Cowboys @ Giants: Seven Statistical Nuggets To Feel Good About

The Cowboys blitzed less often but to better effect on Wednesday.

The Cowboys have a 24-hour rule during the season: After a game, you have 24 hours to reflect on the game just played and then you move on to the next opponent. With 10 days to go until the Cowboys meet the Seahawks next Sunday, Garrett relaxed the rule a little bit in yesterday's press conference, saying the players had a day off on Thursday and the Cowboys would spend Friday reviewing the Giants game before moving on to the Seahawks.

That of course gives us license to revel in the Cowboys' victory at the Meadowlands for another day.

So after the break, we look at some random statistical thoughts and musings as we celebrate our ascent to the top of the NFC East and quietly gloat over the win against the world champions.

1. The Giants couldn't stop the Cowboys' offense on its final five drives

The Cowboys struggled on their first four possessions, punting twice and turning the ball over twice, once on a failed 4th-and-1 conversion and once on an interception. After that, things went well against the vaunted defense of the world champion. After the Cowboys punted on their fourth drive with 5:28 left in the second quarter, the Giants were unable to stop any of the subsequent Cowboys drives, as the drive chart below shows:

Dallas Cowboys Drive Chart vs. Giants
Drive # Drive began # plays Yards gained Result
1 DAL 24 3 -5 Punt
2 DAL 34 7 29 Downs
3 DAL 20 4 20 INT
4 DAL 20 5 16 Punt
5 DAL 27 7 73 Touchdown
6 DAL 20 9 80 Touchdown
7 DAL 20 8 65 Field Goal
8 DAL 18 8 82 Touchdown
9 DAL 26 7 8 End of Game

2. All Cowboys points were 'Hard Scores'.

Often when analyzing stats it's easy to overlook just how big a factor field position can be in a game. If you get the ball on your opponent's 10 yard line, you're a lot more likely to score than if you get the ball with 75 yards to go. Driving for 75+ yards and scoring a touchdown is tough. That’s why these types of scores are called ‘hard scores’ in the NFL.

Life gets a lot easier when a team finds itself in ‘short field’ positions. Short fields are often the result of a takeaway, a long punt or kickoff return, a missed field goal or really bad punting position for the other team.

On their four scoring drives, the Cowboys found themselves facing long fields of between 73 and 82 yards, but came through to make the 'hard scores'.

This will be something to watch for over the coming games. But not because we want to see how many hard scores the offense can make. What the Cowboys will need over the course of the season are short fields that will lead to 'easy scores'. This is up to the defense and special teams to deliver, and is one area where the Cowboys came up short against the Giants.

3. Just how good of a game was this from Tony Romo?

There is no such thing as a triple-double in football, but an approximation for quarterbacks are games with more than 300 passing yards, three or more touchdowns and a completion rate of more than 75%.

Tony Romo had such a game on Wednesday, passing for 307 yards, 3 TDs and a completion rate of 75.9% en route to a 129.5 passer rating. Romo has had seven career games as a starter with a better passer rating, but only two in which he hit the 300/3/75 mark: against Philly in 2007 (324/3/80 in a 38-17 win) and against Tampa in 2006 (306/5/75.9 in a 38-10 win).

There have only been 39 such passing performances in the league since 2006, and you'll find the usual suspects, including Tony Romo, on the leader board in this category:

300/3/75 quarterbacks, 2006-2012
Player No. of Games
Drew Brees 11
Tom Brady 7
Peyton Manning 5
Aaron Rodgers 3
Tony Romo 3

Incidentally, Eli Manning never had such a game in 121 career starts.

4. This was Murray's fourth 100-yard rushing game.

Murray's 131 yards on Wednesday gave him his fourth career 100-yard outing. Sadly, this also equals Felix Jones' entire career total.

5. Fun with percentages

When working with a small sample size, like a W/L record, a single win or loss can have a significant impact on the resulting percentage, in this case the winning percentage. To illustrate, Jason Garrett went into Wednesday's game with a 13-11 W/L record and a .542 winning percentage, which tied him with Jeff Fisher. One win later, and his winning percentage jumps to .560, which puts Garrett ahead of Tom Coughlin (142-115, .552) and Lovie Smith (71-57, .555) with the 12th best winning percentage among current head coaches in the NFL.

6. Targeting the weak link?

There is a notion floating around, perhaps put forth by some of Mara's sycophants, that the Cowboys passing game was only good because it targeted the weakest players in the Giants secondary. While this makes for a good excuse, it is not factually correct.

According to Pro Football Focus, Romo targeted the starting corners 11 times, while throwing at Jayron Hosley and Justin Tyron only four times. The table below shows targets/receptions for each Giants defensive back against the three Cowboys wide receivers.

Player POS Snaps Ogletree Bryant Austin
Corey Webster RCB 68 1/1 3/3 1/1
Michael Coe LCB 47 4/3
Kenny Phillips FS 68 1/0
1/1
Antrel Rolle SS 68
1/0
Jayron Hosley CB 28 1/1
Justin Tryon CB 21 2/2
1/1

This table does not show the Cowboys targeting any specific defensive back, rather Tony Romo was exploiting the opportunities where they presented themselves. That these happened to be slant routes most of the time has more to do with the Giants defensive gameplan and less with the Cowboys exploiting specific players.

7. Less is more.

One of the frustrations of watching the Cowboys last year was seeing how often the team would rush the passer with no effect. This looked to be the case especially late in close games, when Rob Ryan appeared to be rushing five or more defenders on almost every down, seemingly to no avail.

ESPN Stats & Information reviewed Wednesday's game and found that the Cowboys got better results with fewer blitzes:

The Cowboys sent five or more rushers after Eli Manning on 10 of his 35 dropbacks (28.6 percent) Wednesday after doing so nearly 38 percent of the time last season. The less aggressive approach made the Cowboys' added rushes more effective, with all three sacks coming when sending five or more. When facing five or more rushers from the Cowboys, Manning only completed 42.9 percent of his passes for an average of 3.4 yards per attempt.

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