Yard Stick Wk4: Outcome vs Expectation

The outcome, for the most part, didn't meet many Cowboys' fan expectations. Turnovers ruined the Cowboys' lead in the game and ruined an opportunity to go into the bye with a victory. As lousy as it was, there are positives that have come out of this game.

What we will do in this final edition of week 3's Yard Stick is observe the outcome, in stats, and compare it to the expectations. We previously took a look at the Cowboys' Defense vs the Lions' Offense and the Cowboys' Offense vs the Lions' Defense. We also took a look at both team's Efficiency.

Did the Cowboys' Offense performed better then expected or did the Lions' Defense dictate what would happen on the field? Did the Cowboys' Defense perform better or worst then expected?

Stay tune to find out!


Dissapointed Romo

Below you're going to see the positive (+) symbol and the negative (-) symbol. These pertain to the Cowboys, declaring whether they performed positively or negatively compared to what was expected of them.


net Rushing Yards
net Avg/Play
Rushing Plays
vs DAL
63 3.7 17
Expected 70 2.9 24
Difference + 13
-0.8 +7

The Lions' Offense were expected to gain 70 Rushing Yards, averaging 2.9 yards a play, in 24 plays. The Lions' rushing yards total were off by 13 yards, in favor of the Cowboys. Sadly, the Lions were averaging more then any other team against the Cowboys this season; 3.7. That's an average 0.8 above what was expected and 0.7 above the Cowboys' average of allowed rushing yards a play.

The Lions did this with only 17 rushing plays. This is the second least (16 by NYJ) an offense has ran against the Cowboys so far this season, yet the highest average!  However, it's the lowest amount of running plays (19 vs MIN) the Lions have ran so far this season. Putting it in perspective; if the Lions could've ran 24 rushing plays (expected) at a 3.7 average (game result), then they would've gain 89 total rushing yards. Still, they wouldn't have gained a 100 yards rushing.

After this game, the Cowboys' average is now 3.1 rushing yards allowed per play. Tied for #1 with the Bengals. The Cowboys are also ranked #1 in rushing yards allowed a game; 61.8. Another ranking the Cowboys are on top of, at #1, is Longest Run Allow; 19 yards. Only allowing 1 rushing TD, ranks them at #2 with 5 other teams, including the Lions.

As the top rushing defense in the league, an opposing team has to average 4 rushing yards a play for 25 plays in order to get 100 total rushing yards. I think it would be more likely for a team to rush 30 times and average 3.3 yards a play to gain 100 yards on the Cowboys.

Lions net Passing Yards
net Avg/Play
Passing Plays
vs DAL
240 5.6 43
Expected 274 6.9 40
Difference +34 +1.3 -3

As we suspected, the Lions' Passing Offense had inflated numbers due to their strength of schedule. This is, so far, the worst the Lions have done in their passing games. In previous games, the Lions averaged 9.2, 8.0, and 6.6 in weeks 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Against Dallas, they averaged 5.6. Below expectancy; 1.3 in-favor of the Cowboys.

One can conclude that Rob Ryan decided to forgo stopping the run, in-favor of stopping the Lions' passing game. The Lions were able to dominate with the pass against their previous opponents and Rob Ryan knew this. If you think about it, would you rather Jahvid Best run on the ground or Stafford throwing it up to Calvin Johnson? I'm sure Rob Ryan had the same response.

If we look at the Cowboys' averages in order (not including the 49ers), we will see an improvement; vsNYJ - 6.6, vsWAS - 5.8 and vsDET 5.6. Against the 49ers, the Cowboys passing average allowed was 4.4. It was the best defense we've played according to the stats, but I have to say that this has more to do with the 49ers style of passing; short-accurate throws.

Lions Total net Yards
Total net Avg/Play
Total Plays
vs DAL
303 5.0 60
Expected 344 5.3 64
Difference +41 +0.3 +4

In total, it was pretty much what was expected. Even though we saw the Lions' passing numbers inflated from previous games, their running offense against the Cowboys picked up their total numbers.

The Lions were expected to run 64 total plays, they ran 60. They were expected to average 5.3 total yards per play, they averaged 5.0. The Lions were expected to gain 344 total yards, they gained 303 total yards. This means the Cowboys' Defense, through-out the game, played better pass defense then run defense. Looking at the whole picture, the Cowboys' Defense played as expected, according to the stats.

Lions 3rd-Down
Time of Possession
vs DAL
Less Then DAL
Expected 36%
60% Longer Then DAL
Difference +6%
Failed +4

Here we have some evidence to show how Efficient the Cowboys' Defense played in this game. The Lions were averaging 33% of their 3rd-Downs and they were expected to convert above average (36%). This was not the case. The Cowboys' Defense held the Lions to a 30% Efficiency on 3rd-Downs.

Similarly with the RedZone. The Cowboys' Defense held the Lions to a 50% Efficiency in the RedZone, when they were expected to to convert 60%, that's a 10% difference. Huge margin when talking about the RedZone and not allowing points. The Lions averaged a 62% Efficiency rate in the RedZone and the Cowboys held them below that.

The Cowboys, also, held the Lions down in Time of Possession. The Lions were expected to hold the ball longer, according to the stats, yet that wasn't the case. The Cowboys held the ball 36:39, while the Lions' TIme of Possession was 23:21. That's a difference of 13:18.

