As pointed out by OCC, 7 of the Cowboys losses were very close. Better play here and there can lead to a better season. Of course, Iron Fist has mulled over this point as well. A closer look at why this team ended up 6-10 shows the steps the JG regime is already taking for a more successful 2011. The Cowboys may not have made huge changes this offseason, but a few key changes can make all the difference in individual games and across the entire season.
Replacing Ball with Elam
Here is the difference between an average safety and Alan Ball.
According to StatsPass via ESPN: Abe Elam was targeted 5 more times than Ball (41 vs. 36 respectively), yet gave up 4 less touchdowns (3 to 7). Part of that must be Elam's 10 PBU's to Ball's 4. So, that's a 28 point difference! You think that would have helped in any one of the 7 close games the Cowboys lost last year? Not to mention 33 more tackles.
Coaching out the Rubber Hands
One of the minor themes from last year's campaign was a bad case of the rubber hands. This sort of crept up on the team after Kitna took over. Only one of Romo's 7 INTs bounced off a receivers hands and led to a FG. However, out of Kitna's 12 INTs, 5 of them were deflections off our own receivers' hands. 3 of these in the Jaguars game led to 14 points. One in the Cardinals game also led to 7 points. In both of these cases, you take away the rubba' hands, you take away the loss. Make it happen Jimmy Robinson. We don't want anything like this to crop up in 2011.
Have a better kicking game
It all started week 1. A needlessly close game at Washington, one that came down to two bad plays against the Cowboys. A better kicker could have potentially eliminated both of those plays. David Buehler's first missed FG of the year came in the first half, a paltry 34 yarded. A better kicker makes this FG and the game is now 3-3 approaching halftime. Since the game is tied up, you can bet the Cowboys now have absolutely no reason in the world to risk a play before the half. After the half the Cowboys still make a TD, and the Redskins still make another FG. At the end of the 4th quarter the Cowboys would have been on top 10-6. Alex Barron still could have held on the last play and the Cowboys still would have won. Not to mention Buehler's missed PAT that would have thrown the Cardinals game into OT.
Dan Bailey is currently mopping the floor with Buehler in training camp.
Shake up the OL
There were several games were the atrocious OL play handicapped the offense.
- In the Titans game there were an atrocious 6 sacks. 4 led to 2 stalled drives. One forced a FG, another forced a missed FG.
- In the first Giants game, Kitna is sacked three times, two for a stalled drive each, and once for a lost fumble.
- 2 sacks for two stalled drives against the Jaguars.
- 4 against Green Bay for 3 stalled drives and the game sealer.
- Once against the Saints that led to a stalled drive and McBriar botching the punt.
- Once against the Eagles, forcing a FG.
- Against the Cardinals a sack led to an INT, 2 led to stalled drives each, and 2 more led to Kitna getting injured.
- Nuff said?
Get a FB who can block
Playmakers are no good on the sidelines. Say what you will about Green Bay's ability to overcome injury. They never lost their starting QB for the half the season.
Coach out the Penalties
Bob Sturm pointed out a while back that the ridiculous amount of penalties were all Wade Phillips.
"This penalty issue is starting to get more and more difficult to overcome. In the Minnesota game, the late pass interference on Mike Jenkins pretty much ended any hopes the Cowboys had. But, we should not be surprised, should we?
Just more Dallas Cowboys football under Wade Phillips.
Since the start of 2007, only Oakland has committed more penalties than the Cowboys.
Since the start of 2008, nobody has committed more penalties than the Cowboys.
Since the start of 2009, only Oakland has committed more penalties than the Cowboys.
And for those of you who think "this team had a penalty problem under Bill Parcells, too", let me put that to rest.
From 2003-2006, "the Bill Parcells era", the Cowboys ranked 25th in the NFL in penalties during his tenure. 25th! Only 7 teams in the NFL committed FEWER penalties than the Cowboys did under Parcells."
The Wade Phillips run Cowboys in 2010 out-penaltied their opponents 62 for 506 yards to 35 for 271 yards. JGs run team ran a much more even 47 for 357 to 44 for 370. Watch for JG to bring the penalties down even further this season.
These are just a few of the intricacies of the losing ways in 2010. Once you put all of them together, yeah, you'll only get 6 wins instead of 10 or 11. I think we'll see fewer and fewer stupid reasons why they lose. I think JG has already begun the necessary steps to correct the deficiencies in 2011.