know what the Cowboys and Redskins are capable of doing in one game. This should give us a good idea of how things are stacking up as the Cowboys face a must win game.

Dallas pass offense vs Washington pass defense

When I started to look at the Cowboys' overall passing offense stats I was surprised by just how low they were. It was obvious how the weeks without Tony Romo had hurt the offense's numbers and I figured the numbers would be skewered a bit heading into this game with Romo making his first start in a month. In this comparison I decided to include the Cowboys' offensive numbers with and without Tony Romo, and how they compare to Washington's defense.

Pct. Yds/G Avg TD/G Int/G Sacks/G Rating
DAL offense w/ Romo 64.0% 281.5 8.4 2.33 0.83 1.16 103.5
DAL offense w/o Romo 53.0% 163.3 5.2 1.00 2.00 3.33 52.1
WASH pass defense 55.0% 191.4 6.0 1.00 0.66 1.66 74.8

It's painful to see the numbers prove just how anemic the offense became behind Brad Johnson and to some extent Brooks Bollinger. For all the chagrin about Romo's play before his injury it's obvious he was having one hell of a year number's wise. He was throwing more than twice the amount of touchdowns against interceptions and was being sacked just over once a game. His QB rating is still third in the league. However, once the backups stepped in things really went downhill, most evident in how many sacks the Cowboys allowed per game and how much of a dropoff there was in yards per attempt. Tony Romo's return could not have come soon enough.

The Washington pass defense is nothing short of impressive. They are near the top of the league in yards per game while allowing just 55% of passes thrown to be completed. Yet as Wade Phillips will let you know the most important statistic in pass defense yards allowed per pass attempt, with Washington giving an impressively low 6.0 yards per pass. They do all this without a high number of sacks or interceptions. What this tells you is that they are able to effectively limit the accuracy of opposing quarterbacks without resorting to a heavy pass rush or causing a ton of turnovers. Those sack numbers could get better as Jason Taylor gets healthier, but at the same time an impressive secondary is hurting on the injury front.

Bottom line: If Tony Romo can come out throwing without any apparent rust, his presence alone will be the difference against a very stout pass defense. The trick for Romo is to avoid forcing balls into coverage because Washington gives up little room to receivers. Take what you're given and then take the big shot downfield. Also of note is that this will be Romo's first game playing with Roy Williams, a wrinkle the Redskins will have to figure out on the fly and one which the Cowboys should take advantage of early.

Dallas rush offense vs. Washington rush defense

Another caveat to this one is the month long absence of Felix Jones. Yet I decided not to split the numbers up based on the low amount of carries Jones was receiving per game (something that needs to change as soon as he returns).

Yds/G Att./G Avg. TD/G
DAL rush offense 115.2 25.9 4.5 0.88
WASH rush defense 80.7 22.3 3.6 0.66

Another set of impressive numbers by Washington, giving up very little on the ground. Against Washington in week 4, the Cowboys mustered a season low 44 yards rushing while amazingly not giving the ball to Felix Jones once. The Redskins have a very stout defensive line that gives up little push, while their linebackers are powerful and exceptionally fast to the ball. This combination has proven to be the achilles heel for Marion Barber who has always struggled running against them. Unfortunately it seems that Felix Jones will be unable to go in this game who would have provided a much needed compliment to Barber, especially against this particular defense. The Redksins are able to stop the run by stacking the box, leaving their outstanding secondary  on an island against the pass.

Bottom line; the Cowboys will need the passing game to open up running lanes for Barber, especially if Felix Jones is inactive. What they cannot do is abandon the run altogether, a strategy that backfired in the first game against Washington.

Washington rush offense vs. Dallas rush defense

The Dallas Cowboys defense will be dodging a bullet in this game as it appears Clinton Portis will most likely miss the game with a strained MCL. Portis is the second leading running back in the NFC and had a monster game against the Cowboys in week 4 as the Redskins ground out the clock in the second half.

Yds/G Att/G Avg. TD/G
WASH rush offense 144.7 31.3 4.6 0.77
DAL rush defense 107.1 25.7 4.2 0.88

Behind the prowess of Portis the Redskins have relied heavily on the running game to take a lot of the pressure of Jason Campbell, a formula that has worked fantastically for them this season. However, it goes without saying that the running game won't be the same with Portis out as they will now be relying on Ladell Betts and Shaun Alexander to shoulder the load.

The Cowboys' rush defense numbers look better than they actually are; after a great start the Cowboys are allowing 146 yards rushing per game the last three weeks for an atrocious average of 4.9 yards per carry.

Bottom line: If the Cowboys hope to slow down the Redskins offense they must make them one dimensional, an easier task without Portis running the ball. The Redskins like to control the clock with the run while setting up the playaction, something the Cowboys can negate if they find a way to get back to playing the run like they were early in the season.

