USA TODAY Sports
What's in a number? Well, a lot depending on the light you shine on it. And how much you squint. And how much you want to read into stuff that might not be there. Coach knows the only number that really matters, one day at a time.
Warning: As usual, my randomness column will not start with football content, but will definitely work it's way to it. Be patient. I like to work pieces of my life into these articles because, well, I like my life and find it mildly entertaining.
Today is 12.12.12, 12 days before Christmas Eve and significant for many reasons. Yes, I'm one of those "numbers are symbolic" type of cats; which makes me not following up on my 98% grade in my collegiate statistics class (in ‘98 no less) one of the great mysteries of my young adulthood. But I digress. You've got to love funky numeric patterns when they come up. To most people, us "weirdos" see symbolism when others see randomness, and I'm perfectly ok with that.
For instance, there's a show that I started watching on Netflix last night called "Touch"; Keifer Sutherland's follow-up to the iconic ‘24'. Now, this show is nothing like 24 (one of the best series of all time, in my humble); the former is an action-packed, violence-themed, edge-of-your-seat viewing experience. ‘Touch' isn't remotely that. It's about Sutherland's mute son who actually is so in tune with the numerical patterns of the universe that talking to people is beneath him. He interprets, and communicates through numbers.
The prevailing themed number of the pilot episode is 318. My brain quickly ran through what could be significant about 318 in my life because... well, I'm just wired weirdly. 318 days from my son's born day? New Year's, 2013. I'm hooked!
Seeing how the Mayans predicted this world will end on 12.21.12 (or they ran out of space on their temple wall on that date), I thought it apropos to dive into some numbers today, seeing all of these random-not-random signs around me.
Do they mean anything? Probably not. But who cares, numbers are fun! Let's see what these12 random Christmas, errr.... Cowboys numbers can do for you.
0.1 - This is the Cowboys Net Yards Per Passing Attempt Differential. The total is good for 15th in the lead; average. NY/PA is a metric that basically includes sacks into the normal YPA calculation to give a better view of how productive an offense is per dropback. It isn't the only measurement of importance, but with passing games deciding wins and losses more and more, it is a solid measurement. Dallas' offense has a 6.7 NY/PA, good for 11th in the league and good enough to be a playoff team if you look at the Top 12 as the benchmark. Dallas' defense gives up 6.6 NY/PA, good for 20th, and not good enough for the tourney. For informational purposes, Dallas faces #5 Pittsburgh (1.1 differential), has defeated #4 Carolina (1.3) and #7 Cincinnati (0.8) and has lost to #3 Seattle (1.3) #10 Atlanta (0.4), #11 Washington (0.3) #13 Chicago (0.2) and #14 Baltimore (0.1)
2 - The extent of the Cowboys momentums during the 2012 season. The Cowboys have never lost or won more than 2 games in a row during this year. They have two streaks of each, including their current two game winning streak. The lost back to back games to Chicago and Baltimore, then to New York and Atlanta. They won back to back games against Philadelphia and Cleveland, then Philadelphia and Cincinnati.
3 - The number of Cowboys games that I've witnessed in person; all at Texas Stadium. I haven't made my way to the shrine just yet. My first Cowboys live experience was 10-9-05, an overtime victory against the New York Giants where I saw S Roy Williams crush Brandon Jacobs at the goal line and cause a fumble that kept Dallas in the lead. The game was won on a Jose Cortez field goal (remember the Larry Allen-Cortez confrontation? Good times). The second game was the 2007 battle of the unbeatens against Tom Brady and the Patriots where I saw Dallas fall way behind, make it interesting and then lose big. The third trip was the very next weekend, I got to see Adrian Peterson in person with a dazzling (mundane for him) 20 yard touchdown score. I also saw a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by Pat Watkins. Again, good times.
