What The Football Outsider Stats Say About the 0-1 Cowboys

According to Football Outsiders, Tony Romo "was wildly effective as a passer" against the Redskins.

Originally, Aaron was going to do a Bright-side-of-the-Washington-Loss-type post, but decided to "screw it" and instead wrote an excellent post on the dynamics of the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff. So here I am, stepping up to the plate to spread some cheer and goodwill with the help of the fine folks at Football Outsiders (FO) and their special brand of statistical analysis.

Lost or at least overlooked amid the frustration of a maddening defeat is the fact that there were a number of things that did go well on Sunday, just like some others did not.

But the real question is whether this game was just a minor glitch as the Cowboys machinery slowly gets into gear or whether there is trouble brewing. The Redskins game may have been lost, but all is certainly not lost for the season.

Of course, one game is not enough to draw any conclusions from, but there are some stats that are worth looking at more closely as we try to gain a more balanced perspective heading into the Bears game on Sunday.

Offense

FO ranks Tony Romo as the fifth best quarterback last weekend, and had this to say about his performance:

Well, it wasn't Romo's fault that Alex Barron can't do his job properly. Despite the offensive line issues, Romo only took one sack on 47 dropbacks. He was wildly effective as a passer on first down, going 17-of-23 for 144 yards, six first downs, and a touchdown.

A good omen from week one is that Romo and Miles Austin appear to be clicking early. Austin was ranked the most valuable receiver in the NFL last weekend in FO's quick reads:

DeAngelo Hall had a good game, but Carlos Rogers and an assorted cast of assistants could do little with Austin. His only incompletion came 36 yards downfield. All ten of his catches were for successful chunks of yardage, and while his YAC+ regression is probably coming, he still picked up 64 yards while breaking a handful of tackles.

In a sign that all may not be well in Redskins country, Donovan McNabb was ranked only 18th among all quarterbacks, thanks at least in part to the Cowboys' 9th ranked pass defense.

With Romo and Austin showing reassuringly good early form, it's no surprise that the Cowboys offense comes in at number four on FO's rankings, with the pass offense ranked fourth and the rushing offense ranked third. What? The running game graded out well? Yep. Somebody call off the hit teams creeping up on Garrett right now.

In FO's proprietary DVOA rating (which adjusts performance for down and distance situations, quality of opponent and more) Marion Barber ranks third in the NFL and Felix Jones ranks sixth. Could they have been used more? Perhaps, but judging by the stats, they were certainly used effectively. For the wide receivers, compared to the number one ranked Miles Austin, Dez Bryant (51st) and Roy Williams (69th) look a bit pale in terms of DVOA.

All this offensive firepower resulted in a 7th ranked Drive Success Rate (the percentage of time that a team will get a first down or touchdown in a given set of four downs) for the Cowboys. Alas, all that marching up and down the field only resulted in seven points, ranking the Cowboys 29th in the league in terms of points per drive.

Defense

In terms of raw yards given up, the Cowboys rank 9th against the pass and are tied for 11th against the run. In terms of DVOA, the Cowboys defense is also ranked 9th against the pass but the run defense is ranked slightly lower in DVOA at 16th. The really good news about the defense: If they continue to allow only 13 points per game, they'll end up with only 208 points allowed for the whole season.

Other good early signs (but these may be as much a result of a relatively weak opponent) are that the Cowboys allowed only a 23% third down conversion rate (3 of 13) which ranks them sixth in the league.

Special Teams

Missing a field goal is never a good thing, and it shows in the Special Teams ranks where the Cowboys are ranked 27th. What's a little disconcerting is that the 'Boys also rank only 26th on kick returns (granted, there were only three kickoff returns to measure). Better picture on punt returns where the Cowboys rank 12th after 6 punt returns.

Overall, no real shockers. The Cowboys rated well on offense (except for scoring), solid on defense and somewhat disappointing on special teams. Way too early to throw in the towel and way too early to break out the anointing oil.

Good thing though that FO haven't published their O-line ratings for last weekend yet.

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