WMQB: The return of FU mode

Maybe it’s because everything was working, maybe Garrett looked at SEA’s D and saw the best run stuffing D and an average pass D, whatever the reason we saw the return of Garrett FU mode. Up 14 in the 4th quarter still dialing up bombs. Sweetness.


Net Pass YPA

The table below summarizes Dallas’s net pass YPA for the period from 2007-2010.

Offensive net pass YPA Offensive net pass YPA Rank Defensive net pass YPA Defensive net pass YPA Rank
2007 7.4 2nd 5.4 6th
2008 6.6 11th 5.3 5th
2009 7.3 6th 5.9 11th
2010 6.7 7th 6.8 28th

As a basis for comparison, summarized in the table below are the maximum, median, average, and minimum net pass YPA for the NFL 2010 season

Net Pass YPA – NFL All Teams 2010 Season    
  Offense Defense
Maximum 7.8 7.5
Median 6.1 6.1
Average 6.2 6.2
Minimum 4.3 5.3

The Cowboys results through week 9 are summarized in the table below.

Dallas Cowboys        
Week Offensive net pass YPA Offensive net pass YPA Rank Defensive net pass YPA Defensive net pass YPA Rank
NYJ 8.2   6.2  
SF 9.7   4.4  
WAS 6.8   5.8  
DET 6.7   5.6  
NEP 7   6.1  
STL 5.8   5.7  
PHI 4.7   8  
SEA 9   7.1  
Season 7.3 8th 6.1 16th

The Darkos results through week 9 are summarized in the table below.

Darko Cowboys        
Week Offensive net pass YPA Offensive net pass YPA Rank Defensive net pass YPA Defensive net pass YPA Rank
IND 8.7   5.1  
MIA 6.5   4.8  
NO 8.9   7.7  
PIT 6.6   5.1  
OAK 7.5   5.6  
BAL 4.9   8.3  
TEN 12.9   2.9  
JAX 6.3   2.7  
CLE 5.2   4.9  
Season 7.3 9th 5.3 3rd

This is exactly what I expected this year. The offense annihilating average NFL defenses and the defense muddling along even against poor offenses. When assessing this week’s game it’s important to remember that while SEA is a below average team, the deficiencies are all on the offensive side of the ball. The defense is great at stopping the run and average at stopping the pass. The offense is among the worst passing and running the ball.

The offense produced a terrific net pass YPA of 9.0 y/a. The offense looked explosive with plenty of deep passes from start to finish. I especially liked that Dallas threw some deep passes on first down with good results. 

Defensive net pass YPA was 7.1 y/a. That’s bad. Allowing one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL to produce 7.1 y/a is nothing to brag about. I’m not mad at Rob Ryan. I think he’s done a good job with the players he has. The D is not playing as well as they did at the start of the season. The big question for the 2nd half of the season is will they play like the first 5 games or like the last 3?  

Mid season review

The Cowboys are right where I expected. I expected they would be around #5 in offensive net pass YPA. They’re #8. I expected they would be #17-#23 in defensive net pass YPA. They’re #16. However, when I factor in strength of schedule Dallas has outperformed my expectations.

I’m much more optimistic about their prospects for the remainder of the season. Coming into the season my best guess was that Dallas would be 8-8 (with all the luck in the NFL it’s kind of silly to forecast records anyway). I’m cautiously optimistic that they’ll finish better than 8-8. Their next three games are: BUF, WAS, MIA. While BUF looks like it will be a competitive game, Dallas will be the favorite in that game. If Dallas wins the BUF game both WAS and MIA are winnable which would get Dallas to 7-4. That would position Dallas to get to 9-7 or even 10-6. Nice.

We’ve also seen in the first half that one player (#50) can have a huge impact.