4 - The number of game winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks that Tony Romo has orchestrated in 2012. . A 4QC is an offensive scoring drive in the fourth quarter in which the team is traling by one score or less and they end up winning the game. A game winning drive is a fourth quarter score that puts the team ahead for the last time in victory. This leads the league for 4QC.. something that Eli Manning was lauded over and over for last season in leading the Giants to their scintillating 9-7 regular season record. And yes, it's all we heard about BEFORE they went on the Super Bowl run. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
5 - The number of games Dallas will need to have won in a row in order to be contenders for the throne. Make no mistake about it, I know this isn't a very good team. However, it's a team that has some very good parts even if some other very good parts are missing. Of course it's probably not enough to make any noise in the tourney, but hey, I'm a fan. I'll believe anything is possible, that the team can right what's wrong and overcome what holds them back until the last minute. That's why I'm a fan. I try not to knock the "realists" because I see the fundamental flaws in this team, in this organization just like you do. But fandom isn't rational. I hope there is more to the story; and if there isn't then I hope new chapters will be written in the offseason as I recharge my batteries. Just how I'm built.
6 - The number of game winning kicks that Dan Bailey has booted in just 29 career games. Split'Em, as I affectionately call him (a nickname that has actually caught on in some circles) seems to nail every kick that he boots right down the middle of the uprights. It's not only that he's accurate percentage-wise.. the dude is dead-on balls accurate (to steal a phrase from My Cousin Vinny) with each kick! I remember when he missed the kick against Baltimore, some folks actually tried to claim that Bailey isn't clutch. The dude is constantly being put in a position to decide the game. Sure, you want a kicker to be perfect, but that just doesn't happen. He's as close to it as we've seen in a while. By the way, the Cowboys have faced three of the four AFC North opponents, with the fourth coming to Cowboys Stadium on Sunday. Against Baltimore, a Dan Bailey kick decides the game (negatively). Against Cleveland, a Dan Bailey kick wins the game in overtime. Against Cincinnati, a Dan Bailey kick wins the game at the last second. See a theme? Bet accordingly.
7 - The Cowboys are averaging just under 7 penalties per game over their last three contests. This is a huge difference from where they were just a couple weeks ago. Dallas has routinely shot themselves in the foot this season, making offensive drives difficult and giving opposing offenses free first downs. Cutting down on these was paramount with the lack of talent because of injuries. It must continue Sunday against Pittsburgh.
8 - The number of wins Tom Landry had in his first 38 games as Cowboys coach. Jason Garrett is currently 3 games over .500 during his head coaching career of 37 games. An eighth win of the season this Sunday gives him 21 wins in his first 38 career games. Jimmy Johnson won 12 of his first 38 games. Bill Parcells won 20 of his first 38. Yet, no patience for Garrett. The times, they are a changing.
9 - Tony Romo rocks. That's my quarterback.
10 - 10 wins gets Dallas into the playoffs with a home game. I know this isn't a mathematical certainty, but I just can't see both Chicago (losers of 4 of 5, vs GB, @ARI, @DET) going 2-1 and the New York Giants (@ATL, @BAL, vs PHI) going 3-0 over these last three games. If Dallas does get to 10 wins and miss out on the playoffs after winning 7 of their final 8 games, imagine what that is to build on for 2013. Despite injury after injury, the turmoil of this season with the Brown tragedy.. 7 out of 8 games would be simply remarkable for a team that all the talk show hosts, realists and haters think is the worst thing put together since sliced bread. If they can do that, what do they say about the team that Jerry Jones the awful GM and Jason Garrett the inept head coach have done? Ahhh, get there for me Cowboys, please... I want to see what happens.
11 - Cole Beasley's jersey number; which we can all see clearly since it never has any dirt on it. That will change if Dez is out for the year. A lot of fans want Beasley to get more involved. I don't blame them but I will offer up a couple points of contention. Beasley had his only extended action of the season during the comeback against the Redskins on Thanksgiving. He was targeted 11 times and made 7 receptions. The other four targets? 2 interceptions and 2 dropped passes. Yikes. Also, I often get into arguments about the Cowboys "lost" resource Danny Amendola. My reply is often the same; stop watching highlights and tell me what he's done for his team. In the last two seasons, Amendola has been injury ineffective in 3 games and completely missed 20 others. 23 out of 29 games. You were saying?
12 - The number of Dallas players that have been put on Injured Reserve this season. That's a staggering amount. Ben Bass, Bruce Carter, Sean Lee, Phil Costa, Barry Church, Caleb McSurdy, Danny Coale, Orlando Scandrick, Orie Lemon, Matt Johnson, Chris Jones, Kenyon Coleman. And this is pending the results from hand specialists on Dez "Fingertips" Bryant. Hey, I made "Split'Em" stick.