Another difference in the Cowboys' favor was the points. The Cowboys' Defense were averaging 18 points allowed a game, while the Lions' Offense were averaging 30 points a game. With these numbers, the Lions were expected to score 24 points. Instead, the Cowboys' Defense allowed 20 points.

It may not seem like a positive, but if we take a closer look at the numbers we will see it. The points allowed by the Cowboys in this game, 20, is 2 points above average and 10 points below average for the Lions. Holding a high-scoring team below average is always a positive in my book.


Cowboys net Rushing Yards
net Avg/Play
Rushing Plays
vs DET
113 4.2 27
Expected 96 4.0 24
Difference +17 +0.2 +3

Much talk is going on about Jason Garrett not running the ball enough in the second-half. Out of the 27 rushing plays I have calculated that there were 13 rushes for 48 yards in the 2nd-Half. However, 3 of those 13 runs were for 7 yards in the 4th-Qtr. Therefore, there is clear evidence that Jason Garrett called for a run an equal amount of times in the second-half as in the first-half.

In the first-half, the Cowboys were averaging 4.6 rushing yards a play. In the second-half, their averaged dropped to 3.7 rushing yards per play. Obviously, the run wasn't as successful in the second-half as it was in the first-half. Is it possible that Jason Garrett saw this and decided to forgo the run in-favor of the pass?

Either way, the Cowboys' Run Offense performed on point. Putting it in perspective, if the Cowboys would have ran 24 rushing plays (expected) with an average of 4.2 (actual game) then they would have gained 101 rushing yards, That would be 5 yards above expectancy. Not too far off to make a real difference.

Cowboys net Passing Yards
net Avg/Play
Passing Plays
vs DET 321 6.7 48
Expected 261 6.7 39
Difference +60 0 +11

Here we see that the Cowboys' Offense played, almost exactly, as expected. "How," you say? Let's take a closer look by putting the numbers in perspective.

If I can focus your attention to the net pass Avg/Play. The Cowboys averaged exactly what was expected in that department, with a 6.7. The only reason the Cowboys have 60 passing yards more then expected is due to the 11 more plays they were able to run. If they would have ran 39 plays, as expected, then they would have gained 261 passing yards, which is also what was expected.

Outside of the 3 turnovers, the Cowboys' Passing Offense did exactly what we expected of them to do. Nothing more, nothing less.

Cowboys Total net Yards
Total net Avg/Play
Total Plays
vs DET 434 5.8 75
Expected 379 6.0 63
Difference +58 -0.2 +12

As good as it is to see the Cowboys' Offense gain over 400 total yards, we can't help but notice the high-amount of plays it took to get there.The Cowboys totaled 75 plays, 10 plays above average and 12 plays above what was expected.

The most important number in all of these stats are the averages. Looking at the whole picture, the Cowboys' Offense played as expected. They were 0.2 total yards a play below expectancy, which isn't enough to say the Cowboys didn't play as expected.

Cowboys 3rd-Down
Time of Possession
vs DET 38%
More Then DET
Expected 32%
30% Less Then DET
Difference +6%
Success 0

By far, the most positive outcome vs expectancy were the Efficiencies. As well as the Cowboys played on Defense, by allowing less Efficiency, their Offense also played above expectancy in Efficiency. The Cowboys' Offense did as well as the Defense did, as far a differences is concerned.

The Cowboys' Offense were 6% above expectancy on 3rd-Downs and 10% above expectancy in the RedZone. Equally, the Lions' Offense were 6% below expectancy on 3rd-Downs and 10% below expectancy in the RedZone.

Not only that, but the Cowboys' Offense pretty much scored at will, until the 2nd-half. While the Lions were averaging 12 points allowed a game and were expected to give up 17 points in this game, the Lions' Defense allowed 30 points. More then any other team have scored on the Lions.

The Cowboys have also held the ball longer on the Lions then any other Lions' Opponent, previously. Lions' Opponents were averaging 26 minutes Time of Possession. The Cowboys held the ball for 36 minutes. That's a 10 minute difference, which is a-huge amount of time in any game.


I would like to reiterate what I wrote earlier. By far, the most important stat on here is Avg/Play. The Cowboys allowed almost a yard MORE, on average, in the Running Game and allowed a-little over a yard LESS, on average, in the Passing Game. That means the defense allowed 0.3 LESS in total average, giving the defense a positive outcome; yet it is so close to expectancy that you can't say the Cowboys' Defense played better then expected. Just that they played as expected.

The same with the Cowboys' Offense. They averaged 0.2 above average on the ground and exactly as expected in the Passing Game. In total, the difference gave the Cowboys a 0.2 below total expectancy on Offense, giving the Cowboys' Offense a negative outcome; yet, again, we see it so close to expectancy that we can't say the Cowboys' Offense performed anything less then as expected.

We can see that the Cowboys outperformed the Lions in every aspect of the game, except for turnovers. However, what really stands out is the improvement in Efficiency. This is what really separated both teams. The Lions came into the game with high percentages and high expectancy in 3rd-Downs and RedZone. However, it would be the Cowboys who would dominate those Efficiencies on both sides of the ball.

We all know that the only thing that matters is that "win" in the records, but it must be made clear that the stats show the Cowboys being the better team in every way. If there is a second match-up, I'm more then confident that the Cowboys will come out with the "W".

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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