No mid season review would be complete without a mention of #29. His running is awesome. However, Dallas has only scratched the surface with his receiving ability. Here are some pre-draft comments

But if there's one back besides Fannin who really qualifies as a sleeper, it's Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray. Murray's 112.6 Speed Score is well above average for a player who grades out as a mid-round pick, and that's before considering the fact he's arguably the best receiving back in this class

Yes #29 dropped another pass Sunday, but I’m confident that the scouting report is correct and he in fact has good hands. Do you know how crazy that is? We know #29 is lethal as a runner, we’ve seen the big play ability in the open field. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say we may be looking at Marshall Faulk 2.0. I won’t be surprised by a 2,000 all-purpose yard season. Did you realize in addition to the 139 yards rushing on Sun #29 had 47 yards receiving … almost 200 yards.

I’ll also make two predictions for the second half.

First, Romo’s decision making hasn’t changed. Over the last 4 games Romo’s interception rate has been 1.3%. Expect that to go up. I figure there’s a 1 in 5 probability he’ll maintain that rate for the balance of the season and a 4 in 5 probability it will be higher than 1.3%. Same logic as here.

Second, the red zone TD % in the 2nd half will be better than it was in the 1st half. Mean reversion at work. From Football Outsiders (read the comments, they’re good)

In general, red zone performance tends to regress toward the mean from season to season, with "the mean" being that specific team's overall quality rather than the league average. But is this also true during the season? It seems dramatically counterintuitive. We quote red zone efficiency stats during games, because we assume that teams that have played well in the red zone so far this season will probably play better in the red zone going forward. And yet, it doesn't look like that's the case ... the correlation for "red zone advantage" is practically nil: .01, to be exact, on both offense and defense. During the past five seasons, at least, "red zone advantage" has done nothing to project how well a team will play in the red zone during the second half of the year.

 Romo’s interceptions: This time is different! Um, no, it’s not.

This week we get the corollary to people freaking out and claiming Romo  is regressing when he throws interceptions.  We now have people claiming that Romo has learned to make good decisions and he’s playing under control. SMH. Here are Romo’s career interceptions.

0 0 0 3 1 0 0 1 0 2
2 1 2 1 1 0 1 1 5 1
0 1 1 1 1 1 0 3 1 1
1 1 1 1 1 0 2 0 1 3
0 2 1 0 3 0 1 0 0 0
1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0
2 0 3 2 0 1 0 1 3 1
0 1 0            

 There is no pattern! Here are 5 games strings starting with games where Romo had 3 ints.

3, 1, 0, 0, 1 (2006) / 3, 1, 1, 1, 1 (2007-2008) / 3, 0, 1, 0, 0 (2009) / 3, 2, 0, 1, 0 (2010 – 2011)

Here are his last 5 games: 3, 1, 0, 1, 0. Looks pretty similar to me.

We know that interception rate is especially inconsistent when QBs change teams (which suggests teammates have a big effect on int. rate). We know that interception rates are inconsistent even when QBs don’t change teams (which casts doubt that it’s all skill / ability). Here’s something else to consider. From Blood, Sweat, Chalk …

IN ONE of the most important plays of the most important game of the NFL’s 89th season, a 242-pound, shot put–shaped linebacker intercepted a pass on the final snap of the first half and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. The play was a bizarre sight, as the SteelersJames Harrison staggered the final 10 yards … On first down the Cardinals lined up with Pro Bowl receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin (who between them had caught passes for 42 touchdowns over the 2007 and ’08 regular seasons), both to the left side of the formation, both split, with Boldin outside Fitzgerald. The Steelers had six men on the line of scrimmage—four standing and only two with a hand on the ground; but just before the snap three other defenders moved up close, into gaps, as if preparing for an all-out blitz. At the snap, from a stand-up right defensive end position, Harrison took a step forward. … Kurt Warner, of course, knew all about them, and he knew that the Steelers and 71-year-old defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau loved them. "Pittsburgh lives off zone dogs," …. In nearly 30 minutes of the Super Bowl the Steelers had not yet used a zone blitz. Warner took the snap, and the Steelers brought five rushers, not nine. But Warner was already convinced that he was going to be pressured heavily—he expected Harrison to rush—and needed to unload quickly. To Warner’s left, Fitzgerald slipped outside and set a pick on Steelers’ corner Deshea Townsend, allowing Boldin to cut inside, where he looked momentarily free at the goal line. "Your instinct in those situations is to throw hot," Warner had said earlier, meaning to throw quickly to a receiver in an area theoretically vacated by a blitzer. Following this instinct, Warner looked for Boldin running into the area from which Harrison had blitzed. Except Harrison hadn’t blitzed. He had turned his hips to the outside and rotated out of the box and into the curl-slant area. "I never saw him," Warner would say after the game. He delivered the ball toward Boldin. but instead it hit Harrison directly in the hands,