Washington pass offense vs. Dallas pass defense

This is the part of the game that should have any Cowboys fan worried. Last game the Redskins were able to jump on the Cowboys early with big plays through the air and will be looking to do it again against an underachieving secondary.

Pct. Yds/G Avg TD/G Int/G Sacks/G Rating
WASH pass offense 64.7% 203.7 7.3 1.00 0.22 2.55 94.0
DAL pass defense 62.2% 193.8 6.6 1.33 0.33 2.88 91.0

Those numbers are downright scary.

First the Cowboys. The Cowboys are allowing over 60% of the passes thrown against them to be completed, largely thanks to the bend don't break defensive philosophy that has our corners sitting 8 yards off receivers. The 6.6 yards per attempt isn't horrible, yet the lack of interceptions has started to haunt them. Teams are averaging a quarterback rating of over 90 against them for the season, which basically means any quarterback facing the Cowboys is going to have a pretty good day.

The Washington offense isn't explosive but it is impressive. The Redskins use quick slants and outs to minimize the mistakes Campbell can make and his accuracy ensures the offense is run seamlessly. He has just 2 interceptions on the year, yet rarely throws more than one touchdown a game. His 94.0 QB rating shows just how far he has come in his short career, when poor decisions became a staple for him.

Bottom line: If the Cowboys are able to make the Redskins rely on the pass, they must find a way to disrupt the quick passing game that has picked them apart all season long. The trick is to force Jason Campbell pass his first read and make him hang on to the ball; yet for this to work the pass rush must do its job. After a slow start, the Cowboys are now averaging nearly three sacks per game and are faced with the daunting task of slowing down a very strong and mobile quarterback.

Team scoring...

All of this analysis of yards per game and passing percentages is great, but it doesn't mean squat if your team isn't scoring. Points scored and points allowed are the only stats that really matter and is the true gauge of how a team is performing. Let's take a look at how Dallas and Washington compares:

Team Team's points scored Team's points allowed
Dallas 24.0 24.3
Washington 19.0 18.7

This is a start but it doesn't tell the whole story. These numbers tell us how the teams have done overall for the season, but not relative to the competition they have faced. To do that, we need to look how each team fared against their opponents compared to how those teams did against the rest of their schedule. We'll look at scoring offense first:

Team Team's points scored Opponents points allowed per game not including game against this team Ratio
Dallas 24.0 21.37 1.12
Washington 19.0 23.94 0.79

Here's a quick explanation: The best way to judge how an offense performs is to see how does against it's specific competition. To do this, we figure the average points allowed per game by Dallas opponents so far this season, when not facing Dallas(21.37). Then we compare Dallas' per game scoring average (24.0) and we can see that when facing opponents' defenses, the Cowboys score against them more than  they give up on average for a positive ratio of 1.12. Comparatively, the Redskins' offense has scored less against their opponents than they give up on average, for a negative ratio of 0.79.

These numbers tell us some very important information: the Redskins offense isn't as potent as it first seems. While they put up great numbers rushing and impressive numbers through the air, for some reason they aren't scoring at a high rate. More concerning is the fact that opposing defenses are actually doing a better job of keeping the Skins off the scoreboard than they have against other teams.

Let's use this same formula to look at each team's defense:

Teams Team's points allowed Opponent's points scored per game not including game against this team Ratio
Dallas 24.3 22.06 1.10
Washington 18.70 23.94 0.78

This shows how Washington is winning: the Redskins' defense is doing a great job at holding opponents below their season scoring averages. Teams facing Washington are scoring five points less per game than they have against the rest of the league and anytime your defense can do that your team has more than a fighting chance. This also shows that Cowboys' opponents are able to score more than normal when facing Dallas, a number that is spiked considerably when factoring in St. Loius' 35 points against the Cowboys.

When looking at the Cowboys' defensive points allowed, you must also consider how many short fields they have been faced with thanks to offense, when giving up three points is a victory. However, for the Cowboys to have any success moving forward they must find some way to lower that number. 24 points allowed per game is not championship football. Heck, it's not even winning football.

Putting it all together.

If Tony Romo and the Cowboys' offense can solve the Redskins' pesky defense and put up some serious points, they have a very good chance of winning this game. The Redskins have yet to score more than 30 points in a game and in spite of facing defenses giving up a collective 24 points per game, their offense is scoring under 19 per game. The Redskins offense will always pose a threat to the Cowboys but if the defense can get timely stops and hold them to field goals, the offense should have ample opportunity to win this game for the team.

Washington's defense is better than anticipated yet their offense lacks scoring depth. Put the game in Jason Campbell's hands and force him to make bad decisions. Do this, and the Cowboys win.

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