What’s my point? I think if you ask a Cardinals fan they’d say that was a ‘dumb’ or ‘terrible’ decision/throw by Warner. I don’t think it was. It was the intersection of an offensive play call with the perfect defensive call for that particular play. If Arizona had called a run, or a screen, there would have been a different result. Think how much luck went into that play. Arizona had a pick play called to get Boldin free, and Harrison’s ‘zone dog’ sent him right into the pattern. 

Football is like poker in that you face uncertain information (btw, this is why the chess analogy is inapt, in chess you have certainty about your opponents positions). Your opponent can bluff. The simple point is that sometimes the defense is going to have the right bluff and right defense called. If you have a square out called, the LB is bluffing a blitz but actually dropping right into the pattern, you may end up with a pick. And that’s not a bad decision or bad throw by the QB (and yes I’m thinking of the Carp pick, and yes, I was shaking my head in agreement when an announcer said QBs hate throwing in that situation because the D has nothing to lose so they jump every route hoping for a pick). Every once in a while the defensive call is going to be perfect for the play the offense called. In poker you can’t win every hand, some hands there isn’t a winning play. You play the odds and sometimes you’ll lose a hand that’s been played correctly. Sometimes a QB will make a throw and the defense will dropping into the perfect coverage.  

I would add that I would expect the intersection of defensive call lining up perfectly to counter the offensive call to be completely unpredictable … which happens to be the pattern we see with interceptions. 

Game notes

 #29: when you’re running out the clock with under 5 minutes left and you get stopped 2 yards behind the LOS, don’t stretch out the ball.

#19 – looks like the hamstring is bothering him again.

39 yard 1st down pass to #88

8 yard 1st down pass to #81

33 yard TD 1st down pass to #82 (#89 nice downfield blocking)

Take a minute to appreciation Romo. Dallas fans saw what a bad NFL QB looks like today: T-Jax. Romo is a good NFL QB. Then go and look at what Seattle fans say about T-Jax

I like how Garrett established the ‘I’m gonna throw bombs and blow you off the field if you don’t take away the deep pass’ early

Sidney Rice catching bombs looked familiar. #41 looking the like 33 year old corner he is.

Turnovers: Dez’s fumble and #97’s interception. More turnovers of the non-practiced variety. I’m gonna stop tracking this. Hopefully I made my point.

#82: incredible scoop off the turf. BTW, #80 would never make that catch. I like #80 but that’s the problem.

#29: heck of a game against a great run D.

#29: another dropped pass. 

#88 returning punts. Why oh why.

#54: nice to see you on the field defending passes

Week 10

O net pass YPA Rank O Run SR Rank   D net pass YPA Rank D Run SR Rank
DAL 2011 8th 16th   16th 10th
BUF 2011 11nd 7th   25th 23th

Dallas looks to have a fundamental advantage against Buffalo.

I expect that Buffalo will be able to move the ball on offense. Buffalo has an above average passing game and the Dallas pass defense has been sliding for 3 weeks straight. Any decent passing offense can pose a bad matchup for the Dallas defense.

However, Dallas’s offense poses and even bigger matchup problem for Buffalo’s defense which is one of the worst in the league (against both the pass and run). Throw in home field advantage and this is a game where Dallas looks to be fundamentally better. Hopefully that translates on the field. 

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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